digital screening, co3.org.au/show/gloria,
December 2022.

I was privileged to catch a digital screening of Co3 Contemporary Dance’s Gloria to review, filmed during a September 2022 season from the Heath Ledger Theatre, Perth.

The atmosphere of Douglas Wright’s Gloria as performed by Co3 bubbles explosively, pulsates and throbs joyously; although, at times, there is a thoughtful, powerful silence. Wright uses Vivaldi’s Gloria of 1715. Technically, the dancers are superb, barefoot in their beigey/bronze/gold almost translucent costumes by Alison James, with atmospheric lighting by Mark Haslam. Wright’s choreography demands tons of energy, great technical accomplishment, a fluid movement, and a strong, flexible back. Its seeming simplicity hides how relentlessly it is driven.

New Zealander Wright’s work dates from 1990, but is still fabulous. Presented by Western Australia’s contemporary dance company Co3, joined by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dr Joseph Nolan and accompanied by the St George’s Cathedral Consort, this remount by Co3’s artistic director Raewyn Hill is a tour de force.

The dancers joyfully leap and bounce in flowing split-jets with stretched arms. At times, the arms are held behind the back. Diagonal runs, slow walks and circle dances are also included.

Sometimes, there are briefly frozen, sculptural tableaux with the dancers facing the audience, arranged in rows and from time to time kneeling with outstretched arms. One can possibly pick various influences such as that of Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham and Vaslav Nijinsky. There is also a section where pairs of dancers are dangerously swung and tossed and the use of the ‘Murphy walk’, one dancer walking supported on the heads/back of the other dancers.

A sculptural, passionate male pas de deux is also included. Scott Galbraith and Sean MacDonald seem on occasion intimate and tender, a hesitant touch of a finger included, at others almost fighting. The duet ends with a Pietà-like reference.

The work finishes with the lights dimming on an exquisite heterosexual duet to display a figure suspended upside down high at the back of the theatre, as if about to emerge from a chrysalis.

Gloria has been perceived as possibly a semi-autobiographical eulogy for Wright and others struck down by the AIDS epidemic. AIDS greatly affected Wright – he was queer and a former drug user, diagnosed as HIV positive in 1989, but died of cancer in 2018. This is a burnished, accomplished production in the wake of Covid, an act of response and grief while still giving hope.

By Lynne Lancaster To install Dance Informa.





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