A poisonously emotional social gathering filled with jealousy, passion and seething rage sounds like great fodder for the theatre. But when The Dinner Party rolls into the Q Theatre on June 21, don’t expect the expletives to fly: the emotions are all in the dance.
The Dinner Party is a tense character-driven work, exceptionally well suited to the intimate surrounds of the elegant Q Theatre, where the audience will see every nuance of the emotional drama between the host, the hostess, the rival and the lover.
The piece by major Australian choreographer Natalie Weir premiered in 2015 at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and is being brought south by Expressions Dance Company, a major Queensland outfit that regularly collaborates on contemporary work with the likes of Opera Australia and Opera Queensland.
The company’s Liana Canatarutti says the work is “very dynamic and personal. We’ve all been in those awkward situations where there are rivalries or strong personalities at play, where people are more dominant or submissive.
“The wonderful thing about contemporary dance is the range of expression you get in the movement. Audiences will absolutely hook into the spectacular elements of this – the leaping, the partner work, the lifts and duets. The wonderful thing about dance is you can communicate so much with movement.”
She says the athleticism of the company’s work makes it very accessible for audiences who may not be familiar with contemporary dance. “People wonder ‘will I get it or will it be outside my comfort zone?’, but the beautiful movement, the physical strength and flexibility of the performers is really attractive. We’ve even converted a couple of major sports fans that way!”
Cantarutti says The Dinner Party is firmly grounded in narrative and is not an abstract work. The audience reactions have been strong, especially from regional areas where innovative contemporary dance can be a rarity.
And that’s part of the appeal for Stephen Pike, Program Manager at the Q, who says the Theatre is genuinely one of the best kept creative secrets in the Capital Region. “People love the intimacy and the feeling of the space: with 346 seats, there’s literally not a bad seat in the house.”
While there were some doubts when the theatre was being built over whether Queanbeyan could sustain a venue of this quality, Pike says the first time he walked onto the stage, he had goosebumps. “There’s a naturally warm feeling about the space – visiting professionals without exception say how beautiful it is.”
Pike says around 60 per cent of the Q Theatre’s audience now comes from Canberra, drawn by the strong programming mix which includes visiting entrepreneurs looking for a high-quality smaller space, along with the best quality local productions.
“To be honest we can’t fit in everyone who wants to use the venue at the moment,” Pike says. “I try to program stuff that’s palatable to the broadest possible audience. We do some confronting things every year that stretch the boundaries, but I’d say our niche is things that are high-quality but accessible.
“I’ve lived here nearly all my life and been involved in the theatre for 40 years, and you get a gut instinct for what will work in this community. I think people love to go to the theatre to get away from the realities of the day-to-day world.”
That’s a set of values that resonates with Expressions Dance Company too. They have a swag of awards under their belt including a number of Helpmanns and Australian Dance Awards, and The Dinner Party itself was nominated for one.
But at heart, Cantarutti says, “We are in the business of entertaining people, and providing insightful beautiful relatable arts experiences.”
The Dinner Party is at the Q Theatre in Queanbeyan Friday 21 June 2019 – 7:30 pm; Saturday 22 June 2019 – 2 pm and Saturday 22 June 2019 – 7:30 pm. Buy tickets here.
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Competition closes on Monday 10 June, 17:00 EST. The winner will be contacted on Tuesday 11 June.