Nostalgia is the name of the game when it comes to the Dance Makers Collective’s new show, The Rivoli, staged as part of Sydney Festival at the historic Granville Town Hall. The locale is one of many delights in this surprising combination of dance and memory.
There are lots of things to praise in this work from director Miranda Wheen. Taking as inspiration the iconic Parramatta venue the Rivoli Ballroom of the 50s and 60s, the show weaves recorded stories between set pieces to knit past and present together in the hall. The show’s dance pieces are energetic, lively and moving. Moving from couples dancing to a more contemporary individual style, the dancers are tight and move fluidly as one.
The Granville Town Hall is an inspired choice of location, achieving a wonderful sense of remembrance. Combined with a live band and creative lighting design from Benjamin Brockman, the production elements combine flawlessly.
In wondering where today’s youth might socialise in the absence of dance halls, the show draws a curious line to their contemporary equivalent, nightclubs. This section of the show sees the dancers separate from couples into individuals, as the light cheery mood evolves into something darker. At the same time, the stories turn from happier memories to recollections of exclusion as the show makes clear that dance halls were not the social haven they purport to be for Indigenous Australians and people of colour. While the show’s messaging here is slightly muddled, the change of mood is undeniably thrilling, as the dance becomes more urgent and intense. The full physicality and skill of the performers is on full display here.
An added bonus as a spectator was seeing how easy the audience got involved in the proceedings. Being welcomed into the glittering hall by the enthusiastic dancers immediately put everyone at ease, and it was surprising to see so many jump out of their seats at the slightest invocation to dance. In the Q&A portion after Thursday’s show, several people who gave their own stories over to the work speak with love about their memories of the old Rivoli.
This all speaks volumes to the love and care the creators of this show have put into the audience’s experience for the evening, and the ease with which one can slip back into the past. The Rivoli is a thoroughly entertaining and surprising work.
The Rivoli, Sydney Festival
22-25 January 2020, Granville Town Hall
Tickets and event information are available here: https://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/events/the-rivoli