Leigh Warren + Dancers: Breathe/Impulse (3 stars)

Leigh Warren + Dancers: Breathe/Impulse

A dance double bill that breathes vitality through its live music

Music literally takes centre stage in this double-bill from Australian dance troupe Leigh Warren + Dancers, putting the cast in immediate living breathing contact with the sounds they are responding to. Which in the first piece, entitled Breathe, is perfectly appropriate.

The ensemble emerge out of a dark misty stage as if they are crawling forward from the beginning of time. Undulating and flexing, they tangle into chains, while composer William Barton sits up front singing, playing soft guitar and creating whole worlds of sound from a didgeridoo. Though a loose languid theme threads through Frances Rings' choreography, there is a gradual progression from the dark stalking beginnings to an airier end, the dancers upright and pulsing their hands across their chests.

Lisa Griffiths seems to connect every part of her body to the ground as she rolls like quicksilver in a solo. Later a striking duet between her and Bec Jones takes place within one shared billowing dress that they toss around like clouds or white flames, before mounting the shoulders of two men, to become lofty ladies preening their way off stage.

If Breathe links us to an earthy collective ancestry, the look and feel of Impulse couldn't be more up to date, a smart-casual celebration of spontaneity and the irresistible effect of music on the body. Again the musicians are on stage, this time the Zephyr Quartet playing Michael Nyman and shifting around in neat formations between movements.

Kaboom Studios' projections make patterns out of the soundwaves, first in ripples, then threads like DNA, and, best of all, beautiful pulsing circles like the opening petals of a rose. The piece is less abstract than you would expect from its concept, letting the personalities of the dancers glow with each change of tempo and mood.

Warren picks vocabulary from various dance styles but isn't constrained by them; a flamenco turn leads into a stretched arm, a tango kick slides into a body bent double. More than anything the dancers look like they are having fun, and the music, live and immediate, is able to breathe through them.

Festival Theatre, run now ended.


Leigh Warren + Dancers present a double bill. In Breathe, dancers writhe, intertwine and pulse with natural, spellbinding rhythm as though each gesture were merely an extension of their own breath. Impulse places Michael Nyman’s String Quartet No 2 at the heart of the action, with dancers inspired and propelled by the…