Dance review: Passing

A contemporary work that explores our relationship to time.

Passing was an ambient piece of choreography by Isabelle Beauverd that described the ebb and flow of the ocean, the turning of tides and the uncertainty of life. A piece for three dancers: Benjamin Hurley, Emma Riches and Anika de Ruyter, Passing washed over the audience like a wave of calm and contemplation. There was a line in the dialogue section of the piece: ‘That look meant more than anything you ever said’, which distilled the mood; a gesture towards the subterranean feelings we hold, the ineffable sentiments we feel.

The choreographic phrases were reminiscent of natural forces, such as snowmelt and ocean tide, as the dancers’ bodies whirled in soft eddies, melted down to the floor and lowered their heads to the floor, as though listening and feeling for tectonic shifts. The sound designer, Robert Downie, created a beautiful soft track of waves, bells and chimes to accentuate the meditative atmosphere. The dancers, in particular Hurley, had gorgeous balletic extension and flow in his ronds de jambe and battements. Their arms seemed to echo the circular rotation of chimes, dials and the swish of bells ringing. The loose fabric of their flare pants swayed with their adagio.

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Later in the piece there was a section with swift contrapuntal rotations, as the dancers whirled away from their triangular formation to a chanting voiceover saying ‘searching for something’, ‘creating without replicating’. The work seemed to traverse attachment and separation; pull and push; give and take. The monologues section of the dance was introduced with the words: ‘Things are getting really messy, but at the same time, clear.’ This seemed to encapsulate the turbulence of recent times, where sickness and war have a collective register.

The monologues, instead of inculcating bleak abandonment, seemed to hint at the inevitable struggles of modern life yet still honour beauty in the unpredictable process of living. I was reminded of Samuel Beckett’s words on failure:  “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” The voiceovers extended this theme of acceptance and loss, with their chanting of ‘1,2,3,4… 5…. the one that got away.’ There is a beauty in acceptance, Beauverd seems to gesturing.

The final dance phrases, where the dancers rolled and thawed over each other, like flotsam and jetsam, were balm to the eyes. Passing, like a beautiful weather event passing overhead, caught and held the attention in a touching way.

Dancehouse, Carlton
Choreographer: Isabelle Beauverd
Performers: Benjamin Hurley, Emma Riches, Anika de Ruyter
Sound Design: Robert Downie

Passing was performed from 24-27 March 2022

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.