No slips in Right of Spring

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Published: 12th September, 2019
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The Right has all the right moves revealing the bureaucratic underbelly of a political machine. Perhaps you were disappointed with the elections last autumn and need some purging. The Right is a dance theatre production by Fine Lines Dance Company, directed and choreographed by dancer Katrina Rank, and provides some soothing for your political angst.

The hour-long piece is entertaining and clever, making good use of its intimate space. The overall effect of The Right is outrageously creative and fun. There are some moments of shear brilliance weaved together with thoughtful movement motifs and gestural expressions. It’s a well-paced show beautifully crafted to imagine a world of outrageous caricatures dog fighting it out over popularity and dogma. Set to Stravinsky’s well-known score The Right of Spring the show starts off dramatic and intense, slowly building from cynicism, sarcasm to comic relief. The result is thought provoking and engaging. Smartly, The Right doesn’t take itself too seriously, otherwise we would all walk away crying rather than laughing!  Before leaving the theater, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rank:

What inspired you to do this show?

I teach a group of mature contemporary dancers called Fine Lines. We do weekly classes and informal showings of work. When one of our long-standing members requested Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring I happily created some phrase material. It took root from there. As part of our preparation we discussed what things were most important to the dancers in the group. What was revealed was a very politically and socially oriented set of ideas. Gradually these two things merged. We presented the first 10 minutes of The Right to an invited audience towards the end of last year and had a positive response. I think performance is an important part of being a dancer.

How did you come up with the title and what does it mean?  

I really wanted to acknowledge the source of the work. Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is so iconic, and its score drives every aspect of our performance. We made it at a time where we saw several leadership spills on both the Right and Left of politics and found all of it horrific. The Right doesn’t represent one party or viewpoint.

How long did it take from conception to opening?

18 months! It’s been a slow process, but the dancers have had an opportunity to contribute ideas at various stages of its development.

Is it difficult being the director/choreographer and dancing in the piece?

I never intended to dance in The Right until one of our lead dancers suffered an injury and I had to step in. Being in the work is a completely different experience to choreographing and directing it. As a director I was building a whole world, story lines and narrative threads. I could give individual and group feedback. As a dancer in the work, my focus becomes even more pragmatic and technical. I had no idea how tiring the work was!

Tonight’s performance had 15 dancers.  What were their ages?

Late 30s to 70s, most are in their 50s and 60s.

Is it challenging choreographing for such a broad range of ages and abilities?

Yes. But the challenges force you to be more innovative. I work quite collaboratively so the dancers offer ideas and movement that they feel comfortable with. We use a lot of improvisation within the choreographic score which frees the dancers up from having to do something exactly so.

What inspired Fine Lines?

The older I got, I found I was having to adapt more and more of the contemporary dance classes I attended. The classes were often promoted as being for everyone, but I began to feel like they were not for my body as it is now in its 50s with advanced arthritis in both ankles. I wanted a blend of contemporary dance practices including ballet, modern dance techniques, improvisation, somatic approaches and musicality as an underlying force. But more than this I wanted to be part of a dancing community. To share and shape space, to create and laugh at ourselves and enjoy the dance we currently have in us. Not the dance we once had, desperately clinging onto it, but to discover what kind of dancer we might be tomorrow. I couldn’t find anything that answered those requirements, so I made it.

Were there any creative limitations or specific freedoms within the Melbourne Fringe Festival?

Not really. Melbourne Fringe Festival encourages the weird and the wonderful. I’ve seen shows on a shoestring budget and ones that are immaculately produced. I like the egalitarianism and open spirit of the Fringe.  Additionally, it’s great being a part of such a big festival and presenting to new audiences.

I left the show feeling slightly less cynical about politicians.  It’s a tough job and not for the faint hearted.  How did your insight change during the development of this piece and its characters?

I agree with that. I think many politicians start in a place where they really want to create change for the better. But the behaviors and games seem to take over and strangle that idealist. It’s the maneuvering, posturing and the spin that frustrates me. I hope, with more diverse representation in Parliament things will improve but we do need to find another way that leads us away from all the internal bickering and feathering of nests.

Any final words regarding the Australian politics?

Ordinary people also have to take responsibility. We choose the people who represent us. Let’s not go down the route of personality politics. Let’s really pay attention and think for ourselves.

Thanks, Katrina. You certainly have my attention!

Final performances of The Right Friday 13 September at 7pm, Saturday 14 September 2pm and 7pm.

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Paris Wages reviewed The Right, performed by Fine Lines dance company as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2019, at the Dancehouse Theater.

Editor’s note:
Classic Melbourne asked Paris to explain her connection with this work:

On a side note, I think it is very important to recognize the value of older dancers and their creative contributions to the art world. I am fortunate enough to be a dance teacher for Dance for Parkinson’s Australia, as is my colleague Katrina Rank. I’m sure I speak for both of us saying what an honor it is to facilitate and nurture creative outlets for people who often feel disenfranchised from the rest of their community. Organizations that provide teaching and performance opportunities are worthy of our support and should be embraced. Personal experience has shown me what treasures can be found in the most unexpected places. If you know of anyone who might be interested in a Dance for Parkinson’s class in the Melbourne area, please visit https://www.danceforparkinsonsaustralia.org