Abby Johnson in Makeshift Dance Collective. <i> Photo: Loma Sim </i>

Abby Johnson in Makeshift Dance Collective. Photo: Loma Sim

Short + Sweet Dance

Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre, November 8 to 11.

Reviewer: Michelle Potter

Unkempt Dance in Short + Sweet Dance: from left, Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis, Amy Wiseman.  <i>Photo: Loma Sim </i>

Unkempt Dance in Short + Sweet Dance: from left, Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis, Amy Wiseman. Photo: Loma Sim

Diversity in contemporary dance by independent artists is what characterises Short + Sweet Dance.

Now in its third year in Canberra, Short + Sweet is part of a wider festival of performing arts taking place annually in various Australian and international venues in which the offerings must be no longer than 10 minutes in duration.

This year, choreographers and dancers came to Canberra from Western Australia and the Northern Territory to join local colleagues and others from the eastern states in a program that included examples of contact improvisation, chance procedures, comedy, works with political themes or based on science fiction, and even a work about red wine.

To my mind, the highlight of the program was Uncommon Ground choreographed and danced by Caitlin MacKenzie and Gabriel Comerford.

It was a tightly structured, cleanly and carefully danced duet about a changing relationship between a man and a woman. No movement was extraneous or frivolous. Often a minimal gesture, such as a simple touch of the hand, was all that was needed to convey the idea. At other times, the partnering was complex and powerful.

The work managed in a short space of time to convey a range of emotions from confrontation to reconciliation.

I also admired 216, a work choreographed by Quindell Orton and performed by her with the help of Amy Wiseman. 216 could have been in homage to Merce Cunningham, who when choreographing would often select movement phrases by the roll of a dice. Wiseman sat at a table, rolled a dice and called out results.

A roll initially determined which costume Orton selected to wear from six available to her, and then what lighting states were put in place and which sound track was used. The title, 216, refers to the 216 possible solos that could result. While works of this kind are meant to remove personal choices, Orton, a tall, long-limbed dancer, is such an individual, idiosyncratic performer that it was all but impossible to see the work as an impersonal one, which in itself is an interesting aspect of her performance.

Holly Diggle's and Keira Mason-Hill's Continu(um), using the technique of contact improvisation, resulted in a lyrical 10 minutes of dancing while Jake Kuzma in his Sci-Fi-Ver showed what a remarkably fluid mover he is.

The program was completed by works choreographed by Gemma Dawkins, Jamie Winbank, Miriam Nicholls and Unkempt Dance.