Colossus review by Sue-Anne Hess
If you’ve ever been mesmerised by a large school of fish swimming in harmony, then you’ll appreciate the creative excellence that is Colossus. Performed by the Stephanie Lake Company, Colossus (as the name implies) is more like a single entity, comprised of fifty or so fluid parts, than a company of individual dancers. With the entire company onstage throughout this single-act performance, the magic lies in the way each performer plays his/her part in perfect, yet unique synchronicity with the others.
Performed in the Fairfax studio, the company members are in place on the stage, maintaining absolute stillness, as the audience enters and settles into their seats. The stage is pristine white, with no backdrop or props, and each performer wears an all black costume and bare feet. There is nothing to divide our attention from the dancers. There is hardly any color in the lighting, and even the soundtrack, with a peeled-back tech/industrial feel is minimalist.
All of these elements are cleverly constructed to ensure that the audience is entranced by the movement and expression. It’s like watching a flawlessly executed Mexican wave, yet infinitely more complex. The choreography here is breathtaking, where even the most simple of movements takes on a more powerful impact when multiplied by fifty. Yet the movements don’t remain simple. While the cast is not always in unison, they are always in accord, and the interaction between them creates a palpable feeling of cooperation.
Still, Colossus offers not only visual performance, but also sound. Hissing, slapping, foot-stomping, and breathing are all percussive elements that stack on emotional power. In one particular moment, there is darkness, and it is the voices of the cast members calling out that sends a chill down the spine. In another moment, the cast can be heard chanting “me, you, us” amongst themselves, as they touch, embrace and ultimately reject one of their own. Without the usual guideposts of narrative and dialogue, the audience is simply enthralled, without really needing to understand why.
The success of Colossus can only be attributed to each young cast members’ excellence in performance, movement and dance. Even though the performance requires each dancer to perform the same moves, there is a uniqueness about the way it is expressed. The few solo segments, which undoubtedly emphasise individual finesse, are presented in such a way that the sense of the whole is uninterrupted, and provides a gentle, but brief, pause.
Colossus inspires its audience to put aside linear thinking and to be immersed in an abstract space of shapes, synchronicity and creativity. Choreographer Stephanie Lake is to be commended for her originality as she innovates new styles and patterns of movement, while also re-presenting common gestures in unexpected ways. It is artistic. It is unusual. It is refreshing.
stage management: 5/5