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Adelaide Fringe 2012

Back of the Bus

JAVA Dance Company

Genre: Dance and Movement Theatre


Pick up point: Adelaide Town Hall


Low Down

Java Dance Company, a trio of young dancers from across the ditch, successfully creates a site-specific work that literally moves their audience in a vehicular experience of dance. It is a fun adventure that gives a light and intimate engagement with dance that includes, interacts with and surprises its audience. The tour carries us through, around and sometimes onto the streets of Adelaide as characters come to life out of the bus seats and blur the boundary between the pedestrian and the performative.



Herded onto our large tourist bus we are told to obey Alan (the driver) and follow the performers who, as it turns out, are hidden amongst us. We are not far up the road when we screech to a halt hailed by a bag-laden young woman running after us. After sheepishly buying her ticket, the bus pulls out from the curb and she is launched, bags and coins akimbo, through the aisle to the strains of a Vivaldi concerto that has struck up over the PA system. So begins a hilarious choreographed amplification of the disaster that can be a moving body in a moving vehicle. It is also the perfect start to the performance action as it shifts our suspicions off the person next to us and sets up the exciting possibility that these performers could be anywhere.


I can’t tell you where exactly we went in that hour driving around the CBD except for the couple of times we stopped and were led off the bus to other spaces. The first stop was a light-hearted frolic in the park, which served the practical function of cleaning up the first dancer’s chaos on the bus, but was also a charming introduction to the second dancer who succeeds in coercing the audience into a skipping ring holding hands. There were many occasions on the journey where we became aware that ‘we’ the audience were also ‘the performance’ as the attention of passers-by is drawn to this unusual scene driving by. 


This young group of dancers, three from New Zealand, plus what seems to be a local secondment of another dancer and a singer, engage well with the audience, blending back into the bus seats as the action is taken over by another dancer. They use the limited and moving space of the bus aisle and overhead rails with skill and precision, working in close contact with the audience without any threat of injury (to them or us). The action takes a more serious turn when we are led to a shopfront cum lounge room setting. Here, there was some interesting use of the split-level spaces in the space with a darker, melancholic duet that allows the dancers to roll and expand and play with the balance offered on solid ground. This could have been an opportunity to really pull out some choreographic complexity—to take advantage of the trust now set up with the audience to take us to some deeper places both thematically and physically. I had a sense that the added dancer and singer were not quite successfully filling gaps that may have been economically forced (perhaps only 3 dancers could afford to travel to Adelaide for this season?) as their parts were underdeveloped and not so well integrated. A focus on the strong rapport between the NZ dancers, Natalie Hona, Sacha Copland and Lauren Carr, with some development of their interrelationships could take this already engaging work into the realm of artwork.



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