Stellar Project review: Dancers look to the skies for answers in work with universal themes


Imagine creating a dance about the universe. Do you begin with science – complex mathematical equations and theories – or with philosophy, art, the human body – or even, perhaps, the daily horoscopes – for guidance?

Prue Lang’s new work Stellar Project touches on all of these themes. As with her previous work in this series (2015′s Spaceproject), Stellar Project is a work that digs into what we do not understand from many angles and perspectives.

This complexity of intention lends itself to contemporary dance quite well, and the movement that Lang has developed for her five dancers exploits the fact that dance can be many things at the same time, and perhaps – like our universe – be many things that we simply do not have the language to describe.

Mark Pederson’s​ sound design draws initially on the familiar noise of city life. Sirens wail and birds chirp as the dancers’ focus is drawn repeatedly up to the sky above them. They seem to be looking beyond the clouds, and the score eventually charts the shift from known to undiscovered through its increasing abstraction.

The dancers (Mikaela Carr, Benjamin Hancock, Lauren Langlois, Amber McCartney, Harrison Ritchie-Jones) play what seem like parlour games, shouting out the “answers” as a way to assign meaning to the movement, as though reciting from Wikipedia. Here it is as though Lang is drawing attention to the fact that our understanding is insignificant and, quite frankly, inadequate.

Stellar Project is ambitious in the ideas that it is grappling with, but it is presented in a way that makes the exploration and experimentation a visible scaffolding in performance. The dancers even wear tracksuit pants, as though to underline that our thinking is evolving and unresolved – this is a project under construction and still questioning its place in this world.