‘Bang Bang’ brings cutting edge dance to The Blue Room

Bang Bang is a double header show of dance that’s currently playing at The Blue Room. Two strikingly different works that show how contemporary dance can push the boundaries.

Act 2, Scenes 1-4 is a mischievous take on Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel by Scott Elstermann. A visually striking crime caper, we are swept into a world of saturated colour, playful movement and sinister murder.

While Love You, Stranger is a deliciously fascinating exploration of true crimes and true love, by Shona Erskine. OUTinPerth chatted to Scott Elstermann about the shows.

We saw a tiny section of this work at The Blue Room program launch at the start of the year, is this a show you’ve been working on for a long time?

Yes, it’s been a long process which has been really nice for a dance show. We’ve had some time to settle, and build excitement for the show.

Is there a new challenge when do have a long time to work on a project, I know from my own work that extra time for creativity can sometimes open up too many doors of exploration. For creativity sometimes time pressure is a good thing.

Absolutely, I think it’s fifty-fifty. We have incredible cast of really highly experienced Western Australian dancers, who are all doing wonderful amazing projects of their own, so time actually working in the studio on the show has been really limited to just a few weeks throughout the year.  But it’s been really nice to just touch base now and then and to be able to keep tweaking a few things.

What’s it like to be working on a piece alongside another choreographer?

It’s great, I’ve actually worked with Shona before. I performed in her work White Matter which was on at The Blue Room in 2015, and I perform in Bang Bang, Shona’s work which is called Love You, Stanger. 

Shona has been an ongoing mentor for me professionally in my career, so to now have the opportunity to present a work alongside her in a double bill is a pleasure and an honour.

What are the two pieces in Bang Bang? 

Shona’s work Love You, Stanger is inspired by three Australian women who murder their partners or lovers. Two of them were convicted for their crimes and one got away with it.  So her work is looking at social justice and the social milieu around these murders, these crimes of passion. It’s done in three solo structures.

My work is called Act 2, Scenes 1-4, and it’s based on Wes Anderson’s film conventions. So I’ve taken the conventions from his films, such as stop motion, slow motion, whip-pan and different camera angles, and layered them on the dancers, so the dancers recreated these conventions with their body.

I can’t think of a time before when I’ve seen film as an inspiration for dance.

Yes, in dance we use conventions like repetition and accumulation, there are very codified techniques and conventions that choreographers use. I thought it would be interesting to take the techniques of another artform, in this case film, and in particular Wes Anderson’s style, and see if we can transfer those conventions across.

Do you think for people from outside the dance world, who just go along to see a show, they sometime under-appreciate what contemporary dance can be? 

Possibly, for sure it’s a very abstract artform, it can lack a narrative and be very conceptual. Shona and I have been really conscious with this show, that we’re presenting at The Blue Room, to show that contemporary dance can also have a narrative, be melodramatic, and theatrical, and comical.

As it is with any piece of art, such as film, there are different genres and aesthetics that we’re hoping to present. Maybe the stereotype of contemporary dance is it’s abstract and deeply emotive, we’re trying to show another side of what contemporary dance can be.

What’s it like to dance in The Blue Room performance space? It’s not a big space, and it’s got walls on three sides and an audience on the fourth side.

It’s definitely a challenge in a smaller space, but the intimacy that the space creates opens up different opportunities in terms of expression and letting the performers to play in that world.

It’s also quite rare to a dance work for three weeks, usually dance works only get three or four shows. So the performers will get more time to settle into their roles and use the energy of that close audience.

We’re hoping that people who love dance will come see the show, but also that The Blue Room’s regular theatre audience, who may have dipped their toe into the world of dance before, will also come and see it and be entertained.

Bang Bang has just a few show remaining at The Blue Room and must close this week. Head to The Blue Room to snap up the last remaining tickets.  

Graeme Watson