Shelley Beach Foreshore
reviewed by Phoebe Schuman
It was an evening to remember: a dance and music extravaganza that drew thousands from near and far to Shelley beach foreshore on a moonless night with the mildest of cooling breezes. On offer were dance companies from home and abroad, a large choir and the Fremantle Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Christopher van Tuinen.
After a traditional Welcome to Country, Aboriginal dancers, Danza Viva Spanish Dance Company, Chung Wa dancers and a company from the People’s Republic of China provided a feast for both eye and ear.
This splendid offering was largely due to the indefatigable efforts of John McLaughlin, arts and cultural events officer of the City of Canning, whose people-skills did much to bring this major initiative to fruition. It would have had to be a considerable logistical challenge mustering a small army of dancers, instrumentalists and choristers, a challenge which McLaughlin met to impressive effect.
Chung Wa dancers brought us traditional lion dancing, the performers for the most part invisible under splendid, pristine white and crimson lion costumes and the Wadumbah Aboriginal Dance Group would doubtless have been a source of fascination to visiting dancers from the orient, their idiosyncratic dance sequences as ancient as the land their ancestors have called home for eons.
Traditional Aboriginal paintings were wrapped around tall cylinders lit from within. Some were positioned on stage, others floated on the waters off Shelley beach. They were a fascinating sight. Prior to this van Tuinen presided over the Fremantle Symphony Orchestra in music from L’Arlesienne by Bizet.
Jimenez’s La Boda de Luis Alonso and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espanol are works which have been choreographed for innumerable Spanish dance presentations. La Boda was danced to the version of the late, great Juanjo Linares, prefaced by a virtuosic zapateado cadenza by Jose Torres, guest dancer from Chicago-based Ensemble Espanol. And in Rimsky-Korsakov’s much loved music, Torres was striking in a bullfighter’s cape, its black and crimson satin sides employed to splendid visual effect. As ever, the ladies of Danza Viva Spanish Dance, beautifully gowned, were at their sinuous best, graceful in reflective episodes and dramatic in castanet-enhanced sequences.
A bumper evening included excerpts from Carmina Burana sung by the UWA Choral Society with a number of extra singers from regional choirs. Here, too, van Tuinen did wonders in maintaining momentum and ensuring an admirable level of ensemble from his considerable forces.
A dramatic close to the evening was provided by archers aiming arrows with flaming heads at Dagneris Alonso’s sculpture of a dragon floating in the Canning River. As the arrows (not all) found their mark, the dragon quite literally exploded in flames. In decades of concert going, I can’t recall a more unexpected end to a concert.