Reviewed by: Samuel Farringdon
Full disclosure: I am a bit of an alien when it comes to contemporary dance. I like to think that, as someone who has a background in film and theatre with a passion for music, dance is an art I can appreciate… but sometimes I kinda feel like I’m a tourist in a country where I don’t speak the language.
However, Link Dance Company’s Shanghai Bolero made me feel fluent. Set outdoors in the beautifully lush and picturesque surrounds of the Fremantle Arts Centre front garden, I was drawn in by the intent of French choreographer Didier Theron to explore sensuality, along with “the anxiety that desire and perceptions of the human form can provoke”. These themes run through so much of the art that I love, so I was curious to see how I would respond to them in the context of a dance piece.
And the truth is I was absolutely dazzled. Shanghai Bolero is one of the most stunningly brilliant performance pieces I’ve ever witnessed- hypnotic, evocative and utterly captivating.
The performance is divided into 3 sections – each choreography set to the same performance of Maurice Ravel’s iconic orchestral Bolero. Section 1 comprised of 11 women; the 2nd section of 3 men; while the entire ensemble convenes for the 3rd. The first two sections were engrossing in their relentlessness: the women’s choreography presented like a cross between a James Bond credit sequence and a military exercise, while the men presented more frantic and forcefully; both emphasising the urgency of the Bolero. After so much movement, the deliberately restrained 3rd section is jarring in its stillness, bringing emphasis to the elegance, discipline and poise of the performers. If the sensuality of the piece is portrayed through the beauty of the performers’ repetitive movements, it was their stillness that expressed the anxiety that Theron sought to evoke.
I walked away completely enthralled. My companion and I headed to the nearest bar and talked excitedly about what we had just witnessed long into the night – a sure sign of a work worth your time.
Unfortunately Shanghai Bolero’s run is brief – it closes tonight. So I urge you to drop or change your plans, because contemporary dance alien or not, this really is a performance that you ought not miss.