New Breed review: Always worth seeing, this year filled with surprises

Sydney Morning Herald, 2 December 2018

Two intriguing surprises lift this year’s New Breed – emerging choreographers working with members of the Sydney Dance Company – from its customary worth-seeing category into the unexpected: a world of the imagination.

In Towards Innumerable Futures, Prue Lang explores a time when artificial intelligence could take over the human race: would human skills of interaction, empathy and touch win out?

Robotic striding around in strict lines by one of its five performers is contrasted with couples often dancing as one, with entwined limbs, or in perfect opposites like an animated Rorschach blot. Interruptions to the couples are constant, by as little as finger contact, more likely by a shoulder or full body intervention as individuals mix and match in an absorbing jigsaw of ideas and actions.

Neat costumes by Aleisa Jelbart, topped by black or white pageboy wigs, add to the atmosphere built by precise performances and an original soundtrack by Chiara Kickdrum.

Holly Doyle describes her Out, Damned Spot! As “modernised mimicry of the ritualistic, repetitive and cathartic practice of cleansing”. She wraps her five performers in head-to-foot transparent suits (talented designer Aleisa Jelbart again) for their tasks.


They arrive in a tight-knit jogging group, chanting like ancient primates (original sound by Dane Yates) before breaking out into their “cleansing” activities. These become more intense and more complex choreographically as time goes on.

It is another bold journey into the imagination in which Izzac Carroll, Nelson Earl, Chloe Leong, Jesse Scales and Charmene Yap provide not only the dancing skills but a deliciously straight-faced presentation of the theme.

Between these bookend works are two more conventional pieces, also with original music. Janessa Dufty looks to the waratah for inspiration for her Telopea, in which a closely wrought male quartet is initially a quintet with Ariella Casu, who finishes up holding the stage alone in a beautiful solo. Composer Tobias Merz sings his evocative music live.

Mother’s Cry by Katina Olsen brings six women together in a gently flowing essay on looking back on life and how we treated our mothers. It is nicely crafted but not distinctive.