Dance Review: Mercy, Pro-West Dance Company

Fringe World launched this week in Perth, Western Australia with all the pride and spunk of the world’s third largest fringe event. As an open-access festival, diversity of artists is assured with more than 400 shows in 90 locations per day from January 14 to February 13, 2022.

Grace, by Pro-West Dance Company, is one of only ten shows in the Fringe category of ‘Dance and Physical Theater’. Newly founded in 2021, The Company is made up of youthful dancers who “appreciate the talent one can possess and believe that beyond ambition and determination you can achieve anything you set your mind to” (Pro-West Dance Company).

Founder and choreographer Emma Western has tackled the challenging ‘seven deadly sins’ mentioned in Roman Catholic theology as thematic material for seven dancers. The work is ambitious given the precedent of other Australian contemporary choreographers, ranging from work like the Seven Deadly Sins dance for the screen, with seven outstanding Australian dance companies (1993) to live dance performances, such as Natalie Weir’s 7 deadly sins presented by Expressions Dance Company (2015).

Western’s 50-minute dance work interweaves elements of lyrical jazz, neoclassical ballet and acrobatics into contemporary dance form. The dance work is simply structured with a clear beginning that is reflected in an ending that neatly captures the nature of temptation in everyday life. Each of the seven vices is examined sequentially, with a obscuring of the lighting between each part danced, indicating a shift in dispositions explored by the body. The choreography would benefit from refinement of the movement dynamics to ensure clear distinctions between sections.

The small theater space in the Subiaco Arts Center is a suitable venue for the performance and the use of different beams of light over the predominantly dark stage evokes a sense of intimacy and secrecy. A powerful score dominates the space, classical stringed instruments with arpeggios next to the choreography, although unfortunately the music is not mentioned on the program and online.

Corporate dancers, Breanna Furfaro, Emilie Johnstone-Maher, Jacinta Baxter, Ella August, Momo Foord, Siahn Howatson, and Karrie Turton, are each cast as one of the seven deadly sins: wrath, pride, laziness, envy, lust, greed, gluttony. The dancers are skilled and focused in performing movement phrases. Each of the seven sections in the dance work features solos or duos delivered with serious competence. Ensemble work favors canon in somewhat predictable floor patterns that tend towards diagonal and horizontal lines. Props are used to show audience members what ‘sin’ is being interpreted by the dance, although they can be further developed along with the costume design to enhance the choreographic intent.

Oddly enough, there is a courteous treatment of the subject; each of the vices fold into each other by repeating movement patterns across the seven sections. Perhaps there is no distinction between different kinds of sin, and one begins to imitate the other when one succumbs to temptation?

Fringe is an ideal platform for emerging and experimental artists to hone their craft. Given the devastating austerity measures and global pandemic in the arts sector, it is critical that the public support new talent, encourage living art forms and applaud the courage of artists creating and performing new work. RushTix on sale every day from 11am to midnight, so don’t miss the TV and enjoy as many live shows as you can while you still can!

Pro-West Dance Company
Subiaco Arts Centre, Western Australia
Director/choreographer: Emma Western

Dancers: Breanna Furfaro, Emilie Johnstone-Maher, Jacinta Baxter, Ella August, Momo Foord, Siahn Howatson, Karrie Turton
Stage Manager: Rebecca Voss

Stage Hands: Lily Shuttleworth, Madison Hartslief
Lighting Technique: Find Boylen
Music: uncredited
Presented by Fringe World

Grace was performed from 14 – 15 January 2022 as part of Fringe World.

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