UNRAVEL: a modern take on Romeo and Juliet | HerCanberra

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UNRAVEL: a modern take on Romeo and Juliet

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There are some stories so famous, so revered, that they need no further explanation. The age-old tale of Romeo and Juliet is one such story—or so we thought.

Reimagining the gothic layers that live within this much-loved narrative, UNRAVEL is a full-length contemporary dance performance featuring talented young dancers from across the Canberra region—and it premieres at Erindale Theatre tonight. Filtered through the beautiful and creative minds of choreographers Suzy Piani and Bonnie Neate, the work seeks to give a jeté to the past while embracing the deliciously modern.

As the tale of Romeo and Juliet began to take root within Bonnie and Suzy’s minds, they found themselves playing with and deconstructing characters in order to transcend literal interpretation and provoke new meaning within long-established characters.

“We chose Romeo and Juliet because it is an age-old tale. It’s a beautiful story but it enabled us to create sort of a darker narrative. And instead of having one protagonist, we could play around with many—that’s played a big part in the reimagination of this story, we’ve been able to really pull apart those characters.” explains Bonnie.

Throughout the performance, an unfurling duality exists—witnessed in its solos, small ensemble pieces and entire cast battles where destruction accompanies spine-tingling movements of tenderness.

As Juliet winds her body around Romeo, her movements are soft and delicately arched. There’s no pretence of spontaneity here; the posing is deliberate and at times, surreal, teasing us precariously forward. As the music shifts so does the movement, and a disruptive battle between the Montagues and the Capulets comes to life on stage.

UNRAVEL’s cast of young local dancers battles as The Montagues and Capulets. Image: ES Fotografi.

As Bonnie explains, the production’s soundtrack plays a huge role in keeping audiences on their toes—painstakingly selected music enhancing the choreography’s ‘reel in’ ability and unexpected wider narrative.

“We’re so careful about every single piece of music that we choose to make sure that it’s the exact manifestation of what we’re trying to get across.”

“When we go into the studio and work with our dancers, it’s often like an avalanche in a movement sense. And if we’re clear with a motive and our music, we have a clear sense of where we want to go. It is such a joy to get into the studio and then create it,” adds Suzy.

Image: ES Fotografi.

It’s taken six months (and a few COVID scares) to get the dancers performance ready. And while this full-length contemporary piece has been extremely demanding and challenging, Bonnie and Suzy say it’s vital to train these dancers at a pre-professional level.

“UNRAVEL is an hour and a half long. That is far beyond what most studio-based training exercises really would put out,” says Suzy.

“What we’re trying to do is prepare our dancers for more industry-specific experiences, so that when they go through our programme, when they go off then to audition for pre-professional courses, or at tertiary level courses, they have got this under their belt—that is huge.

“It is a massive leap from doing a four-minute piece to then going into pre-professional course, where they’re suddenly required to do full-length pieces,” she explains.

Image: ES Fotografi.

But UNRAVEL is more than just a visual masterclass in contemporary dance. Short films will weave themselves throughout this performance, exploring the story and characters through a different medium—not to mention a giant cyclorama-sized LED-screen backdrop to take the experience to another level.

As Bonnie and Suzy reflect upon the sheer feat that has been UNRAVEL, they urge Canberrans to get behind this production and its hardworking dancers. Because behind the smiles, pointed toes, and delicate posture lives the layers of blood, sweat and tears that cast have poured into bringing it to life.

Image: ES Fotografi.

And without the community’s support, future productions simply won’t be possible. For the past two years, Bonnie and Suzy’s productions have been self-funded—they receive no government or corporate support.

“Come and see the show—we really need the support of the community to get behind us in order to provide this for the up-and-coming dancers in the ACT, so they don’t have to go to Sydney or Melbourne to get the same experience. We are giving it to them right here.”

The Essentials

When: 22–23 July, 2022
Where: Erindale Theatre
Tickets: stickytickets.com.au – tickets also available at the door.

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