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Review: Australian Dance Theatre's construct


Tanja Liedtke’s innovative work construct is a magnificent dance that will appeal to do-it-yourself builders, anyone in a relationship and dance lovers: it is a night of comedy, mayhem, sensitivity, hope and heartbreak.

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Australian Dance Theatres remount of the construct – the last work created by Liedtke before she was killed in a road accident at just 29 – begins with Marlo Benjamin, Jana Castillo and Kimball Wong dressed in overalls. They are standing and smiling amid a stage of ladders, work benches, saw horses, trouble lights and extension cords – all indicators that some serious construction will ensue.

Cleverly, Benjamin and Castillo begin to lean and topple and Wong desperately tries to stop them from falling. It is a very funny start and everyone will identify with being in Wong’s position, attempting to balance precariously placed objects that are a split second from disaster.

In modern times, there would be no attempt to construct without cordless power tools and Wong uses a cordless drill to stabilise and secure Benjamin and Castillo. Again, it is very funny (and I don’t mean “amusing” – Liedtke produced laugh-out-loud comedy), but there is an edge to it, as a man with a power tool “securing” a woman to the floor is a powerful and disconcerting image, even if performed humorously.

There are moments when the trio construct with pieces of timber, and there are beautiful synchronised sequences using the timber as dancers.

Kimball Wong and Marlo Benjamin. Photo: Chris Herzfeld

Geoff Cobham’s industrial lighting, with its square patterns and ingenious use of nooks and crannies that simulate varying work areas and living spaces, is outstanding, while DJ Tr!p’s soundscape, with its varying use of machinery, guitars and sounds of nature, keeps us riveted.

The performers use their fingers as dancers in a tiny scene that focuses on romance; they perform as silhouettes in a frame upstage, and they use the sticks in imaginative ways that keeps the laughs coming. In one blackout, a well-timed expletive will resonate with all do-it-yourselfers who have hit their thumbs while building.

The dancers perform in silhouettes. Photo: Chris Herzfeld

Gradually, relationships form and a couple begin constructing a life which involves a child and we then experience the positives, frustrations and angst of living. The final construction is a wooden cage or tomb for womankind lit by two fluoro tubes as a monument to domestic oppression.

It is a tragedy that Liedtke, an enormously talented choreographer and dancer, was killed in a road accident 10 years ago just as after being appointed to be the next artistic director of the Sydney Dance Company. Her brilliance lay in her ability to create a joyful scene that innocently hooks an audience and then later resonates with the much bigger themes in her work.

Remounted by the ADT with Kristina Chan (one of the original dancers and a friend of Liedtke’s) as overseer, construct is playful, inventive, beautiful, moving and totally engaging.

The three dancers are exceptional: they dance superbly and their inner spirits capture the myriad moments that make us human. There are beautiful solos, duets and trios that provide moments of absolute beauty and skill.

Take one evening off this week to lay down the power tools, hammers and timber to appreciate the genius of Tanja Liedtke and the Australian Dance Theatre, and to reflect for an hour on what is important to you and what – in your life – you are trying to construct.

ADT is presenting construct at the Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, until December 2.

Read InDaily’s interview with construct remount director Kristina Chan here.



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