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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | October 17, 2019

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Dancing through the Four Seasons: Elise May, Isabella Hood

Dancing through the Four Seasons: Elise May, Isabella Hood
Auran Abraham

Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, a timeless musical triumph is being adapted into a contemporary cross-cultural dance spectacular.

Expressions Dance Company (EDC) and Hong Kong’s City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) are cooperating to bring 4Seasons, a contemporised dance performance in three parts, to QPAC this June. We recently had the very exclusive opportunity to attend a rehearsal at their studio and had an enlightening chat with Assistant Artistic Director Elise May, and up and coming dance performer Isabella Hood, about the process of bringing this show to life.

The show is, as Elise May describes, in three parts. The first being performed by Expressions Dance Company under the choreography and tutelage of Dominic Wong, Assistant Artistic Director of CCDC, and the section from which our rehearsal sneak peek is to be performed within. The second will feature performers from CCDC under guidance from EDC Artistic Director Natalie Weir, with 2018 being her 10th anniversary with Expressions Dance Company, a hugely impressive milestone.

The third and final piece of the show brings together CCDC and EDC for an international alliance of dance performance. Choreographed by Sydney Dance Company’s, Helpmann Award-winning dancer and choreographer Kristina Chan, whose Hong Kong and Australian background seems exceptionally fitting for the performance.

The piece we saw rehearsed, from the Dominic Wong led performance, was just a tiny slice of the final performance and left us highly impressed, but curious as to the process of bringing this piece together. Elise May explained that the dancers were instructed to create separate movement pieces for the given section, to then come together and structure their piece together with another dancer. This immediately conjured images of mosaic artworks, fractured segments brought together to create a masterpiece.

After enjoying the rehearsal, we sat down with Isabella Hood to better understand how she, as a performer, fits into this process, and what brought her to where she is now. She explained that she, “began dancing when she was three years old in Toowoomba … then studied at QUT, I did the Bachelor of Fine Arts – Dance Performance course and then did my honours the next year. In the year I did my honours, I spent most of my time [at the EDC studio], as QUT and EDC have a partnership, and so I was doing most of my research with the company … and that led me to get a job with 4Seasons”.

Looking beyond this production, Isabella’s aspirations are to perform in the future with “[a company outside of Asia], maybe … in Europe, Germany or Switzerland. There’s Kidd Pivot, who I love, Crystal Pite, the Artistic Director would be amazing to work with … [maybe] Broadway [or] Paris, I think. I still haven’t performed at the Sydney Opera House, I’d love to perform there”.

Turning our focus back to the current production, we asked what Isabella’s personal favourite of Max Richter’s contemporised and melded reformations of Vivaldi’s work in the performance was. “I love the first work, and the [final] work” and what 4Seasons is to be, in her own words and what will make it stand out, “4Seasons is an outstanding collaboration between Asia and Australia, [CCDC’s] fluidity and the way they move, as opposed to our more athletic, strong, punchy movement I think really complement each other. Some of the choreographers have taken the metaphorical side four seasons and the cycle of life and how we develop and exist, and others have taken a more practical [approach], with climate change aspect of it. So, it’s kind of a work for every person”

We asked if there was any story or musical piece that Isabella would like to adapt into a dance performance, “Not particularly … I’m quite an emerging artist, [and] haven’t had much experience creating my own work yet, but it’s definitely something I aspire to do in the future” and if there were any experiences in performance that have shaped her progress to where she is now, “Yes, there was one work that I did in my graduating year at QUT, I worked with Richard Causer who is one of the dancers in this work. It was a bit of an abstract work, but there were three cakes on stage and the work was bashing our heads into the cakes and throwing it around, so that was really fun to create and perform. I think [that performance] has helped make me more of a go-getter and less fearful in the creative process”.

Isabella offered some words of advice for anyone seeking a similar pathway to the one she is currently travelling, “You have to love the slog, the rehearsals, the long hours, but looking forward to that performance [makes it all worthwhile], you have to love the performance, which is mostly why we do it. So, if you don’t have a passion for that, then probably steer clear”.

Working with international choreographer Dominic Wong, Isabella’s experiences differed from her work with Natalie Weir, “working with Natalie is so much simpler, I think because we’re all on the same wavelength, I’ve seen so many of her works, even though we haven’t specifically worked together in the studio a lot, but I kind of know what she’s after and I’m getting to know more about the way her dances should be working. Whereas, with Dominic, he’s a fresh choreographer, fresh mind, fresh way of moving, fresh body [and] we’re really starstruck as well, so we don’t really know much about the way he moves or what he’s looking for, so we’re stabbing in the dark most of the time with how we respond to his tasks and what he’s after, which is exciting, it keeps us on our toes. [Because of that,] I won’t come in with any preconceived ideas [in future works] of how the work should be or how I should be working or responding, or giving myself too much of an expectation, to give myself time to digest what [the choreographer] is after, and make mistakes [and know] that it’s okay to take a bit longer to get there”.

In parting, we asked for some final thoughts, with a smile Isabella said “Come and see the show”, June cannot come soon enough.

Find out more about Expressions Dance Company here:


Where: Playhouse Theatre|Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Grey St & Melbourne Street, South Brisbane QLD 4101
When: THU 14 JUNE – 22 JUNE
How Much: $59 – $69*
Website: Here

Images Supplied