With over 140 dancers and more than 30 choreographed dances, the 2019 major production for Sydney University’s Movement and Dance Society (MADSOC) came out big and bold. Illume hopes to communicate the many unique facets of the human experience through the body’s language of dance.
Each of the main pieces is dedicated to an experience of the modern world, as shared by a member of the MADSOC community, and achieves its representation through various means: setting the dances in offices and hospitals, recreating scenes of war and separation, or integrating poetry to narrate the more hidden, internal struggles. Compiled by the co-directors Carmen Tang and Natalie Domingos, the dances, as choreographed by MADSOC members, present a wholesome and diverse picture of lived experience and the many overlapping connections people are able to share with each other.
In fact, one of the most impressive elements of Illume is its diversity. The dance styles cover a huge range from contemporary and ballet to jazz and the grossly under-represented tap, and from hip-hop and urban styles to Bollywood and contemporary Chinese. The piece titled “In the Oasis”, choreographed by Evelyn Chew, incorporated fans and the pink and white of cherry blossoms to convey its exploration of the cycles of the natural world while a captivating piece choreographed by Tina Wu was a sultry ballroom number featuring five solo dancers.
Other stand-out pieces included “Flickers”, choreographed by Sibel Alca, attempting to illustrate the experience of ageing with a group clad in natural fibres and making use of the many angles of the body: knees, elbows, feet, and ankles. Alice Gabir and Shankari Jeyaseelan’s piece titled “The Hustle” was a crowd favourite in its exploration of the experience of the children of immigrants set to “Lost in the World” by Kanye West and “Sunday Service (Remix)” by Denzel Curry. This piece had everyone in white, lit with a mix of colours and handheld flashlights while they danced in an energetic and dynamic celebration of their cultural identities. A brief tap number near the end, choreographed by Emily Zhong and Joshua Riley, was a simple but effective homage to the massive and minute forces of the universe with some excellent slides.
Special note should be taken of the phenomenal lighting design by Michael Goodyear. Incorporating a wide range of techniques including backlighting and side-lighting, spots, smoke, shadow projections, and brilliant colours, the technical design added huge impact to the energy of the production with an eye for innovation. An added special touch included strings of lights across the audience which turned the 500 seat Everest Theatre into a more intimate affair.
As a production concerned with the human experience, Illume enthusiastically embraces the multitude of feelings and stories of its cast and community to present an appropriately celebratory evening of music and dance.
Illume is running at the Seymour Centre’s Everest Theatre from September 26th – 28th