Dance review: Now Pieces

The bright stars of Melbourne's dance sector improvise at Dancehouse.

Now Pieces is a performance platform at Melbourne’s dance institution, Dancehouse, for contemporary artists to show their skills in improvisation. Each artist, a ‘local luminary’ in the Melbourne dance scene, is allocated ten minutes to perform a spontaneous piece. In the spirit of serendipity the curator of edition No. 7 of Now Pieces, Amaara Raheem, arranged astrologer Angelita Biscotti to make a star chart for the night, serving as an inspiring kind of forecast. The dancers were then invited to respond to the chart for their improvised pieces if they so desired. 

There was a perceptible energy of excitement and buoyancy that pervaded the night, as the six acts each took a turn at live improvised dance for a packed studio. 

The atmosphere of the night was (perhaps coincidentally) in keeping with the celestial theme, with lunar lighting – silvery and bright – and one of the performers wore sparkles like star fall, another in a t- shirt printed with the moon phases. ‘This is what is happening in the skies tonight,’ Raheem announced at the start, with a telling smile, as we prepared for the capricious smorgasbord of performance, a lucky dip of sorts, to follow.

And this was the delight of Now Pieces; the opportunity to see these bright stars of the Melbourne dance scene in the act of choreographic creation, with total commitment to the liveness of the act. While some dance artists seemed more cognisant of audience desire for gesture, narrative or emotion to hang meaning onto, none seemed to be intimidated by the assignment and all were creative in their responses to the moment.

There was humour in Jonathan Homsey’s improvisation, which saw him busting slick moves to a game showesque trip-hop soundtrack while wearing a hot pink blazer, followed by audience participation meditation in which we were invited to, ‘sit back in your sit bones, observe your breathing…. No need for drama’.

There was frustration, in Benjamin Hurley’s bounding and shaking around the stage in hot pants and anorak. A tap was dripping continuously in the backing track as he huffed, throwing his elegant limbs around, showing off his gorgeous extensions and flexibility, his motion like whirlpools or corkscrews, agitated, swelling, yet beautiful. 

There was personal connection to heritage and lineage, as dancer Shinjita Roy swept across the stage, dancing to Indian music and clearly showing her skilled Kathak dance training. 

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There was connection, collaboration and contact in duets, as Emily Bowman and Joey Lehrer, and Prue Lang and Benjamin Hancock navigated the stage and the open-ended task together, exploring ways of tumbling, weaving and interlacing with great energy. 

And finally, there was a sense in which the movement could be felt perhaps as somatic, therapeutic and reflective, for both dancers and audiences, most evident in Kialea Nadine-Williams’ solo, where breath and pace are playfully explored in the music free piece.

Now Pieces is a significant re-addition to the Melbourne contemporary dance and experimental art scene and will surely be a breeding ground for exciting emerging artists.

Now Pieces is performed on the last Sunday of the month at Dancehouse, Carlton, Melbourne. Each month a different curator or collective is invited to host and program. 

Leila Lois is a dancer and writer of Kurdish and Celtic heritage. Her poetry, essays and reviews have been published in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada by Southerly Journal, LA Review of Books, Honey Literary Journal, Right Now, Delving Into Dance and more.