Danse Noir: The Judith Wright Centre

Kenny Johnson and Alinta McGrady in Danse Noir. [Image - Nayt Housman]
Kenny Johnson and Alinta McGrady in Danse Noir.
[Image – Nayt Housman]
If your body could talk, what would it say?

Contemporary dance choreographer Penelope Mullen’s latest work Danse Noir is a breath-taking piece of dance theatre.

Danse Noir explores similar themes of lust and desire as her earlier work Blaque Bordello, which Mullen created for the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts in 2013. But, rather than being set in a Bordello, Danse Noir takes us into the bedrooms of an apartment block.

As the inhabitants search for connection, we catch a glimpse into their private lives and secret heartaches, jealousies, raptures, obsessions, lusts and loves. From slow sensual choreography to frenetic sexual duels of bodies fighting for both power and self-control, this is a dance performance to delight all audience types (as long as you’re 18+).

The voyeuristic landlord played by Brian Lucas (who is also the dramaturg) acts as the common thread in the apartment, giving the vignetted dance pieces coherence. However, this production is not just dance, but performance theatre, where the audience can follow a narrative rather than an abstract concept of emotion in motion. We were even entreated to a couple of songs performed by the multi-talented singer/dancer Alinta McGrady. Her sultry jazzy blues voice added another dimension to the work and allowed breathing space between pieces. Some cheeky Eartha Kitt songs, playfully acted out by various members of the cast, also helped to cleanse the palette between the more intense, emotive dance pieces.

The ensemble of highly trained dancers were exquisite to watch and included Sunday Lucia, Linton Aberle, Anita Brittingham, Tyrel Dulvarie, Jesse Martin, Kenny Johnson, Alinta McGrady, and Yolanda Lowatta.  Johnson, McGrady and Lowatta are graduates of the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts, where choreographer Mullen was Head of the Dance Department.

Tyrel Dulvarie and Jesse Martin in Danse Noir. [Image - Ali Choudhry]
Tyrel Dulvarie and Jesse Martin in Danse Noir.
[Image – Ali Choudhry]
It was lovely to see same sex partnering in many of the dances, with the choreography moulded to each individual dancer’s strengths. The bath scene between Tyrel Dulvarie and Jesse Martin was captivating.

The pieces were not only well choreographed and affecting, but really showed off the beauty, suppleness, and sensuality of the body, which at times felt like an hypnotic meditation in motion. Mullen also played on the androgyny of some of the dancers to great effect. With the aid of lighting designers Penelope Mullen and Steven Loxely, the show began with the sexy silhouette of a svelte dancer with a long-tailed skirt and an overly large head-piece who was then revealed as a corseted man on pointe shoes.

In black and red, the cast of eight (excluding the landlord character), looked sexy and striking in what could be described as a gothic bordello look; other costumes included hotpants (for the boys), and the classic femme fatale look for the cheeky interludes.

The intense soundtrack by David Rushton was spine-tingling. Rushton’s powerful soundscape didn’t just complement the work, it transported it to another level.

Danse Noir is an edgy, sensual, gritty, and exquisite contemporary dance piece now playing at the Judith Wright Centre, from 26 April until 3 May.

The show runs for sixty minutes with no interval and a single row of cabaret seating is available in front of the stage; highly recommended for best view of the emotions portrayed by the dancers.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

Bobbi-Lea is AussieTheatre.com's QLD Co-ordinator, writer, reviewer, and reporter. She is also an actor, presenter, and theatre/film producer for Drama Queen Productions in Brisbane. Bobbi-Lea holds a Degree in Music Theatre as well as a Degree in Film & TV, and is currently doing her Masters in Screen Production.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

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