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DADS, Dance Makers Collective DADS, Dance Makers Collective
photo Dominic O’Donnell

The excited chat and noise from a mostly teenaged matinee audience fades to silence as the lights go to black. DADS has begun and will sustain these young people’s interest for the next hour. This achievement is perhaps indicative of Dance Makers Collective’s currency as a young group of independent dance-makers pooling resources to create new work.

From the gloom of the Lennox Theatre, the doo wop classic “Only You” is heard as diminutive, besuited Miranda Wheen begins a prone journey across the stage. She ends her sliding against the upstage “Dad” home bar (a set built by one of the subjects of the piece) and we hear the first voice of a father. “I feel really good when I’m dancing to a song I enjoy listening to.” And so a soundtrack convention is established and a vehicle provided for an episodic dancework which is much more than a satire on daggy dad-dancing. Soon the company joins Wheen one by one, each rising and falling through supple spines, following distractions low to the ground, squatting, rolling up trouser legs: a preparation perhaps for the coming dance. The moving is not parodic; perhaps we are witnessing a reenactment of a male ritual observed while recording the Dustyesky Russian Men’s choir in Mullumbimby, whose voices now ring out from the PA.

DADS, Dance Makers Collective DADS, Dance Makers Collective
photo Dominic O’Donnell

This beginning transforms into three trios that range across the stage and culminate in a crescendo of frenetic rolling and choreographic patterns. Then as the Everley Brothers urge us to “Dream,” we also hear Melanie and Marnie Palomares interrogate their father’s attitudes to dancing. “[Dance] anyway you feel like it,” he urges and the women comply in real time. A sequence follows with dancers and Del Shannon’s “Runaway” all slowed down at first, giving us time to appreciate trained bodies moving through an accelerating exposition of Dad dance aesthetics.

This aestheticising of untrained movement is a recurring motif in DADS, and it displays an underlying sensitivity and respect towards the men heard on the recordings. The work hits many poignant notes such as a father overcome with emotion in his connections to dancing and daughter. Another dad talking about loneliness provides a soundtrack to an accumulating walking formation as the company creates a pedestrian dance. A contact duo occurs briefly before Wheen emerges, shadow boxing light as a feather. The group disperses, leaving her to leap and skip through an imaginary combat that shifts between sparring, twisting and shaking moves. All through this section Matt Cornell supports the onstage physicality with a pulsing sound collage that contains remnants of distant, wistful songs. A solo from Anya McKee starts as a duet with a comfy chair. She rolls and folds through a physical prologue that brings her into full-bodied travelling as we hear a dad confessing that his involvement in the project has nurtured a new interest in dancing which now includes private moments of “air guitar”!

DADS, Dance Makers Collective DADS, Dance Makers Collective
photo Dominic O’Donnell

But DADS’ most humorous moment arrives in the form of a trio by Sophia Ndaba, Miranda Wheen and Marnie Palomares. In a bar scene with Carl Sciberras, the trio stand in for his (heard) father as they physically lampoon the imaginings of Mr Sciberras’ own “old school dad …Cranky Frankie cutting a rug.” The women create caricature extensions of blokey poses, corny knee-slapping bobs and ducks that swing them into hilarious responses to Sciberras' interrogation of his dad.

Rather than being a light-hearted surface-skate across embarrassing dad anecdotes, DADS ventures a subtle enquiry into male frailties. It challenges stereotypes of paternity and masculinity and exposes a charming vulnerability in older men. It also uncovers seams of Sydney’s social history and multicultural character, audible in the many accents and historical expositions evident in the soundtrack texts. These fragments of interviews with dads, grandfathers and even a great grandfather, interspersed throughout, focus our attention on dads’ stories about dancing and in the curtain-call boogie, we see three of them onstage. This family reunion shows clearly that DADS, as Dance Makers Collective’s tribute to their fathers, manages to link contemporary and social dance via a touching exploration of the parent-offspring relationship.

FORM Dance: Dance Makers Collective, DADS, director Miranda Wheen, choreographers, dancers Miranda Wheen, Carl Sciberras, Anya McKee, Matt Cornell, Sophia Ndaba, Katina Olsen, Marnie Palomares, Melanie Palomares, Rosslyn Wythes, designer Anya McKee, composer Matt Cornell, lighting designer Guy Harding, producer Carl Sciberras; Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, 2-5 Nov

RealTime issue #135 Oct-Nov 2016 pg.

© Tony Osborne; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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