Dance review: Exposed, Restless Dance Theatre

A new work exploring vulnerability, trust and community in public spaces for those with a disability.

Exposed considers our vulnerabilities and the flowing emotions that come from them being revealed – a moment that can either be positive or negative. Inspired by director Michelle Ryan’s own experience of feeling vulnerable in public as a person with a disability, the dance show is deeply emotive and beautifully physicalises the layers that come with these kinds of experiences. There is little to criticise in this work, with the choreography and production elements blending carefully and smoothly together most of the time. For the opening night performance, one of the dancers was unable to perform due to an injury only an hour before opening, yet, even this didn’t hold back a brilliant show.

Ryan started the performance with all the ensemble members on stage, dancing independently of each other and then brought them together slowly. As the performance progressed each dancer experienced a vulnerability, such as not being able to stand on their own or needing help to get dressed. The dynamic of dancers performing together was explored by using the emotions that can rise with being vulnerable around others, including anger, frustration, care, playfulness and trust. By delving into these emotions, Exposed explored layers and complexities, making the performance feel well rounded without weighing it down.

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The lighting and set design worked hard to connect to the choreography and themes, and to create spectacle. A hung plastic sheet was the only set piece and moved into different positions over the course of the performance, changing the atmosphere to match the choreography on stage. In one moment, it was lit in blue like a wave about to crash over the dancers rolling beneath.

However, as it transformed into a golden colour, it felt more dramatic than the accompanying choreography and music. A dancer was cocooned in this golden moment, sparkling in the flurry and warm lighting. Yet, the dancer’s movements before this were much gentler and didn’t gesture towards this flourishing moment.

The work was intended to be performed by an ensemble of seven, yet on opening night, an injury reduced it to six. However, the ensemble knew the work and each other so well they could fill the gap and maintain the performance’s integrity. On stage, the ensemble had a palpable sense of togetherness and trust. The dancers were precise but also organic in their movements, making them exceptional at embodying the ideas but also the human experiences that this show offers.  

Exposed turns intangible emotions and numerous experiences of vulnerability into a cohesive and beautiful dance show. It explores its themes deeply and fully through layered choreography and their exceptional dancers. They completed the show with a spectacular set and lighting design that at times outshone the performance itself. Restless Dance Theatre, South Australia’s leading dance company working with artists with and without disability, has proven itself as masters of exploring human experience and emotion in this production.

Exposed by Restless Dance Theatre
Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre

Director: Michelle Ryan
Assistant Director: Larissa McGowan
Musical score: Hilary Kleinig & Emily Tulloch
Set & Lighting Design: Geoff Cobham
Costume Design: Renate Henschke

Exposed was performed from 6-9 April 2022

Anita Sanders is a writer based in South Australia. She has written for radio, print and stage including The City street magazine, Radio Adelaide and South Australian Youth Arts Company. She is a graduate of Flinders University’s Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) and Deakin University’s Graduate Certificate of Business (Arts & Cultural Management).