Project Animo is a new dance collective whose dancers and supporters come from Australia's top ballet and contemporary companies. The pedigree couldn't be higher. 

It's never easy to launch a new company, even with celebrity attached. And with audiences still not fully back to theatres, Project Animo has come at a tricky date. But as the title, And So We Move On, suggests, these choreographers and dancers are getting on with their lives and career progressions, regardless of challenges.

The show is a brimming, almost over-crowded mixed bill of five offerings. All are well-danced and each seems influenced by a different contemporary or modern ballet style. As most of the choreographers are dancers who are now making the crossover to dance making, the choreography, itself, ranges in development.

Alice Topp, who drives Project Animo, has already found success as a resident choreographer with The Australian Ballet and her star is on the rise. Her new work, Patina,comprises the entire second Act. Against a cloth backdrop of scalloped folds, it's a rolling feast of fast moving, at times gymnastic-level duets and trios that dip in and out the floor with a contemporary agility. A sense of love triangles, jealousies, heartache and the general push and pull of physical relationships pervades through the machinations of nine different bodies. Kat Chan's costumes in beiges and blues have a shimmery lustre that accents the darts and folds of the intertwined movements.

In opposition to the activity of Patina, are two different solos for females. The Wave (by Deborah Brown) and In Real Life (by Kristina Chan), both suggest internal dialogues and personal psychological states. Although different in mood and visuals, both are expertly danced – by Madeleine Eastoe and Chimene Steele-Prior respectively, whose artistic experience allows them emotional depth in these quieter roles.

A translucent, bluish fabric washes the stage floor and back wall of The Wave, creating a textured environment from which Eastoe can awaken, emerge, grow from, teeter outside of and then shutter herself back into.

Steele-Prior works with a fur-like fabric that ultimately turns her into a standing cocoon of sorts and contours to the gawky, at times grotesque stretching of her body. With owl sounds and running water punctuating James Brown's music, there's an animalistic and embryotic feel to In Real Life.

Alternating with the female solos are two group pieces by the men. Egotist by Izzac Carroll opens with five dancers sitting upstage, backs to audience, staring at heaping piles of pedestrian clothes. With a clubby vibe and a post-modern sensibility, dancers pose and preen in various ensemble combinations – mismatched high heels, daggy frocks, a big pink tutu. There is throwing of clothes, euphoric dancing, pulling of a t-shirt with "Egotist" from a mound of garments and choreographed sleeping. It's not a particularly new take on a well-worn trope in contemporary dance, but it's energetically performed to a soundtrack by Louis Frere-Harvey.

Opening the evening, Cass Mortimer-Eipper's Kinetic Gestalt explores pulse and intention. A dancer is buffeted in the direction of his own pointing finger; a ripple of a movement transmits from one body to the next like a wave. With a bare stage, dark trousers and tailored sleeveless shirts (costumes by Aleisa Jelbart), the dance for seven eschews a formal, serious vibe. Like all the works, execution is committed and benefits from the extremely high technical skill of the cast who achieve both the precision of clean patterns and the surging energetic rushes that pepper the more sculptural and restrained moments.

This is just the start for Project Animo. Nobody knows what the future brings, but with the quality of artists and resources involved, the potential is great.

Event details

Project Animo presents
And Now We Move On

Choreographer Alice Topp

Venue: Playhouse | The Arts Centre, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 12 – 16 January 2022
Tickets: $50 – $120

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