Catapult Dance Choreographic Hub launched in Australia’s Hunter Valley just north of Sydney in 2014. Spearheaded by former dancer and dance educator Cadi McCarthy, it champions emerging choreographers, providing the platform that is so elusive for many up-and-coming choreographers, dancers, and composers—space and time to think and create.
For this mixed bill, Catapult has commissioned four new contemporary dance works from four emerging choreographers. Along with original scores by local composers, the chosen choreographers created the works with Catapult’s nine professional dancers. With the premiere at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre, it is an intimate but glorious setting as the local art community bustles in, a dress rehearsal of sorts before the works debut in Sydney.
The opening piece is “Trip For Biscuits,” a work by Adam Blanch. A rising star on the Sydney choreographic scene, the work is set in the scattered mind. It explores the endless cycle of chaos and our constant search for purpose. As the curtains rise, the dancers are dressed like they are ready to compete. Red shorts and white singlets, the dancers move chaotically as if searching for a finishing line that doesn’t exist. The choreography is intense and engaging, arms and legs jerk with strength in between moments of softness and fluidity. At one point, a dancer limp with exhaustion falls to the floor while other dancers struggle to pick her up. It is as though her body is succumbing to the fatigue of finding her purpose. The final scene is gripping, the dancers move in a frenzy as the curtains fall around them. Allie Graham is the star of this work, it is hard to take your eyes from her through the entire piece.
The following work sees a change of pace. “Human Remains” choreographed by Omer Backley-Astrachan is an ethereal piece exploring life after an apocalypse. The dancers, dressed in cream, move together, creating shapes and shadows as a collective across the stage. There is a calmness to the work, although I couldn’t join the dots between the meaning of the work and the dancers’ delivery. Nonetheless, the audience is swept up into the gentle choreography and otherworldliness of the dancers’ movements before interval breaks.
After interval Kristina Chan delivers “Shimmering Towards Silence.” Perhaps the most experienced of the choreographers, Chan presents an intriguingly beautiful piece, exploring environmental change. The dancers heave and flow together, weaving in and out of duos and trios, no one dancer the focus, but together they very much elicit the environment; no one element seems to move without the other. James Hazel’s composition accompanies the work superbly.
The final work is Craig Bary’s “Laden Blue.” The complex synopsis to the work is difficult to interpret, but the piece itself seems to vividly explore themes of bullying and domestic violence. It is chilling, and perhaps the most striking piece of the night, the audience is completely transfixed. The work begins with the dancers dressed in casual clothes, interacting with each other knowingly. The choreography is cleverly suggestive of relationships between the various dancers, yet fluid enough to make the audience wonder at the work’s direction. As Zachari Watt’s composition builds, the petite and dynamic Alexandra Ford emerges as the star of the work. During the work, she takes to a microphone and sings. Later, with her tiny frame she is pushed and pulled by the other dancers. Dark themes emerge, but the work ultimately lets the audience sit with their own interpretation.
Catapult’s mixed bill is a refreshingly diverse night of contemporary choreography. While occasionally lacking the finesse of a full scale company production, each work at approximately 20 minutes offered the audience the opportunity to witness distinctive choreographic styles and in several instances, pause for reflection. It shows the wonders that can come from the opportunity to create.