bgroup’s Just As We Are had three very different sections, that explored a similar progression of ideas in three very different ways. In short, the pieces moved from focusing on one person, then two people, then everyone (audience included). However, the method and moods used in each gave the sections very distinct textures. I can’t quite tell you how, but director/choreographer Ben Wright pulls off this mash-up to give us a surprisingly unified night, with each piece hitting different notes.

bgroup
bgroup

The first section, “one of us”, began when two dancers in white lab coats chose a member of the audience to join them onstage. I immediately shrank in my seat and breathed a sigh when they needed, fittingly, only one of us. As the piece progressed it became clear that she wasn’t really a member of the audience, but was, in fact, company dancer Allison Ahl. In the post-show discussion, Wright explains that this was done to help bridge the gap between audience and dancers, and to state that his exploration of “one” of us, could be that of any of us. I felt this within the performance, but I’ll admit I was a little let down by the fact that she wasn’t really an audience member.

Throughout the piece I saw Wright struggle with portraying one person through a dance piece with five dancers. The movement reminded me of water currents, with flowing material that shifted and progressed quickly. Each dancer’s movement morphed into the movement of the next to create some beautiful sequences. Part of me wanted a little more chaos and a little less fluidity – something to be disconnected and to not seem perfectly rounded. However, I really enjoyed when I saw Ahl’s journey through the screen of the other dancer’s movement, almost like they equally complimented and disfigured the clarity of her portrayal. These moments of balance didn't happen all the time, but when they did it was really powerful.

The dancers transitioned us into the next section of the night with a cute and quirky duet performed by our two dancers in lab coats, Robert Clark and Andrew Gardiner. Speaking to each other mostly in unison, they bumble through a conversation about how they feel about one and other. How does this connect the last section to the following piece, “two of us”? I’m not sure, but the well-timed and heartfelt words brought a lot of laughter and maybe just added another facet of exploration.

The next piece, “two of us”, was my favourite part of the evening. The duet, performed by Michael Barnes and Lise Manavit, was originally commissioned by the 2012 Place Prize where it carried the title a short lived alteration of an existing situation. The duet seemed very different to me seeing it the second time around. This is obviously in part because Barnes took over the male role, originally performed by Sam Denton, but despite any basic choreographic changes I felt that the energy and intention was different. The duet was so personal, and so real. To be honest, the movement was great, but I was much more focused on the clarity of the relationship between the two dancers. But look at me using the word “duet”, when it was a trio – as Wright correctly points out afterwards – between the dancers and DJ Marcus Wimplinger. His piano accompaniment was so clear and full of heart that it saturated the movement with beauty.

An odd little elephant projection brought us into the interval, and back in for the final piece, “all of us”. Here we switched gears to the disco extravaganza that was also originally a Place Prize commission in 2008. This “movement experiment” represented all of us, by bringing fifteen members of the audience up to learn disco moves lead and narrated by the apparent king of disco, Robert Clark. Sporting fittingly outrageous outfits from the 70s, the five dancers invite us onstage for a moment of pure joy. I can’t speak to the attainment of this joy, as I didn’t brave the stage, but everyone looked like they were having a great time. Sure audience participation is great; absolutely, the dance audience of The Place had no problem owning those groovy moves; and finally, yes, I did enjoy watching it unfold through disco glasses. It was quite the switch from the first two pieces, and I was surprised by the fact that I liked it. One thing, I’m not sure what the dancers were looking up at in the very end, but overall the night ended on a definite high.

This strangely complementary mix of work shows Wright’s unique perspective and versatility, and in support, his dancers were able to articulate each piece with obvious skill and grace. It was an interesting and fun night.