Review: Tracks Dance Company’s In Your Blood, Darwin Festival

Featuring a cast of 40 and the work of seven choreographers, In Your Blood finds the sweet spot between sport and art, where personal passions and family loyalties meet.

Bryn Wackett, Kelly Beneforti and Maddy Brown in Tracks Dance Company’s In Your Blood. Photo by David Hancock.

What does it mean to be Australian? In this joyful celebration of community, Darwin’s Tracks Dance Company offer up a spirited rebuttal to the likes of Senator Fraser Anning, showing us an Australia that is colourful, welcoming, celebratory and diverse.

Featuring a cast of 40 and the work of seven choreographers, In Your Blood finds the sweet spot between sport and art where personal passions and family loyalties meet – exemplified by the production’s costume design, where the pattern of a football guernsey is echoed in the panels of a dancer’s dress.

On a temporary sports ground – an oval delineated by a white picket fence – shared loyalties replace cultural and intergenerational divisions. Traditional Balinese and Sri Lankan dance vocabularies are blended with the physical language of cricket and AFL to create a unified whole. White-brimmed hats are doffed, waved and proffered; fingers flexed and hands extended in careful codification; a women’s football team mark and kick, baulk and weave, joined by a make-up wearing boy who longs to join their team.

Photo by David Hancock.

Some moments are overtly humorous, such as a cricketer adopting rock god poses and playing his bat like a guitar; other sections of the dance are moving and sincere, such as a sequence where Balinese and Sri Lankan mothers introduce their sons (from rival sporting codes) to one another, as if to set them up on a date.

There’s a glorious diversity evident – people of different ages and body types perform side by side – and while the dancers may lack the physical precision of professionals, there’s delight to be had in watching the careful concentration on their faces as they enact a particularly challenging routine, and the smiles that break out after they succeed.

Chris Kluge’s lighting enhances proceedings beautifully, typified by a coin toss sequence at the start of the match where his lights sweep up into the evening sky to follow the path of the imaginary coin, briefly spotlighting the broad leaves of palm trees high overhead before sweeping back down to the ground.

The score by James Mangohig also delights, mixing exuberant beats with more traditional music, and adding emphatic touches at apt moments – such as a ball-tampering sequence, where the abrupt sound of a scratched record adds a moment of delicious discord to proceedings.

Reaching its climax, In your Blood becomes – in a spirit of community and togetherness – not a dance off between rivals but a dance on between friends; a moment of joy and celebration that made tears well in my eyes and run down my cheeks, even as I grinned from ear to ear.

Tracks Dance Company has previously been described to me by friends in the sector as a national treasure. Having finally experienced their work, I can only agree.

4 ½ stars

Tracks Dance Company – In Your Blood
Concept and Artistic Directors: Tim Newth and David McMicken
Cultural Advisers: Putu Desak Wati Stretton and Chandrika Munasinghe
Assistant Director: Kelly Beneforti
Choreography: Putu Desak Wati Stretton, Chandrika Munasinghe, Kelly Beneforti, David McMicken, Venaska Cheliah, Bryn Wackett, Madeleine Brown
Design: Tim Newth
Music: James Mangohig
Lighting Designer: Chris Kluge

George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens
12 – 19 August 2018

Darwin Festival
9-26 August 2018

Read more Darwin Festival reviews here and here. This review was written from a preview with the permission of the company.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts