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Dance and responsibility merge in This Poisoned Sea

Calum Stenning

The news in this day and age is rarely uplifting.

That’s just the state of the world we live in, however, some feel a responsibility to improve things. Later this week, QL2 Dance’s Quantum Leap ensemble will tackle the question of their own sense of responsibility, when their new show, This Poisoned Sea comes to Canberra Theatre Centre on Thursday 27 July.

The performance centres around themes of climate change and a shifting world and how this affects our beliefs. Described as “epic, thoughtful and physical”, it’s safe to say that the performance is fitting for the current social and political climate.

Quantum Leap’s Artistic Director Ruth Osborne found inspiration for this latest production in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

“I spoke to Pip Buining, who then became our dramaturge,” explains Ruth. “She said Rime of the Ancient Mariner is perfect for dance. And in reading it, it was exactly what we wanted—to use the ideas behind it, and bring it into a modern day context.”

Credit: Bec Thompson

Credit: Bec Thompson

Written during the industrial revolution, Coleridge’s iconic poem carries warnings that still ring true today, but for Ruth and the ensemble, this show isn’t just an opportunity to retell the story of the poem, nor merely preach its message. She explains that QL2 prides itself on being more than teaching movement: teaching its dancers to communicate, discuss, listen and think critically and laterally in the process of developing a performance.

“QL2 Dance is an organisation that’s focussing on youth dance, from around about the age of eight to 26 or so, but it’s about giving young people an artistic dance experience,” says Ruth, who has been with QL2 for 18 years.

“People can access dance through all sorts of ways—they can go and do private dance classes—ballet or hip hop and that kind of thing. What we do is much more about the more creative side—the creative collaboration in what we do—so it gives kids an experience in dance, but it’s also giving them an experience in developing their creativity and being able to collaborate with others.”

Ruth says QL2 isn’t just teaching dance, it’s teaching life skills and it’s this process that she hopes imbues their students with a sense of responsibility to do something with their talent beyond performing for the sake of performance alone.

“A lot of our process is about discussion, looking at the ideas in the piece, and how that relates to what you’re thinking and things like that, and that’s kind of where the life skills come into it,” says Ruth.

Credit Maylei Hunt

Credit Maylei Hunt

“For me, the success of a project is much more about what the dancers gained out of it, and there can be a whole lot of physical and experiential things, but most definitely it’s about how they rethink the world. At the end of it they think differently.

“The depth that they go to in researching it and in the way we prepare the work, I think always shows out in the performances.”

Ruth enlisted choreographers Eliza Sanders, Claudia Alessi and Jack Ziesing to bring the concepts the ensemble were grappling with to a state of movement for This Poisoned Sea, and composer Adam Ventura to create a soundscape to match.

This Poisoned Sea isn’t just a dance performance. It’s an opportunity for a group of young dancers to express what they have learned and their concerns about the state of the world, and that might be what Ruth is most passionate about.

“We surround the production with professionals, and these kids rise to that professional level. There’s so much inspiration in that, so much to see. It deserves a big audience.”

the essentials

What: This Poisoned Sea by QL2 Dance
When: 27-29 July 2017
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
Tickets: $18–$32 + booking fee
Find more information and purchase tickets: canberratheatrecentre.com.au/show/poisoned-sea-quantum-leap

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Calum Stenning

Calum Stenning is Her Canberra’s newest and most male (read: only) intern. Three years spent living overseas has given him a renewed appreciation for Canberra life. Every day starts with coffee and the Sydney Morning Herald crossword at a favourite coffee haunt, as he is wary of the perils of dementia, and thinks crosswords are a viable safeguard. If he lives to a dementia-appropriate age (evidence says he won’t), he’ll let us know. More about the Author

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