[2014073] Gabriel

[2014073] Gabriel

Melbourne Dance Theatre @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

7:30pm, Sat 1 Mar 2014

Sometimes I think that I have a blind allegiance to a particular performer; an unwarranted – maybe bloodyminded – insistence on seeing their new works, even if I’ve long since stopped appreciating them.

That’s how I feel with the Melbourne Dance Theatre. Despite initially challenging me (in a good way) with the powerful Heroes in 2011, 2012’s Angels’ Eyes sowed the seeds of discontent with a mishmash of styles, combined with a lack of narrative thread. Gabriel seemed to go in completely the other direction, with a presentation so uniform throughout that it conjured boredom, and an overt narrative that threatened to ruin any goodwill.

With nine pieces thematically linked by biblical tales of the Archangel Gabriel, the cast (all dressed in white) performed with the unnecessary addition of a pre-recorded narrator. When the tempo was up – when there was a chance for the cast to dazzle with their whites against the inky black backdrop of The Studio – the action was great: the choreography was dynamic and engaging, with decent sync between the performers.

But when the pace slows to melancholic… that’s a much tougher proposition. There were a lot of instances where one (or more) members of the troupe (of nine) were unable to hold a balance, or control a bend… as a result, the ensemble looked sloppy. Worse, though, was the fact that the slower pieces just weren’t as appealing to watch; in fact, the movements were often so lacking in interest that I spent much of the performance lecherously peering at the dancers trying to determine whether my eyes were failing, or whether there actually was a lot of camel-toe on display.

And – once again – the cast fell into the old trap of getting cramped on the left-hand side of the stage… will MDT never learn? They’ve performed in The Studio enough to have learnt this lesson, surely?

Still, there was a massive crowd in for this performance tonight – and a lot of them clapped and cheered up a storm when the performance was over, making me think it was a friends-and-family gathering. But for me, I think this will be my last blind venture to support the Melbourne Dance Theatre… if it doesn’t sound like a strong concept, I’ll be steering well clear.

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