Tuesday, July 21, 2009


In Sydney, in August 2007, the sense of loss was palpable following the death of Tanja Liedtke. Months before, she had been appointed as the new artistic director of the Sydney Dance Company following the departure of Graeme Murphy after thirty years in that role. Her untimely death at only twenty nine years left the arts community mourning the cruel loss of an immensely talented and young performer, and the bright new future for the company.

After seeing construct in the Peacock Theatre I now understand why contemporary dance has been robbed of an incredible talent and all the associated promise. construct was the last piece Leidtke wrote and choreographed. It combines dance with mime and shadow puppetry, woven together in a darkly comic narrative about humans, what we crave and create. Born in Germany, Liedtke had spent enough years training and dancing in Australia to grasp our collective obsession with home ownership which is captured cheekily in the seamless tale.

From the opening movements of falling bodies and the delightful drill sequence, through to the unsettling close, the trio of dancers — Kristina Chan, Lisa Griffiths and Paul White — moved together with breathtaking precision and dexterity. Far from the concentrated detachment that can accompany performances, the dancers stepped over the demarcation line with their smiling eye contact and audience participation in a mock home auction.

Everything about this show was… let’s steal a real estate term… well appointed. Under the creative coordination of Solon Ulbrich the set, the lighting, the simple and sophisticated use of the humble radiata pine stud, even the coordinated costuming of the sound and stage technicians in overalls, showed that every detail had been considered. The result was a tight and highly professional exhibition of imagination and physical prowess on a micro and macro scale. The costuming and the on-stage changes were artful, but in some sections the repeated tops on/tops off effect eventually felt a bit clumsy. The Peacock Theatre proved, once again, that it can be a great little dance venue.

The soundtrack by DJ Tr!p, a fusion of techno, industrial, acoustic guitar with a sprinkle of drum and bass, ushered the story perfectly through the performance. Had there been a soundtrack for sale in the foyer I would have grabbed it in a flash.

construct was a thrill to watch, and a tribute to an extraordinary person who thankfully left a great legacy of existing work and artists to perpetuate her style, method and repertoire.

Salamanca Arts Centre and Mobile States
Peacock Theatre, Thursday July 16 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009


From the opening scene of construct, the capacity audience was lured in by wide smiles and comical ‘Plank like’ routines. Demonstrating the art of falling, the three dancers interacted effortlessly in a series of movements playing with weight, momentum and balance. They were clever, funny and relentless.

This was the first of many scenes, like chapters of a book, that took the audience through a path exploring relationships; friendship, joy, pleasure, love, family, resentment and grief. Each scene had its own distinct feel, sound and movement, with representative threads and well-placed repetition ensuring continuity. Sharp, flexing strength juxtaposed with dancers collapsing in on themselves and falling into awkward ugly posturing.

Kristina Chan, Lisa Griffiths and Paul White were unwavering in their performances. Chan was sensual and enigmatic in her solo performance, while all dancers displayed incredible precision, endurance and synchronicity, individually and in their group work.

Housed within a sparse stage reminiscent of a work site, planks of wood and cordless drills became remote controls, sound effects and metaphors for suburban life; a picket fence, a game of cricket and a home. Lighting changes enhanced the switch in scenes, emotion and pace and suited the shifting sentiment of the production; from absolute joy to a sense of menace and worry.

The soundtrack to this 90 minute production was exceptional. Composed and recorded by DJ Trip, it moved between deep thumping 80s-inspired rap to intimate guitar and voice. Sounds of waves wrapped around the scenes of happiness; a couple, a child, a family, and fell away to industrial harsh percussion.

There were so many intelligent devices and props used in this production, but none detracted from the underlying themes of the work or the exceptional performances. While metaphors were aplenty, any cheesiness was beautifully balanced with the complexities of life, love and loss, the light and shade created by the three dancers.

construct not only left me with further admiration for contemporary dancers, but wondering what would have been the nature of future works by Tanja Liedtke, who at such a young age had already established herself as one of Australia’s leading choreographers. It was the last work choreographed by award-winning Liedtke before her accidental death in 2007 and is worthy of the capacity crowds it attracts.

construct was presented by Salamanca Arts centre and Mobile States and continues to tour Australia until 25th July 2009.
Peacock Theatre, Thursday 16th July