It’s no secret that the rise of COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the global arts community.
But one of the few silver linings of this performance break is that many artists have taken the opportunity to return to their roots – and with live theater and dance back on the menu, we’re reaping the rewards.
One such artist is Australian-Javanese performer and choreographer Melanie Lane, who returned to Canberra in 2020 after years creating dance performances across Europe, the US and Indonesia, and quickly found a home to choreograph works like QL2 and The Australasian Dance Collective. .
It is the latter who will perform one of Mélanie’s last works, The otheras part of THREEa showcase of contemporary dance at the Canberra Theater Center on the evenings of 24 and 25 June.
With three performances each night by The Australasian Dance Collective, The other will be joined on stage by Still life by Brisbane-based choreographer and dancer in the collective, Jack Lister, and Worshipthe groundbreaking work of London-based Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter.
“It’s always such a great experience for an audience to have a diversity of [dance] languages and I think this program is particularly diverse – each work has a different message, aesthetic and language,” says Melanie. “I am really proud to share the evening with them.
Melanie says it’s “really exciting” to see The other coming to his hometown, noting that it’s one of his first plays to do so, though it certainly won’t be the last. In fact, her Canberra feature debut for 2022 will be a month before THREE when QL2 premiere Melanie’s new work Metal Park as part of their Terra Firma show from May 26-28, also at the Canberra Theater Centre. .
For Melanie, it’s exciting to see how Canberra’s dance community has grown since she was a young dancer.
“The community is really connected, supported and motivated and it’s really exciting.”
Mélanie says that “like many young dancers,” she began ballet at what was then the National Capital Ballet School where she was taught by Janet Karin, whom she credits with nurturing her love of choreography and contemporary dance.
“I think she was a big influence in my early life as a dancer,” says Melanie, who moved from Canberra to Perth when she was accepted into the famed Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 1996.
But classical ballet is perhaps the furthest thing from your mind when it comes to The other. A futuristic journey undertaken by dancers dressed in chromatic jumpsuits and sunglasses, Melanie says Alterum was inspired by reading Michael Faber’s acclaimed 2000 sci-fi novel Under the skin.
“I became very interested in the lens of speculative fiction and thought it was exciting territory to explore through dance,” she explains. “Although it’s very abstract and fictional, it’s a lens through which to look at us in a very human way.
“The title The other means “other” in Latin, so it’s a way of looking at the human body and pushing its limits into a more supernatural world.
“As it’s a short piece, around 25 minutes, it’s an exciting and playful way to look at the body and see how far one could go in an unreal universe.”
Naturally, an unreal universe needs its own soundscape, thanks to Melanie’s partner, electronic musician Chris Clark.
“We build the music and the dance simultaneously – we bounce off each other.”
When I ask Mélanie to distill the essence of The other in three words, she laughs and hesitates then says: supernatural, surprising and intimate.
What more could you ask for when this contemporary dance star returns home to Canberra?
When: June 24-25
Where: Canberra Theater Center
Feature photo: David Kelly