Dance review: EMBODIED, Dancehouse

A double bill of dance captivated and entranced.
Embodied. Two female dancers on a dark stage, under two stage lights with barn doors are dressed in tight white skivvies and grey shorts, and are stretching their right arms up in the air.

Embodied, presented by M.Collective as a dance double at Dancehouse, opened with Mirage. The piece was choreographed by Yuiko Masukawa, and the audience was plunged into the work by way of its soundtrack.

Immediately transporting the audience to some dewy field lit by moonlight, the sounds of crickets soon blended into contemporary arrangements of classical pieces by composers Igor Stravinsky and Max Richter. It was a delight. Sound designer Alexander Nezhinskiy and sound producer Ivan Kyrov created something truly magical.

Mirage was split across both the raised stage and the flat floor in front of the audience. As with the soundtrack that relied heavily upon sounds from the natural world, the choreography was reminiscent of leaves falling from autumn trees. But these motifs quickly dissolved, with curiously primal movements then surfacing. These passages were sustained in terms of energy throughout the piece.

Mirage was stunning and presented a rich tapestry that allowed the audience to create and build a narrative within this imagined world.

After a brief intermission, we were treated to the second of the two works, The Presence of the Past, choreographed by Chimene Steele-Prior.

This piece deviated from the sustained nature of Mirage; here the three dancers were pushed to their limits. In each passage, energy was built and layered upon what had come before. By the end of the work, the physical toll prompted by the choreography was noticeable. 

The movement was almost akin to witnessing machines disintegrating and recalibrating in real time. The focus of the dancers here was subtly different also, more staunch, less delicate, but still just as beautiful and poised.

Whereas Mirage worked with classical sounds, The Presence of the Past made no qualms about its more contemporary positioning, working with sound design by Damien Meredith, riffing on themes of EDM (electronic dance music). 

This soundtrack worked as a frame, which for the most part continued to pull tighter and tighter still, until a moment of release right at its very end. The only criticism I have of this work, was that I wanted more.  I could have easily watched this performance on a loop for a whole day – or longer even – and would not have tired or grown bored.

Jayden Hicks – who is credited as lighting designer for both works – created some beautiful and lasting imagery. Showing a deft touch, these classically trained bodies were lit, highlighting muscle and tone, and picking up on the nuances of both choreographies. 

Read: Musical review: The Grinning Man, Alex Theatre

There is something so beautiful about classically trained dancers, the way their bodies twist and bend with precision and craft. Having stepped away from reviewing dance work for some time, for this reviewer the visual impact of both these works was sublime, as much as it was a jolt to the senses. 

Both pieces were performed by Stephanie Petersen, Jessica Thompson and Arianna Marchiori; these classically trained dancers are pushed beyond the remit of ballet and planted deeply within the canon of contemporary movement.

EMBODIED was performed at Dance House on 4 May 2024 by M.Collective.

Jessi Ryan (they/them) has been creating performance and exhibitions for the past 20 years, both locally, nationally and abroad- in this time collaborating with a huge number of artists from a broad cross section of cultural backgrounds. As a journalist they have written for and been published by some of Australia’s leading arts and news editorial across the last 10 years-and was recognised as a finalist for Globe Community Media Award in 2021. Ryan has also taken photos for a number of print and online publications.