In mainstream media and news, Western Sydney came seem like a world unto itself. With a long history of immigration, the western suburbs are some of the most culturally diverse areas in Australia so, with representatives from Fairfield, Jump First, Ask Later aims to showcase that diversity through their personal histories and their shared love of urban movement styles.
Combining tricking, b-boying, parkour, and acrobatics, the performers from Dauntless Movement Crew combine with PYT Fairfield and Force Majeure to show off years worth of training in more conventional martial arts before moving into their current performance forms. These styles turn mundane urban spaces into obstacle courses, jungle gyms, and backdrops for their impressive range of tricks and choreographies. This indoor production brings elements of these street spaces in the form of concrete-esque blocks, cardboard mats, and scaffolding for the performers to climb, jump, spin, and swing in all manner of directions.
Opening on the performers monkeying around and warming-up, the production has a very comfortable atmosphere: the performers are at home in their bodies and they’ve practised these moves plenty of times to know exactly what they’re capable of showing the audience. They’re also familiar with each other as members of the same movement group who train, practise, and perform together in Western Sydney. There is loud and enthusiastic support for each members’ individual performances that pumps up the adrenaline for the audience, as well, many who may be unfamiliar with this style of movement and the daring tricks being shown.
Moving between group choreography moments, choreographed by Byron Perry, group dance and trick sessions overlapping b-boy spins and freezes with cartwheels and somersaults, and monologues about their personal stories and their connections to Western Sydney, this production presents a holistic approach to these performers’ artistic practises, incorporating many aspects of their identity with their talents. When swapping facts about the Fairfield demographic and what brought their own families to the suburb, Sean Bacon projects images of the performers families in home movies and photographs to create a tangible connection between the audience and the words. Later, the performers will elaborate in their own way about what they love about movement and how they came to their preferred form.
Head narrator Joe explains how he and Jimmy James connected through movement and how they strive to spread that connection to other members of the community through teaching, open training sessions, and sharing their work at performances all over including weddings and corporate events. There is a continued emphasis throughout the production on personal journeys leading towards each other and strengthening friendships and partnerships with a shared positive spirit.
Urban dance and performance styles like parkour aren’t often represented on stage because of the site-specific component of making the most out of a found space, whereas b-boying and tricking carry a subversive connotation that makes many believe they’re not suited for the stage. PYT Fairfield and Force Majeure’s interest, then, in giving space to marginalised forms of movement is a valuable recognition of the skills and training required to perfect these forms and genres.
These performers’ control of their bodies is remarkable and very impressive. Patrick explains how his interests have grown in the area of callisthenics, a type of gymnastics focused on mixing strength and beauty, which allows him to do gravity defying flips and lifts on the scaffolding bars like his body weight means nothing. Ivana, in particular, as the acrobat of the cast, doesn’t seem to break a sweat the entire performance no matter how many handstands or splits she does or how many walls she seems to melt down.
Other performers, like the flirtatious Ale, lift the curtain and show what practising wall jumps looks like, when the vocal support of your friends and a handy camera to impress, can be the motivation you need to keep trying. His story of difficulties growing up with his anger makes this positive message a rather poignant one for other young people struggling with their confidence.
While the performers work in harmony together, they still maintain their individuality as demonstrated in Tristan’s monologue. Explaining that he isn’t one for words, Tristan elected to dance over a recording of himself, instead, which allowed for a creative interweaving of representations of self. He was then joined by Patrick for a bright little movement duet involving a nonchalant fight for space to sit down. In each moment, the performers are precise and disciplined but in a manner that paradoxically exemplifies the exuberance of their passion.
Direction from Perry always centres the performers as talented and dedicated individuals in their own right, while not discounting or diminishing their presence within a wider community of a performance group, suburb, and wider urban area. There is a balance struck between the contributing aspects to a person’s identity that illuminates and elevates the collective whole.
As part movement piece, part personal documentary, Jump First, Ask Later is a heartfelt demonstration of the need for community, whether formed or found. The members of Dauntless Movement Crew have built another world for themselves overlayed on the overlooked areas of Western Sydney and secured in their relationships with each other.
Jump First, Ask Later is running at Riverside Theatre from May 23rd – 24th before continuing its tour to Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia later this year. Visit the PYT Fairfield website here for more information.