Prove your humanity

Ochre Contemporary Dance Company presents 3.3 and Beyond—a double-bill dance performance that oscillates from tranquillity to turmoil, brimming with technical wizardry and outstanding choreography.

I find that not reading the synopsis of a performance you’re about to see is the best way to instil a little thrill into your evening. There’s nothing better than those few seconds of darkness before the show starts when your mind’s racing about what you’re about to experience—and the experience I received from this show undeniably exceeded my expectations.

The room dims, fills with smoke, and a low, heavy humming throbs through the air. It’s hard to tell exactly how long the audience was left staring into the pitch black, encompassed by a thick cloud of tension, but it was alluringly enigmatic. Eventually, your eyes adjust to the dark and a long, narrow beam of light blooms across the stage—that’s when you start to make out a figure approaching the faint passage of light.

Beyond is a solo dance performance presenting a flow of raw, unadorned movement. Every part of dancer Floeur Alder’s body engages with each movement, and is executed with magnificent vigour. Her strength and fluidity is highly admirable, as is the brilliant choreography by Chrissie Parrott, whose aim was to take the audience on a surreal, transformative journey.

The entrancing soundtrack, paired with a highly skilful use of lighting, is an integral part of this 30-minute performance—which makes you feel, rather than simply spectate. It certainly goes beyond the convention of contemporary dance.

Linking the first performance to the next is a screening of the glorious ten-minute film, Kwongkan (Sand)—which was directed by Mark Howett. Based outside Trivandrum in Kerala, India, it’s hard to decide whether the setting or the dancing in the clip is more spiritual and stunning. During the short film the performers manifest into deities, struggling with their powers and ancient wisdoms, while they attempt to make sense of our modern world.

The final performance, 3.3, is a topical piece that combines dance and theatre. Although starkly different to the first, it is as every bit as exceptional. Choreographed by Michael Leslie, the dancer at the heart of the show is torn between cultivating his community and culture in his home country, and seizing an opportunity to travel and perform on global stages. The performance takes place in a large steel cage with a glass screen facing the audience, where the dancer, Ian Wilkes, is kept imprisoned. Wilkes’ performance is explosive, confronting and extremely intense. He rampages around the cell, hurling himself and a chair at the glass screen—and even spits on it.The effect is almost uncomfortable … which is precisely the point.

Leslie’s intent was to confront the audience and challenge them to consider why gaol has become almost a rite of passage for so many Indigenous youngsters; and why Aboriginal people represent 3.3 percent of the total population, and yet make up more than 28 percent of Australia’s prison population.

The piece is incredibly versatile, exploring both contemporary and traditional dance, as well as text, language, music, and even comedic themes. It’s thought-provoking and gripping—sweat, spit and all.

Overall, the trio that constituted the evening was certainly a rollercoaster of an experience and emotions. Every piece was unique, abstract and remarkable in its nature. If you’re a performing arts fanatic, I wouldn’t give this one a miss.


‘3.3’ and ‘Beyond’ are on at the Subiaco Arts Centre until June 3.