Manifesto @ Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide 17/3/2022

As the curtain rises, gasps of delight emanate from the audience. The visual spectacle that is before us is simple yet stunning. The moment of awe is briefly shattered by a startling drum beat. Manifesto has begun.

In its world premiere, the multi-award winning Stephanie Lake Company offers a performance that removes unnecessary complexities. It is a performance focussing completely on rhythm and dancing.
Nine drummers wearing black with matching drum kits sit on an elevated curved podium. Crimson drapes hang from the podium, creating a backdrop for nine dancers wearing white. The two groups, seamlessly symmetrical, work in synchronised magnificence to produce an hour of unsullied bliss.

Like a heartbeat sustaining life, the drummers — Robbie Avenaim, Nat Grant, Alon Ilsar, Maria Moles, Tina Nguyen, Rama Parwata, Rohan Rebeiro, Alex Roper, and Jen Tait – command the dancers, their movements, their reactions, their emotions. The dancers – Rachel Coulson, Marni Green, Samantha Hines, Melissa Pham, Harrison Ritchie-Jones, Robert Tinning, Josie Weise, Kimball Wong, and Jack Ziesing – absorb the sound like lifesaving nutrients and respond accordingly. Occasionally jarringly, occasionally with fluidity, but always with passion.

With an arrangement by composer Robin Fox that extends beyond simple drumming, Manifesto explores the instrument’s extensive capabilities. Unconventional techniques alter the ambience from animalistic to fun to haunting. This creates peaks and troughs. When combined with Bosco Shaw’s lighting, Paula Levis’ costume design, and Stephanie Lake’s choreography, it spawns a carefully curated whirlwind of pure delight.

No stone is left unturned in this performance. Each artist offers their complete self in the pursuit of their art. Both drummers and dancers utilise vitality, vigour, and expertise to captivate and sustain interest. The full scope of their unabashed talent is evident, and it is nothing short of prodigious.

Manifesto is an extraordinary collaboration of dance and music. With an abundance of arresting movements and junctures, it is an intoxicating foray into the world of contemporary dance. Lake says, “I wanted surging liveness; a show powered only by human energy and endeavour.” Manifesto successfully delivers this with style.

Adelaide Festival Review By Anita Kertes

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