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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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Review: Daybreak Estate is a thought-provoking piece of dance theatre

Daybreak Estate is a delightful piece of dance theatre created by choreographer Jessie McCall, and brought to life by four very competent dancers – Liana Yew, Sharvon Mortimer, Olivia McGregor, and Terry Morrison. 

This dynamic foursome brought unique personality and panache to a very clever, often amusing, and very thought-provoking series of dance vignettes. 

On set was a large plastic shade house – the cheap variety you might see in a suburban backyard. There were also plenty of props such as flower pots, a drinks trolley with a fish tank filled with water on it, champagne glasses, and an ever-present bottle of bubbly.

At first, the lighting is subdued and a spotlight shines on an empty glass outside the ‘house’. A string slowly pulls the glass towards the house, and a hand snatches it inside. Next, a party begins, alcohol flows – the four partygoers look aloof. 

What follows is a series of routines with varying types of choreography. At times, this is controlled, robotic, and almost ritualistic. In other moments, it is free-flowing, almost tribal. In one moment, we might be at a nightclub or an aerobics class.

Symbolism played an important part in Daybreak Estate. Characters carried plant pots with flowers and there was an almost reverential connection to them. But they were placed neatly, as though the people were ritually worshipping a very ‘civilised’ and contained version of nature. 

That symbolism was also apparent in interactions with the fish tank. Whenever a character did so, whale song played. It was clear that the tank represented something bigger than an actual fish tank, perhaps the oceans, but again, they were contained, and something to be used.

The sequence of vignettes repeated three times and each time there we subtle and not-so-subtle changes in behaviour, costume, settings, and roles. The coordinated movements became more discordant, the attitudes and emotions more visceral.  

To me, the repeating sequences represented the cycles of human life and history. Maybe each one represented a day, or a year, or who knows, maybe a century. The popping of champagne at the beginning of each one could have been the new year, and our desire to seek renewal and the hopes for a better future. Yet as we all know, we seem doomed to repeat the same mistakes time after time. 

There was one moment when three of the dancers lay on the stage floor and moved rhythmically in a way that evoked beached whales. This reinforced for me a sense that this work was about how our self-interest and frivolous wasteful activities are damaging our environment. 

Again, the fish tank played a role in this metaphor. Over time, it changed, and clearly, whatever reverence the dancers felt a the beginning for it had changed to contempt. Humanity can be rapacious and frequently superficial. We consume and exploit as much as we can.  

Perhaps my interpretation goes too far, I don’t know, but what I loved about this piece is that it made me think about those things. 

The final piece of music that finished off the night was Song to the Siren by This Mortal Coil. It was originally written by Tim Buckley just before he died of an overdose, and it’s about the irresistible pull of things that ultimately seek to destroy us. A fitting finale, for this remarkable piece of dance theatre.

Daybreak Estate feels very ‘now’ in terms of its staging and production values. It is a thought-provoking piece of art with personality that is executed very cleverly by a talented troupe of dancers. 

For more information and ticketing click here.

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