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Above: Dancers joined four cellists in a performance of’Fratres’ by Arvo Pärt. Photo: Katherine Lukey. Featured image: creators of CelloDance, Paul Ghica and Ella Havelka. Photo: Chris Glenfield.

The title CelloDance for this soul and skill-filled event promised a close collaboration between music and movement performers.

Led by the joint experience of dancer/choreographer Ella Havelka and cellist/teacher Paul Ghica, the triple bill delivered on this promise. The hour-long show combined a substantial amount of music inspiring the movement. Nine dancers and four cellists swathed in effective lighting explored music from JS Bach, Arvo Pärt as well as film, advertising and contemporary music creative Lance Gurisik.

The success of this expressive union’s finessed facets owes much to the music selected. Bach’s use of the solo or orchestral suite music structures that promoted popular French dance musics from his cosmopolitan time was a perfect fit at this event’s outset.

Above: Ella Havelka in a solo moment during Lance Gurisik’s ‘Entangled’. Photo:Dan Young.

Lance Gurisik’s recent work, Entangled, expertly created atmospheres at the huge heart of this programme that was suitable for a slick combination of current dance culture and techniques. The subtle undulations and reference to First Nations culture and performance method unravelling alongside Western tradition in his composition inspired an eclectic and interesting conversation in this space. We watched and heard ancient outlooks allured that outdate the French court or German Baroque or recent musical mondernisms by many millennia.

Any musical or performance event which uses music by the blockbuster, globally loved Estonian composer Arvo Pärt has a wonderful and popular resource with which to work with. The intensity of his Fratres, composed in 1977, powerful and expressive in any solo group arrangement, here championed the nuanced combination of super subtle dance and cello suppleness reacting at once to his non-minimalist voice here successfully expanded.

Paul Ghica’s use of a renovated cello, now with five strings, reflected a young ancient world also, namely the string instruments of the early Western world. Part playing in his solo Bach was excellently balanced and trace across the instrument’s range and novel design. Changes of character for the dance movements were concise, colourful, clear contrasts for the choreographer to extend.

Ghica’s solo performance of Lance Gurisik’s Entangled using loop pedals created equally thrilling layers for the dancer, a modern extension to follow the set styles found in Bach’s dance suite.

Above : The synergy of  gesture from cello and dancers was effectively lit in this venue. Photo: Dan Young.

During Fratres, the tutti expression of sound, shimmering gesture and slowly morphing music shared by a quartet of cellists with phone drones, equally distributed at four points around the dance ground was a celebration of the cello and converted the space into a shimmering stereophonic  scene for the dancers.

Ella Havelka’s conversion of cello sound through the ages to current choreography was an intelligent, innovative and response to all the musics. The dance element in CelloDance, whether offering glimpses of ballet, modern dance or First Nations performance perspectives, was forever closely linked to the physicality of actually playing the cello.

The concepts of a solo string instrument bowing, varying articulation, leaping into double or multiple stops and rocking with undulating resonance were nicely duetted by the dancers’ timing, direction and depth of swoops plus hand and foot rhythms in percussive unison with the string sounds. The dance detail excitingly reflected the cellists’ approach to phrasing, timbre, harmonic development and expansion of atmosphere or texture.

Above: Ella Havelka and ensemble dancers. Photo: Dan Young.

Havelka’s range was demonstrated with such appropriate response to the historic French dance suite. Ghica’s comprehensive contrasts of style and emotional difference between gavottes, sarabandes and gigues were also instantly and fully explored by dancers. Some caricatures of the Baroque ballroom and the courtly humans dancing such styles were brief but memorable touches to the dance sequences.

The shift to a different connection to national style, our contemporary mix of styles, as well as a movement and pictorial celebration of landscape and Country was beautifully worked by the dancers and during Havelka’s working in new planes and lines across the space in Entangled. 

Movement of unseen objects, feelings or energy across the dance tableaux during Fratres maximised the impact of the composer’s sustained extra-minimalist genius with a welcome freshness.

The entry and exit of  the dance troupe in part through all settings of music contributed nice layering. In this way the musical, pictorial and structure in all pieces, plus a deal of emotional architecture was rolled out with keen momentum to the storytelling.

Paul Ghica offered moments of warm and intelligent commentary. These gave us glimpses into the joy of collaboration and also the nature of this event and of any concert’s preparation. He linked the music and this event’s individuality to family, artistic friendship and the need for creatives from all backgrounds and disciplines to combine in broader, more joyous, complex modern songs.

The encore remix of Bach’s well know opening to the Suite No 1 for Unaccompanied Cello was a substantial finale-plus piece for full cast of dancers and musicians with which to end the impressive collaboration.

It would be rewarding to have this self-produced and self- funded morceau of expression filmed and /or produced and toured outside of the fine 3Danks venue in Waterloo. Its integrity and excellence is well worthy of a larger venue and tour.



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