Since 2009, Dances with Dogs has been approved by the Australian National Kennel Council as an official sport in Australia. That's right; dog owners perform fully themed, costumed and choreographed dance numbers to music with their canine counterparts. Presented as part of Next Wave, Canine Choreography takes a number of dog owners and their pets and has them recreating award winning Dances with Dogs routines while highlighting the relationships and bonds we share with dogs.
Creator Danielle Reynolds interviews a number of dog owners, including some from the Dances with Dogs community. There is a slight Best In Show mockumentary feel throughout as people gush over their pets and the seriousness in which competitive dog dancing is discussed. These moments prove to be the most entertaining and unfortunately this is where the problem with Canine Choreography lies.
Most of what we see in this live art show are pre-recorded interviews where you can’t help wondering if this would make a better film documentary. Even the actual dancing - which is roughly 15 - 20 minutes of its 60-minute runtime - fails to engage in its exploration of this phenomenon. Not one dog is able to perform any part of their choreography, and while we must acknowledge that these are not professionally trained dogs and putting them in a room with so many humans cheering them on was going to be very distracting, this is what the show promoted itself to be.
We were subsequently left watching dog owners do what can be best described as a one-person Rock Eisteddfod while their dogs run around being cute. But cute can only get you so far. There is very little - if anything - that one can take away from this that they can’t from simply watching the interviews. The saving grace during the dancing is the actual routine being projected behind them, shown as they were intended. However, our commentator for the evening, Will McRostie, does a great job in his attempts to create some excitement from very little.
If Reynolds seeks to delve into the relationships between dogs and human in a live art space, then there simply needs to be more live art to it. While those connections are made evident in the interviews, there is very little interaction between the present dogs and their owners. Canine Choreography is a novel and unique idea but in its current format, there is too much bark and not enough bite.
Canine Choreography was performed between 11 - 12 May 2018.