The pandemic has starved us of the live performing arts. Although many of us have enjoyed the proliferation of online offerings from the archives of big dance and music companies, little new work has been created and almost none of it performed live. Dancers and musicians, already on lean budgets, have suffered terribly – not just financially but also creatively. How do you create when your art takes inspiration from the creative influences of a group ensemble?
Where I Roam is a direct response to our times. The Melbourne Digital Concert Hall brings live performances to a broad online audience where ticket sales go directly to the artists. Performed on Wednesday 9 December at the Darwin Entertainment Centre “Where I Roam” is a collaboration between the Darwin Symphony Orchestra and the Northern Territory Dance Company, performing works by Shostakovich and Max Richter’s interpretation of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”.
The result is an intimate experience that translates beautifully online. The musicians are physically woven into the performance onstage, with seven dancers performing at the front of the stage. There are three different camera angles, simple costumes and lighting, and harmonic choreography to classical string compositions.
Shostakovich’s String Quartet no. 8 has been rearranged for a string orchestra by Rudolf Barshai and represents a slightly dark tone in movement and melody. The three dancers begin on the floor crawling and melding together in well-crafted contemporary dance moves. Much of the steps are pedestrian in nature and follow a fluid path of intricacies. The dance culminates with a conversation in body language between two dancers using chairs as a platform for movement.
Larrakia man and choreographer, Gary Lang, delves into lighter phrases with more dynamic movement in the Four Seasons section of the performance, exploring Spring and Summer. Max Richter’s modern interpretation of the classic Vivaldi piece is accessible and familiar with climbing canons and ethereal melodies. Conducted by Jonathan Tooby, the Darwin Symphony Orchestra successfully embodies the modern harmonies, giving the dancers greater inspiration in their work. This is especially captured in a series of partnering lifts between three couples performed in precise unison. Lead violinist Tara Murphy further supports the dance while walking and playing her violin around the stage with some of the dancers. She is comfortable with her movement and integrates well with the dancers, adding a greater richness to the performance. Lang describes the piece as a “journey of the soul” and encourages the viewer to let the dance wash over you with “your own interpretations of life, regrowth and beauty”. The movement themes are executed with ease and subtlety, lending themselves well to dancer and musician on stage. Neither distracts from the other but leaves a balance of emotion and enjoyment.
One of the highlights of the performance was seeing and hearing a real live audience applaud. The Northern Territory has enjoyed fewer restrictions during this time and has managed to keep creating while being sensitive to the rest of the country’s limitations. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before Melbourne can experience live performances again. We are certainly hungry for it. But in the meantime, it’s nice to know that Art is thriving in the Top End; being able to enjoy this online performance was an unexpected pleasure.
Image credit MDCH
Paris Wages reviewed the performance given by Darwin Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with NT Dance Company and Larrakia choreographer Gary Lang via Melbourne Digital Concert Hall on December 9, 2020.