Hit the Floor Together.
QL2 Dance, the Playhouse.
July 31-August 3. Bookings 6275 2700.
Hit the Floor Together brought together indigenous and non-indigenous performers in an ambitious, collaborative endeavour that had both highs and lows. Dancers from the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA College) and the Adelaide-based Kurruru Youth Performing Arts group joined Canberra's Quantum Leap youth dance ensemble in works choreographed by Daniel Riley McKinley, Dean Cross and Deon Hastie. These works were preceded by a visually appealing short film and followed by Quantum Leap's signature curtain call-turned-finale.
Daniel Riley McKinley's piece was perhaps the most sophisticated choreographically. Called ''Where We Gather'' it considered connection to country. McKinley moved his dancers in mesmerising group patterns that were as varied as the landscape. His vocabulary had a Bangarra feel to it with turned-up feet, legs bent in angular shapes and undulating arms and upper bodies.
Dean Cross' work Bloom, was based on the seemingly simple idea that we are all human beings despite different cultures and skin colour. However, to give expression to the idea, he developed the work along quite complex lines. Using mostly contemporary Western-style vocabulary, he looked at how ideas could be passed from person to person, common thinking, understanding oneself and others, and judging and being judged. I'm not sure these complexities would have been clear without the program note, and they are not easy to portray in dance at the best of times.
There was one segment in Cross' work, however, that was a definite highlight. Ses Bero and Oonagh Slater engaged in a conversation about totems. He spoke about his shark totem, she about her worry dolls. Cultural differences were highlighted but similarities emerged. They each performed strongly and worked well together.
In Storm, Deon Hastie examined the composition of a storm from the build-up, through the storm, to the aftermath. He compared these elements with human behaviour, and we witnessed some strong, aggressive male dancing that gave way to some calmer moments.
Most of the dancers performing in Hit the Floor Together are not yet professionals, although a number can clearly be called pre-professional. In such a situation a simple idea, such as Hastie's storm metaphor, works best so the choreography can be the main focus, rather than ideas in the choreographer's mind.
But the main difficulty with the program to my mind was that the dancers were of varying standards of experience and expertise. In general, the indigenous dancers were stronger technicians, more at ease with the dynamics of dancing as a group and generally had greater awareness of engaging the audience. There were, of course, some exceptions, and those Quantum Leapers who had been with the ensemble for several years were mostly able to hold their own. But while the less-experienced Quantum Leap dancers may have benefited from working with their indigenous colleagues, the show didn't always show these younger dancers in the best light.
Production values, including the collaborative elements of lighting, music, projections, costumes and set, are always high in QL2 Dance shows, and Hit the Floor Together is no exception.