Wednesday, December 17, 2014


QL2 Dance 
QL2 Theatre,
 Gorman House-Canberra
December 13, 14 2014

Reviewed by:
Bill Stephens

Each year for the last six years selected students from Australia and New Zealand tertiary dance institutions have converged on QL2 in Canberra to try their hand a creating a short individual dance work. Initially instituted to bring QL2 alumni back to Canberra during their tertiary studies to share what they have learned, “On Course” has now expanded to include other tertiary dance students. This year the seven young participating choreographers included students from New Zealand and the UK as well as from WAAPA and VCA.

In the two weeks of the residency, each choreographer is tasked with creating a short dance work on senior QL2 dancers and other participating students. The results of their efforts are shown at two public performances before a paying audience. At this performance, each choreographer introduces their work with a short explanation of their choreographic inspiration. The performance is followed by a short session involving both dancers and choreographers, during which members of the audience have the opportunity to question the participants about their work.

"Buzz Off!" by Tanya Brown
Ryan Stone and Ayesha Katz
Photo: Lorna Sim 
Several of the choreographers chose to explore deep abstract themes, but one of the most successful and best resolved works was inspired by buzzing mosquitos. WAAPA student, Tanya Brown incorporated slapping noises and quirky movement to create a witty, amusing work for four dancers called “Buzz Off”.  Excellent music choice and an imaginative finale involving two dying R & J mosquitos added to the fun.

(Limits at infinity, approaching zero) by Chad McLachlan
Chad McLachlan and Ryan Stone

“(Limits at infinity, approaching zero)” by  VCA student, Chad McLachlan, was also notable for its imaginative use of video images projected on to the bodies of the two white clad male dancers who performed complex repetitive movements against a neutral background to a driving soundtrack also composed by McLachlan.

NZSD student Sam Hall’s “Earth V.2” was an absorbing and well-prepared work for six dancers, incorporating unison and free-form sections to explore concepts of how people might cope with the destruction of the earth’s biosphere. This work was particularly notable for the well-staged struggle for leadership supremacy by two male dancers.   

For her work “Disambiguation”, Falmouth University (UK) student, Melanie Kerr, made striking use of white masks for her exploration of stereotyping. The work included some lovely unison sections which were well managed by her four dancers.

"Impetus" by Ayesha Katz
Nasim Patel (on Floor), Luke Fryer, Sam Hall, Oonagh Slater
Photo: Lorna Sim
By contrast, WAAPA student, Ayesha Katz, in her work “Impetus”, for seven dancers, utilised free-flowing structured improvisation, performed to a haunting soundtrack, to create an abstract, lyrical piece of considerable beauty.  

The one solo piece in the program was a dense piece entitled “When the Wolves Turn Blue” given a strong performance by the choreographer, Dean-Ryan Lincoln, from WAAPA, to his own composition of the same name.

The final work on the program was a delightfully playful, circusy piece by VCA student, Amanda Lee, called simply “Experiment”. Posing the question “What if we never lost our magical sense of imagination and creativity we had as children” and performed to a varied  soundscape incorporating spoken word and music, Lee’s five dancers enthusiastically embraced their inner child, mimed funny dialogue and bombarded the audience with hundreds of multi-coloured balloons. While it did flag a bit towards the end, “Experiment” provided an unexpected and joyful finale to the performance.

As with all QL2 Dance presentations, “On Course 2014” was impeccably stage managed, the costumes were simple but appropriate, the sound and lighting excellent. In their comments at the post-show forum, the choreographers and dancers were fulsome in their appreciation of the advice and mentorship of Ruth Osborne and Adelina Larsson.

The dancers, some of whom performed in several works, were well-prepared and disciplined. Given the limited time they have had to work on these works – just two weeks – and given that the focus of the program is on the choreography rather than the dancing - the standard of dancing throughout was very impressive, including that of several of the choreographers who danced in works other than their own.  While it might seem unfair to single out particular dancers, it would be equally remiss not to mention the work of Ryan Stone, whose strongly committed performances enhanced several of the works.

 Apart from providing an entertaining, often enlightening evening of contemporary dance, “On Course” also acts as valuable and fascinating microcosm of current dance trends in our tertiary dance institutions, as the young choreographers inevitably reflect these influences in their works, as they each strive to identify their own individual choreographic voice.

       This review first published in the December 15th digital edition of "CITY NEWS"



Sunday, December 14, 2014

QL2 Dance – ‘On Course 2014’

QL2 Theatre, Gorman House
13 – 14 December 2014

Review by Len Power 13 December 2014

QL2 Dance’s final program for the year brings together current dance students from tertiary institutions across Australia to choreograph, collaborate and perform.  They are joined by current Quantum Leapers who have the opportunity to participate as dancers, working alongside the tertiary students.  This year seven works were presented and were introduced prior to each performance by the respective choreographer.

Sam Hall from the New Zealand School Of Dance (NZSD) presented ‘Earth V.2’, a a discussion on how we might individually cope if earth was destroyed and we had to start a new life on another planet.  This was a finely detailed work with a strong and clear message, nicely danced by a group of six.

‘Disambiguation’ was choreographed by Australian, Melanie Kerr now studying at Falmouth University in the United Kingdom.  A study of stereotyping and how it impacts on our society, the use of masks gave this clever work an almost dream-like quality.

Utilizing film, music and live dance in ‘(Limits at infinity, approaching zero)’, Chad McLachlan, from the Victorian College Of The Arts (VCA) choreographed, and also danced with Ryan Stone, a visually original concept where film seemed to mirror and blend with live dance.

‘Impetus’, by Ayesha Katz, currently studying at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), was a beautiful work about energy and motion.  Equally lyrical and dramatic, there were great solo elements as well as excellent ensemble work with the dancers plus a good choice of music.

Dean-Ryan Lincoln, also from WAAPA, presented and danced a deeply thoughtful solo work about mind and body, knowledge and the aim to achieve called, ‘When The Wolves Turn Blue’.

Tanya Brown, another student from WAAPA, gave us an amusing and witty piece called ‘Buzz Off!’ which started with the idea ‘If only our thoughts were as easy to kill as mosquitoes’.

‘Experiment’ by Amanda Lee from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) was a joyous work asking, ‘What if we never lost our magical sense of imagination and creativity we had as children?’  It was imaginative and a delightful end to the program.

All seven works were of a high standard showing great creativity and a clear sense of purpose.  The choreographers were well-served by the dancers who performed with confidence throughout the program.

This was a stimulating and entertaining dance program that was a delight to attend.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 14 December 2014 from 5pm.

Images – a piano recital to coincide with the exhibition ‘Impressions Of Paris: Daumier, Degas and Lautrec’

Pianist: Margaret Legge-Wilkinson
National Gallery Of Australia
7 December, 2014

Reviewed by Len Power

It’s hard to think of something better to do on a Sunday afternoon than listen to a program of music by Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel played by composer-pianist, Margaret Legge-Wilkinson.

Designed to coincide with the National Gallery of Australia’s current ‘Impressions of Paris’ exhibition, the concert featured music selections of Debussy’s Preludes from Books 1 and 2 and Images 1st Series plus Ravel’s Jeux Deau (Fountains).  As contemporaries of the French Impressionist painters, the composers’ music was an excellent recital choice.  Margaret Legge-Wilkinson has performed as soloist, accompanist and chamber musician in Australia and Europe for over 30 years.

Commencing with the shimmering ‘Reflections in the Water’ from Debussy’s Images 1st Series and on through the selections from the Preludes, the choice of pieces displayed the evocative atmospheres Debussy created so superbly in his music.  Especially memorable were the gently reflective ‘Hommage to Rameau’, the feistiness of ‘Minstrels’, the delightful eccentricity of ‘General Lavine’, the melancholy of ‘Footprints in the Snow’, the quirkiness of ‘Puck’s Dance’ and the spectacular musical colours of ‘Fireworks’.  Ravel’s ‘Jeau D’eau (Fountains)’ was more conventionally classical in style and a refreshing and charming piece to end the concert.

Margaret Legge-Wilkinson‘s playing was clear and nicely paced, bringing out all the atmosphere, colour and wit of the works.  While her spoken description of the works was welcome, her delivery was not as organized as it could have been.

However, it’s the music that’s important here and in that respect Margaret Legge-Wilkinson certainly delivered the goods.

Originally published in Canberra City News digital edition 8 December 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Kate Peters

 In DRESS CIRCLE this week, two former Canberra leading ladies talk to Bill Stephens about their careers after Canberra.  Operatic soprano, Lorina Gore discusses her roles in Opera Australia’s 2015 productions of “La Boheme” and “La Traviata”, and Kate Peters talks about her busy theatrical life on the Gold Coast.

In the “Red Velvet and Wild Boronia” segment, jazz legends Gery Scott performs excerpts from her School of Arts café cabaret “I Love Larry” for which she is accompanied on piano by John Black.

Lorina Gore in "La Boheme"

Len Power will review the work of several young emerging choreographer’s whose work is on show in QL2’s current presentation “On Course”. Isobel Griffin will present “Arts Diary” and we have a new poem from our resident poet, Blue the Shearer.
Gery Scott

90 minutes of interviews, reviews, music and news, DRESS CIRCLE is produced and presented by Bill Stephens and broadcast by Artsound FM 92.7 every Sunday evening from 5.00pm until 6.30pm, repeated on Tuesday nights from 11.30pm and streamed live on the internet at

Friday, December 12, 2014


Kurt Phelan (Johnny Castles) Kirby Burgess (Baby) 
Lyric Theatre Sydney

3rd December until 8th February 2015.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Having been at the world premiere of “Dirty Dancing” in Sydney’s Theatre Royal in 2004, it was interesting to be able to re-connect with this show ten years later at the Australian premiere of this brand new production.

Despite a cool reception from local critics at the time, the stage version, which starred Kym Valentine and Josef Brown, proved popular with audiences, and after the Sydney season, toured Australia and New Zealand for eighteen months before moving on to a sell-out season in Hamburg, Germany.

When the 2006 London season secured a West End record of eleven million pounds in advance bookings, the show became something of a phenomenon. While the critics continue to be mystified by its success, audiences flock to see “Dirty Dancing” where-ever it is staged,  and productions of it have continued to tour  internationally ever since.

Kurt Phelan and the Dirty Dancing ensemble
This slick new production, crisply directed by James Powell, with ingenious new set designs by Stephen Brinson Ellis which make extensive use of pretty video projections to accomplish seamless transitions and reproduce key scenes from the film, clearly illustrates why this show has remained so popular.

An additional 20 scenes have been added by its creator, Eleanor Bergstein, who also wrote the movie, making the stage show an even more slavishly faithful re-telling of the hugely popular 1987 film. Each scene from the movie is carefully reproduced; every line and every song appears to have been retained, allowing the audience to relive the story of a teenage girl’s relationship with a dance instructor while on summer vacation with her family exactly as they remember it from the movie.

Kirby Burgess (Baby) Kurt Phelan (Johnny Castles
Kirby Burgess is endearing and engaging in the pivotal role of Frances “Baby” Houseman. Her accomplished transition from awkward teenager to skilled dirty dancer is both engaging and convincing. (Perhaps not so, in the scene when she goes swimming and her hair doesn’t get wet).  

 As the rebellious dance tutor, Johnny Castle, Kurt Phelan lacks the overt in-your-face sexual magnetism of a Swayze or a Brown, but he’s handsome and an excellent dancer, and gets plenty of opportunity to shine during the many energetic dance numbers. Despite his rather wooden acting, he still managed to draw cheers from the first night audience with his rather unconvincing delivery of the “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” line.

Curiously, none of the songs advance the storytelling. They simply set the mood, or provide background for the various scenes. None of the leading characters get to sing, but charismatic young tenor, Mark Vincent and Anna Freeland, as staff members in the holiday camp, impress in a succession of familiar well-known songs which accompany the action.

Reprising the role she created in the original production, Nadia Coote remains a stand-out as the dance teacher, Penny Johnson. Her dancing is sensational and she commands the stage in all her scenes. Teagan Wouters as Baby’s envious older sister also scores with her funny “Hula” audition turn. The rest of the cast enthusiastically portray a variety of stereotypical characters who inhabit the holiday camp as the familiar story unfolds.

Kurt Phelan (Johnny Castles) Kirby Burgess (Baby)
Nadia Coote (Penny Johnson)
Even if the second act bogs down a little in the minutia of the storytelling, and the fascination with the colourful videoed scenery begins to wane, the audience seemed happily engrossed, laughed and applauded every familiar line, until the inevitable moment when Johnny Castle held Baby aloft in that familiar pose and the theatre erupted into a standing ovation, you didn’t need to be rocket scientist to tell (sorry, can’t resist) they had had the time of their lives.  

 This review appears in Australian Arts Review