Sunday, July 25, 2010

Heart Matters

Theatre Royal
Friday, July 23 2010
by Stephenie Cahalan

The Theatre Royal was abuzz on Friday night. Regular subscribing patrons who had not realised this was a special night looked a bit bemused by the fully-packed foyer. ‘What’s so special about tonight?’ was one overheard query.

The answer could have been a number of things; the opening night of a new work by Tasdance, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra departing the main stage and squeezing itself into the orchestra pit or that Graeme Murphy had come home.

Heart Matters is comprised of two works; the first by Chrissie Parrott and later piece by Graeme Murphy, who recently liberated himself from the Sydney Dance Company to collaborate with Tasdance in his home-state of Tasmania.

'Racing Heart/Hummingbird', choreographed by Parrott, combines four mediums; dance, orchestra, written text projected on screen and spoken poetry. The score, written by Constantine Koukias offers glorious listening and conveys a whole range of emotions, genres and pace.

The dance itself is a fast-moving pastiche performed by a highly-proficient company of dancers. Conveying the full gamut of emotions, there was a relentless multiplicity of routines in motion simultaneously. However, it was hard to find the continuity between the music and the narrative of the dance. The words projected behind, signposting new movements, while helping the audience with clues as to the themes, was also slightly distracting, drawing the eye away from the dancers. Koukias’ work, which he describes as an orchestral dance suite was the greatest strength of the whole performance and, in the skilled hands of the TSO, was a beautiful theatre experience all of its own.

'FORTY MILES – a river of dreams', choreographed by Graham Murphy draws from poems written by his father Gerard about the Tamar Valley. Here the marriage between music and movement is beautifully played out. More classical in its composition, the chemistry between the two principals, Joel Corpuz and Floeur Alder, invokes a palpable feeling of love, and even intimacy. While the closing strains of the cowboy-style theme were a little incongruous, the overall effect was too satisfying to bother asking ‘why?’.

The music, by Carl Vine, was adapted from a work previously commissioned by dance-elder Ken Tribe, to whom the performance was dedicated following his death earlier in the week. And while the orchestra was tucked away in the pit their presence was no less resonant, as the music was full and evocative. Jun Yi Ma’s violin solo was spellbinding, especially when combined with the duet of the dancers on stage.

Both pieces were physical expressions of love; Murphy’s for nature and Parrott’s for the emotive force between people. But it was the former that, for me, far more effectively cast that passionate spell over the audience.

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