Review by Shannessy Danswan

*** stars

The Space Dance and Arts Centre present a wonderfully well-rounded cast of aspiring young dancers in this year’s Fringe Festival. Their 2019 FIIT Program showcases dancers of all levels with a heavy focus on contemporary movement and culture. MUSE presents three groups of students who perform self-devised pieces, where the provocation of “the brain’s ability to protect, survive, and create” is the focus.

Opening the show, Bittersweet is loud, proud, and focuses on plot rather than movement; a unique response to the aforementioned prompt. Lead dancers, Alex De Groot (who also choreographed the dance routines) and Suilven Byrne effortlessly steal the show with their strong technical abilities and personality-to-boot. The playful and charismatic ‘Tweedledee and Tweedledum-esque’ female duo never shy away from the spotlight. Ryan Rhys is also a strong and boisterous performer, whose ‘coming out’ sashay is the comedic highlight of Bittersweet. Ryan’s extravagant huffs, puffs, and dramatic gestures show how versatile dance can be, as the group delves into the vast world of physical theatre. Bittersweet’s quirky soundscape and moody lighting design effectively reflects the teen-scream genre, however, transitions between scenes may have appeared much smoother with less miming to convey communication and a heavy reliance on stop-start soundtracks, and rather, more storytelling through dance or movement to evoke emotion, tension, and conflict. That being said, it’s evident what the dancers were trying to achieve in this creative piece about teenage relationships, particularly through their dedication to a specific, albeit one-dimensional, narrative.

The second dance piece, Capacity, balances storytelling and dance to a ‘T’, as MUSE presents a powerful and professional group of young female dancers who are diverse and entertaining. With just a small portable platform to work with and around, seven women unify in all-white attire. Each dancer gets her chance to be centre stage and express her unique abilities. Ranging from lyrical to contemporary and commercial, Capacity is raw and engaging. I have nothing more to say about this piece other than the collaborative choreography was sublime, the collective dancing was perfectly timed, the colourful lighting only enhanced the performers’ work, and the alternative/electronic musical foundation worked in their favour from a stylistic perspective.

Finally, the youngest and largest group of the night presented Foreign to Reality: An Abstract Contemporary Piece. This routine was an interesting representation of how society operates as a collective, and how easily we fall into habits of accepting our reality rather than questioning or changing it. Through cleverly constructed movement, we see this inner conflict play out. Notably, the group are incredibly focussed and maintain their appearance of being ‘dazed’ as if they are possessed, which works very well in conveying a sense of docility. Yellow LEDs cast significant shadows in conjunction with a Massive Attack-esque trip-hop soundtrack, which aids the overall robotic and unnerving essence, which drives this contemporary dance.  Most of the dancers in this piece are strong, with a few who really stood out due to their ability to claim space.

Overall, my only real qualm was with the students who were working lighting/sound throughout the show, which led to multiple missed or pre-empted music and lighting cues. This may have been part of the learning process for the students (which is fantastic!), although it made the show appear unrehearsed. However, I am pleasantly surprised with the talent to come out of The Space’s FIIT program. The Space has plenty of room for students to create what they desire, which is a huge plus for those who want the opportunity to showcase their work to family, friends, and future employers.