Dance review: Mercy, Pro-West Dance Company

Seven deadly sins interpreted as dance sequences.

Fringe World launched this week in Perth, Western Australia with all the pride and pizazz of the third largest fringe event in the world. As an open-access festival, diversity of artists is assured with 400-plus shows across 90 venues daily from 14 January–13 February 2022.

Mercy, by Pro-West Dance Company, is one of only ten shows in the Fringe category of ‘Dance and Physical Theatre’. The Company, newly formed in 2021, is comprised of youthful female dancers who ‘value the talent that one can possess and believe that alongside ambition and determination, you can achieve anything you set your mind to’ (Pro-West Dance Company).

Founding Director and Choreographer, Emma Western, has tackled the challenging ‘seven deadly sins’ noted in Roman Catholic theology, as thematic material for seven female dancers. The work is ambitious given the precedent set by other Australian contemporary choreographers, ranging from such work as the Seven Deadly Sins dance for screen, which featured seven outstanding Australian dance companies (1993) through to live dance performances, such as Natalie Weir’s 7 Deadly Sins presented by Expressions Dance Company (2015).

Western’s 50-minute dance work weaves elements of lyrical jazz, neoclassical ballet, and acrobatics, into contemporary dance form. The dance work is structured simply with a clear beginning mirrored in an ending that neatly establishes the nature of temptation in everyday life. Each of the seven vices are explored sequentially, with a lighting blackout between each danced section signaling a shift in dispositions explored through the body. The choreography would benefit from refinement of movement dynamics to ensure clear distinctions between sections.

The small theatre space in the Subiaco Arts Centre is an appropriate venue for the performance and the use of various lighting washes across the predominantly dark stage evoke a sense of intimacy and secrecy. A powerful musical score dominates the space, classical string instruments running arpeggios alongside the choreography, though unfortunately the music remains uncredited on the program and online.

Company dancers, Breanna Furfaro, Emilie Johnstone-Maher, Jacinta Baxter, Ella August, Momo Foord, Siahn Howatson, and Karrie Turton, are each cast as one of the seven deadly sins: wrath, pride, sloth, envy, lust, greed, gluttony. The dancers are skilful and focused in their execution of movement phrases. Each of the seven sections in the dance work feature solos or duos delivered with earnest competency. Ensemble work favours canon in somewhat predictable floor patterns which tend to diagonal and horizontal lines. Props are used to guide audience members as to which ‘sin’ is being interpreted through the dance, though along with costume design, could be developed further to enhance choreographic intention.

Curiously, there is courteous treatment of the subject material; each of the vices folding one into the other through repetition of movement patterns across the seven sections. Perhaps there is no distinction between different types of sin, and each begins to emulate the other when one succumbs to temptation?

Fringe is an ideal platform for emerging and experimental performers to hone their craft. Given the devastation funding cuts and the global pandemic have wrought in the arts sector, it is critical that audiences support new talent, encourage live art forms, and applaud the courage of artists who are making and performing new work. Discounted RushTix on sale, 11am-midnight every day, so give the TV a miss, and enjoy as many live shows as you can, while you can!

Pro-West Dance Company
Subiaco Arts Centre, Western Australia 
Director/ Choreographer: Emma Western

Dancers: Breanna Furfaro, Emilie Johnstone-Maher, Jacinta Baxter, Ella August, Momo Foord, Siahn Howatson, Karrie Turton
Stage Manager: Rebecca Voss

Stagehands: Lily Shuttleworth, Madison Hartslief
Lighting Tech: Finn Boylen
Music: Uncredited
Presented by Fringe World

Mercy was performed from 14 – 15 January 2022 as part of Fringe World.

Lucinda Coleman is an Adjunct Lecturer (Research) and sessional Lecturer in Performance at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University.