Michael Ralph is one Australia’s rising choreographers. His previous musicals include Dusty, Georgy Girl and Loving Repeating and his own dance works include Hollywood Honky-Tonk and Now and Then. Ralph’s latest work is SELF.
Ralph describes SELF as a dance-theatre piece. It is promoted as “a thought-provoking journey into the psyche of an Artist and the human condition … As artists in this fast-paced and modern world, we lose ourselves in our work and life and can often struggle to cope with the pressures and expectations involved. SELF explores this through one man’s journey to find his true self.”
“It’s story driven and its narrative driven … it’s what I would describe as acting through dance,” explained Ralph.
The piece was inspired by Michael Ralph’s own journey. The lead character in SELF is called “The Artist” and is played by Rohan Browne (Singin’ In The Rain, Strictly Ballroom).
“My dance pieces that I do, or really anything I choreograph, I really try to make sure I’m telling a story through dance and a story that’s accessible and thought provoking… so rather than just dance for the sake of dance, or dance for the sake of art, it really is trying to be accessible to the audience wherever possible,” said Ralph.
Unlike his other dance works, SELF has live music with original compositions by Jack Earle.
“For those who watch, it might feel as though they’re watching a musical – the only difference is that there’s no text. There’s no lyrics, there’s no speaking or any scene work. But I’d like people to feel and to understand a lot just by the performances going on through the dancers,” commented Ralph.
I asked Michael Ralph if he approaches the choreography for a purely dance work differently to musical theatre.
He replied, “I’d like to think my approach is quite the same, but instead of having the text, I have to come up with that and I have to have the journey very solid in my head. I think it’s the same process for me – what do I want to say and how do I want the movement to say that? It’s just that they’re not going to be singing while doing the movement. So for me it’s very similar process to choreographing a musical – it’s just a lot harder! Which is why I enjoy the challenge. In a musical it’s very easy for the audience to understand thoughts and feelings, and where we are and what we’re doing, when they can just say it. But it’s a good challenge – that’s why I like to do it.”
Audiences can look forward to a completely new, Australian made show, unlike anything else currently being staged in Australia. Ralph invites audiences to experience SELF and hopes it will move audiences to think about their own journeys and their own lives.
“If it encourages them to have a conversation, or to speak up, or ask for help or seek guidance, or even just to trust their own instincts a bit more … if they can feel those sort of things from watching the show then I think I’ve achieved what I set out to do,” said Ralph.
SELF is now playing at Chapel Off Chapel as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.