Value for Money

 GUTS Dance, Central Australia. Toured by Artback NT. Riverside Theatres Parramatta. May 4-6, 2023

Reviewed : May 5, 2023

Photo : Heidrun Löhr

The great thing about contemporary dance is that you never really know what to expect. You can read the media releases and the program notes – and they are always very descriptive and thought provoking – but they are just words! They can’t really prepare you for the way the choreographers and the performers translate those words into allusive, complex, even provocative, movement.

 Such is the case with Value for Money. Who could imagine that experiences in the Middle East and Israel years ago could result in a performance that delves into the ideals and tenets of heritage and community, that infers mistreatment and ignorance, that stresses the importance of safety and trust.

Sara Black and Jasmin Sheppard coalesced those ‘values’ in this intricate and evocative performance, based not only on their own experience, but in collaboration with dancers and creatives whose stories brought even greater depth and insight to their original concept. A concept Sheppard describes as “a multi-layered work, which I believe can speak to audiences from a vast array of diverse human experience.”

Photo : Heidrun Löhr

Five performers express those diverse experiences in movement that is graphically sensitive and suggestive. From still, naked aloneness to caring togetherness, they trace the many and varied mores that affect relationships and communities. There are suggestions of mistrust and doubt, rejection and suffering, but there is also an overwhelming feeling of hope and coming together in trust and confidence.

Suffused lighting effects designed by Chris Mercer allows hazy segments where the performers dance free of clothes, suggesting perhaps the uncluttered sincerity of unity and faith, especially in the final moments of the production.

Based in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), GUTS is a contemporary dance organisation  situated in the “unique environment of the Central Australian Desert”. It is the only one of its kind in a 1500km radius. How wonderful that they are able to share some of their creative work with a wider audience!

First published in Stage Whispers magazine.