Dance Review: Structural Dependency by Brooke Leeder (Perth Festival)

An industrial, abstract dance work surprises with its intimate human touch.

We enter a cool, expansive studio space and take our seats around its massive perimeter. A single line of seats rim a huge white matt stage which beams in the semi-darkness. The space is completely empty, but already it feels charged with electric energy.

As the dancers appear, they do so one by one, purposefully striding in to the powerful beats of sound designer Louis Frere-Harvey’s score. Clothed in stark white outfits, the ten dancers have expressionless faces and hold themselves with a firm, steady poise. As they take their positions in a single line formation it’s clear they are primed for action.

‘Brooke Leeder is a Perth based choreographer known for her high-voltage, highly structured abstract dance works.’

These strong initial indicators of the piece reflect its creator’s signature style. Brooke Leeder is a Perth based choreographer known for her high-voltage, highly structured abstract dance works. She is a master of designing dance in non-traditional spaces in ways that allow her movement to read as expressions of, and responses to, her chosen environments. Previously, she and her team have taken over industrial warehouse spaces within the PS Art Space (Fremantle) and The B Shed (on Fremantle wharf), to present intensely physical, bold visions of contemporary dance.

Read: Opera Review: Bluebeard’s Castle, Opera Australia

Structural Dependency marks another striking chapter in Leeder’s artistic trajectory, though it also suggests new seeds of inspiration coming to fruition. There is a new sense of intimacy and human connection threaded through this piece. In an ironic twist, the work’s very structured, almost distant form and its pounding electronic score serve to heighten our proximity to, and sense of dependence on, one another.

Structural Dependency by Brooke Leeder & Dancers at Perth Festival 2021. Photo by Mitchell Aldridge.

At times the dancers follow strict patterns, performing repetitive canons of movement or shaping their bodies into sharp formations. But these disciplined moves segue into weight-shifting duets or group work where the collective supports the greater whole. The dancers’ steely gaze never flinches, but as their body weight shifts to support itself and each other, we feel their humanity and their closeness to us.

‘Ultimately, this work pulses with a sensitivity and a human touch that belies its industrial veneer.’

A notable solo is performed in hypnotic fashion by Nikki Tarling, as her body swirls and melts under the shards of white light created by lighting designer Nemo Gandossini-Poirier. Another magic moment is when Scott Elstermann executes a set of double-triple pirouette-turns with such ease and effortlessness, one might well assume that his perpetual motion spinning is his natural state of being – it’s incredible.

Ultimately, this work pulses with a sensitivity and a human touch that belies its industrial veneer. With echoes of the postmodern dance movement (artists like Trisha Brown and Lucinda Childs), Brooke Leeder & Dancers have created an immersive work of conceptual contradictions and complexities that also reflects some of Leeder’s powerful choreographic hallmarks.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 ★★

Structural Dependency
Brooke Leeder & Dancers
Choreogropher: Brooke Leeder,
Dancers: April Vardy, Celina Hage, Noah Jimmy, Lilly King, Linton Aberle, May Greenberg, Natassija Morrow, Nikki Tarling, Scott Elstermann, Scott Ewen, Tyrone Robinson
State Theatre Centre, Perth

4-13 March 2021


Jo Pickup
About the Author
ArtsHub's Arts Feature Writer Jo Pickup is based in Perth. An arts writer and manager, she has worked as a journalist and broadcaster for media such as the ABC, RTRFM and The West Australian newspaper, contributing media content and commentary on art, culture and design. She has also worked for WA arts organisations such as Fremantle Arts Centre, STRUT dance, and the Aboriginal Arts Centre Hub of WA, as well as being a sessional arts lecturer at WAAPA.