On a luscious pink draped tiered platform sit nine drummers dressed in black. Below them, on the stage, sit nine dancers dressed in white. They are all motionless, frozen in time. And then ... bang! A strike of the drum and a jolt of the body. Another bang, another pose. Gradually the beats get faster and the movements become larger, both becoming more elaborate. Choreographer Stephanie Lake is building up to something big with Manifesto and from its opening sequence she draws the audience into this world of anticipation and excitement for the unknown.
Even with so many people on stage, Lake gives opportunity for every individual to have their solo moments while also seen to be an integral part of the ensemble. At one point, the spotlight moves from drummer to drummer giving them a few seconds to perform before moving on to the next person. The spotlight continues to run back and forth down the line of musicians, and as it begins to speed up, so too do the drummers. The swiftness and dexterity they display is astonishing, with Rama Parwata deservedly having his place at the centre of the nine.Both Lake and composer Robin Fox show incredible skill with their precisely designed choreography and sound. Dancer and drummers are completely in tune with each other and never falter, but they still present an air of improvisation with their response to one another. There's a gentle tug of war over who leads who, that adds to the play and discovery. It's impossible for this exhilaration to not seep out into the audience as Manifesto provides surprising and thoughtful reflections with bodies and music unpredictably changing rhythm, speed and direction.
There is a beautiful sense of endless possibilities running through Manifesto, how the mundane or the routine can be transformed into something greater than we could have imagined. It is a gorgeous and stunning public declaration that while we can achieve a lot on our own, the more we open up to each other and work together, then what we can accomplish can infinitely grow.
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Rd, Southbank
Season: until 5 November | Wed - Fri 6:30pm, Sun 3pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: $55-$65 Full | $50-$60 Concession | $30 Under 30s
Bookings: Arts Centre Melbourne
Image credit: Sam Roberts