Made to Last/Handmade, Moonah Arts Centre (TAS)

The dancers of Mature Artists Dance Experience show that growing older doesn’t have to be graceful with an impertinent, cliché-busting performance.

Strong and able, the dancers of Hobart’s Mature Artists Dance Experience (MADE) are a force to be reckoned with. In this ambitious project supported by Tasmania Performs and Moonah Arts Centre, they have brought in Tasmanian creator and producer Emma Porteus and British contemporary dance legend Liz Aggiss to stir the pot.

HandMADE is a collaboration between one group of the dancers and Porteus. With great care, this work has evolved from her practice of co-creation exploring within a framework, which encourages confidence, risk-taking and joy. 

The stage is set with large fabric hangings. Casually, each dancer moves onto the stage acknowledging others, and responding and celebrating unity. Hands play in gestures of work and shift to manipulation of the fabric. Duos are formed, and individualised solutions to challenges found. Folding and unfolding packages of cloth become the tool for exploration and the development of relationships. Intersections of cloth form Maypole-like circles. Shifting places and swapping partners intensifies the complexity and animates the dancers in the delightful sensual pleasures of play. With the fabric delineating the space, the dancers develop their initial gestures into solos then gather to share these as a group.  The audience hangs on these final moments as each movement represents an individual’s contribution to the gentle whole.

Liz Aggiss’s piece, Made to Last, is nothing but a direct contrast. Since performing two solos in 2016 at Mature Moves, Aggiss has been cooking a work that would combine her irreverent approach to any boundary with the bravery and experience of the most experienced members of MADE. These are seriously committed performers, who give their all. In three weeks, they have learnt a new work, which challenges them and probably some of their audiences. 

Flossing and farting along with mysteriously moving curtains are par for the course. As the performers taunt: ‘We are watching you watching us, so watch out!’ Moments of ‘elderly activism’ feature strongly. This work needs to tour, so I won’t give away any secrets, but needless to say, blood red fabric features as a multipurpose motif. The fact that these women like to dance together is also obvious. Phrases from well-known songs fill the stage with anticipation and mimed repetition is used with impertinence. Seriously funny, and verging on anarchic, this work shows that growing older doesn’t have to be graceful, and is an extension of lives being well lived. The MADE dancers have a devoted fan base and their very presence dispels every cliché about ageing.

4 stars out of 5 ★★★★

Made to Last & Handmade
Presented by Mature Artists Dance Experience (MADE) with support from Moonah Arts Centre
Made to Last created by Liz Aggiss (UK)
Handmade created by Emma Porteus (Tasmania)
12-14 December 2019
Moonah Arts Centre TAS
Tickets $25-$35

Lesley Graham
About the Author
Lesley Graham has been active in dance and dance education for over 30 years, and has previously written for The Mercury and Dance Australia.