R&J (Expressions Dance Company)
Judith Wright Centre, Expressions Dance Company’s Home Studio
February 20 – 21
Why does the story of two doomed lovers resonate so strongly across four hundred years? Because some things are universal; themes of love and fate resonate across generations and cultures, as is confirmed than in Expressions Dance Company’s “R&J”.
Natalie Weir’s work presents three poignant love stories inspired by Shakespeare’s classic story of star-crossed lovers. The versions are set across different eras, yet despite their contrasting moods, they are all nuanced examinations that generate poignancy through the aesthetically beautiful performances that they showcase.
Act One, “Passion”, is set in a pulsing modern day Fortitude Valley dance club where Romeo and Juliet (Jack Ziesing and Claudia Elder) find each other across a dance floor. Things are sultry as fate intervenes… literally. Weir introduces fate as a character (David Williams), resulting in an captivating fight sequence between the trio that is a highlight of the show.
Act Two, “Romance” is staged in an evocatively blue-hued graveyard, where the lovers (Benjamin Chapman and Rebecca Hall) are secretly wed before being fatefully parted. It is a beautiful and poetic piece, featuring some stunning poses and is most in keeping with Shakespeare’s original fateful tale – mournful, touching and full of longing, without being overly angsty.
The final story “Devotion” takes place in 1950s suburbia, where a comfortably blissful couple play out their daily routine. Bathed in nostalgic, beiged lighting they proceed upon playful tickles on a couch before fate intervenes. This mature take on the timeless tale, is not only refreshing but masterful, with dancers David Williams and Elise May presenting a stunning display of strength and honest emotion.
The beauty and power of the dancers are to be commended. Not only do the primary performers shine in their spotlights, but the community engagement sections in the first two acts, allow for the talents of 20 up-and-coming dancers to be showcased. And they do an admirable job.
This successful and popular show (Natalie Weir was Winner of Outstanding Achievement in Choreography at the 2012 Australian Dance Awards and it has toured extensively in regionally Australia since it was first developed in partnership with QPAC in 2011) is well suited to the intimacy of the mini-theatre at Expressions’ Home Studio, at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. The set design is a simple gathering of sloped opaque boxes, yet it is evocative and appropriately moody in its creation of place, with pieces serving as headstones, a tomb and a coffin, and adding depth by transparently showing performances from within. It is a simple versatility that is enhanced by John Babbage’s (of Brisbane’s Topology) stunning commissioned score.
“R&J” is a tranquil exploration of turbulent emotions. Indeed, it is very much a show of Natalie Weir’s signature aesthetic, and, as such, it represents an emotionally honest dance event that will leave you thankful for its experience.