Finesse: An Australian First

Finesse

Finesse Rating

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9

Whilst always being required of course for Salsa and Latin dance classes, ‘heels’ have rarely been seen in a regular dance school until very recently. Now you can find ‘heels’ classes on many weekly dance timetables at studios everywhere, but reviewing the first specific heels dance show in Australia, is very exciting!

The Siren Heels Company “Finesse” launch on Friday 5th July 2024 promised “delicate, impressive and sexy”. Excellent and engaging dancers, Estelle, Georgia, Jaime, Jessica, Jordan, Kimmie, Liam, Lia, Maddy, Sarah and Vicki, bring the vision together with Director and Founder of the new venture, 25 year old Peyton Leete.

Rehearsals must have indeed been taxing but worth the long hours as their timing and syncopation on the accents of the music is slick and their energy endless. All the dancers, including Peyton herself, are a tight team for the entire program – smooth transitions and incredible stamina is also on show here, and yes, you’ll hold your breath and your heart will skip a beat or two in parts.

Firstly, the music choices on the program can’t be beaten, they are perfectly selected from yesteryear’s Hollywood glamour to a modern day Catwalk vibe. Secondly, great costuming must be praised and it would have taken some very creative wardrobe brains to think of how black lace and a red garter would go strutting alongside a bright orange puffer jacket and make it work!  

In the showcased burlesque items, I wonder what designers of the essential corset undergarment in early centuries women’s fashion would say about these current elegant pieces, which definitely do not seem to hinder any breathing or ability to move.

Act 1 is full to the brim of everything ‘JAZZ’ – A fitting opening “Feeling Good”, choreographed by Peyton, has everyone on-stage and in the audience knowing that a long awaited night is now full steam ahead!

So, let me get right to the point, no dance show taking you back in time is complete without Fosse and a favourite was surely ‘Big Spender’. Originally written for the musical Sweet Charity, I doubt there’s another song even remotely similar that packs a punch like it does. A flashback moment in itself, I remembered performing to this song in my own youth as I watched Maddy’s solo, though the moves were a lot more tame back then (haha), and Maddy a lot more daring!

Fun fact, whilst ‘Big Spender’ is famous for Shirley Bassey and Peggy Lee, it was actually recently discovered that Cilla Black first performed it at London’s Savoy Hotel in 1966, by a forgotten tape found by her family. It makes a memorable moment to watch dancers perform to a song with interesting history. My grandmother would have known the words off by heart and although if she were here today she may not have approved entirely of Maddy’s attire, my 18 year old daughter sitting beside me and listening to the song for the first time, loved it!

‘Jaguar’ performed by Jordan is eye-catching choreography and her technical training is obvious, but her interaction with the audience was what stood out for me with this solo and I’ve seen a zillion dance solos over the years. Her gorgeous persona shone, she was mysterious and told the story she wanted to tell while we listened.

Act 2 is themed ‘FRENCH’ – filling the theatre with anticipation on shadows as ‘Derniere Danse’ dimmed the lights and ‘Fever’ heated up the lighting. However, I had seen in advance that ‘Toxic’ was on next – you know when you want to say turn up the volume, because Jessica definitely did that defining single justice. Then a WOW with ‘Roxane’ (I’m a tango fan), performed by Sarah – insane dancing, flawless execution.

Act 3 titled ‘FAME’ – I absolutely have to give a shout out to Liam for his solo ‘Queen of Pop’. Boys who dance never cease to be an incredible inspiration and steadfastly prove that this industry is definitely for both sexes and who doesn’t love a death drop, especially when you least expect it. The crowd did go wild!

If we were not informed by now that the growing popularity in ‘heels’ classes can incorporate many genres of dance, Kimmie’s talent certainly amplified this in her very rhythmic and more commercial style solo, before the group remix of Britney Spears’ hits was the showstopper highlight.

I won’t give anything else away, there’s a LOT in this show, there’s a lot of dancing, a lot of iconic music, a lot of smiling, clapping, jaw-dropping action, but mostly I would say there is LOVE. Love for dance, love for showcasing dancing in heels with excitement, and of course it’s sultry and sassy from start to finish, so the show suits older teens and adults because it does have mature themes throughout.

Peyton created Siren Heels Company because she wanted to create a space that nurtures passion and creativity. This company is for dancers who want to inspire each other and challenge the ideas of Heels dancing which encompasses many genres and styles. The idea for Siren Heels Company came to her five years ago and she started planning. Her new company embodies the values of treating people fairly, working hard, having fun and supporting each other.

“Heels is often misconceived as being hyper sexualised and in actual fact this show is all about class and fun” Peyton said, and after countless rejections from those who have not always treated her like the professional that she is proud to be, she wants Heels dancing to be appreciated as the art form it deserves to be known for.

If you are interested to see what it’s all about, there is still time to grab a last minute ticket for Saturday 6th July 7pm via trybooking https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/1230831 or keep an eye out for the next Siren Heels show – auditions are open and this is just the beginning …..

Congratulations to Peyton, who has been brave enough after dancing for more than two decades herself to develop her own dance company and put her heart and love into what she and her cast clearly love, those HIGH HEELS!

ps. the Silver Boots – where do you get them????

NOTE: This show was hosted at Melbourne Dance Centre, Brunswick. Parking is easy in the street or near Coles – walking distance away. The theatre venue is warm with tiered seating and a glass of wine was on offer with a welcoming atmosphere.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Billy Elliot Shines With CLOC Musical Theatre

Billy Elliot The Musical

Billy Elliot The Musical Rating

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13

This is the 60th anniversary year of CLOC Musical Theatre (formerly Cheltenham Light Opera Company) and president Ric Birkett is beaming proud of Billy Elliot The Musical.

I always thought this show was based on a true story, but to my surprise it is fictional. However there would be many boys in dance classes around and many successful male dancers worldwide that could totally relate to this script in more ways than one. Being accepted as a male dancer certainly has its challenges and though it has improved immensely in recent years in genres such as hip hop, tap, jazz and commercial, there are still not a lot of boys taking up ballet like the character of Billy.

There would only be a handful of boys who could even play this role in Melbourne and two of them are on stage here in their first show with the CLOC production team, being Lukas Elliott (his real last name) from Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School and Sebastian Sero having trained with the The Australian Ballet School. I saw Lukas (and yes, he’s thrilled to be playing his namesake even though it is spelled differently) and he was a standout for his acting ability too. This show is all about Billy the whole way through, it’s demanding but a dream role for a young boy who loves to dance!

Set in the 1980s at the time when the closure of the North England coalmines saw the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher take a particularly vengeful and confrontational path, the language in the show takes “it’s OK to swear in art” to a whole new level! Being honest, it was a bit of ‘shock therapy’ as I settled into the atmosphere, but as the show goes on you realise the script writing does portray exactly how such a community would speak in this situation, so don’t worry, you get used to it and will likely laugh at a lot of quipped lines.

Billy’s father is played by returning loyal CLOC member, Chris Hughes. Seventeen years after his last show with CLOC, he’s a natural in acting the tough guy typical miner who does not want to see his son become a dancer, at least not at first. He does come around eventually after a dressing down from Billy’s secret ballet teacher played by well-known Melanie Ott in her 10th show with the company, but not before his other son, Billy’s older brother who is exceptionally characterized by Joshua Sumner, gives every reason under the sun not to allow Billy his chosen path.

This show introduces a ton of new talent in the ballet girls, all in their first show with CLOC and they are everything from funny to cute. The high pitched screaming as they run onto stage was probably not unlike what their parents heard at home when they got a spot on the cast. It’s a coveted place to get into one of CLOC’s shows and of course there are no other shows where this many young accomplished dancers get to twirl around, be silly and act like they’ve actually never danced a concert in their life, which in reality is far from truth. In particular, it was the chance of a lifetime for Emily Bon-Fuller and Isla Everett to play “Debbie”, the impertinent daughter of Billy’s dance teacher. I saw grade 6 student Emily who can definitely act with sass!

Billy’s close friend is played by youngsters Angus Hutchinson and Harrison Lloyd both also in their first CLOC show. I saw Angus and he was an absolute delight to watch, he must have had a lot of fun in this role and he surely has the most fun dance number with giant dresses and Billy by his side. Again, these boys can dance!

A shout out to “Grandma” played by Barbara Hughes, who has worked for almost 50 years in non-professional theatre but was cast in the ensemble as the Grandma cover in the last professional Australian touring production of Billy Elliot, cut short by COVID, so in this show she finally got her chance. Her character calls it like she sees it, something many a Nana can get away with. Age gives you that right.

Billy’s mother (deceased) makes appearances in his mind by Elise Stevens and you can’t help but envisage any child’s lost parent watching on from Heaven to see their child go for their dreams.

The amazing Ensemble truly makes the show. There is so much energy on stage. It is loud! It is mining! It is teamwork! In the audience you feel like you are part of the action, and heads up to the choreography skills that managed to have so many people on stage not bumping into each other (unless it was on purpose with fists ready).

Billy Elliot will appeal to anyone really. It’s got enough manly guts in it to take your hubby (even though he doesn’t like musicals) and enough softness to reflect upon standing up for your work colleagues, helping the cause about what you believe is right for your community and above all, supporting your children’s goals.

I wonder if there was a “real” Billy Elliot in that mining town, who perhaps just didn’t get the chance to shine like this show does. I hope it inspires other boys who like to dance to try ballet. I hope it is a reminder that boys dance too. The world needs more dancing.

Congratulations to the Direction trio of Lynette White, Chris White, David Clausen-Wisken, and the entire CLOC team, this show is superbly executed, so fight your way to a seat for one of the last shows coming up!

Tickets 10-25th May via www.cloc.org.au

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Steel Magnolias

Steel Magnolias Rating

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21

Steel Magnolias is a well known 80s movie, but it may be less remembered that it was actually a play first, written by Robert Harling, and inspired by the true story of his sister, Susan. Having been performed on stages all around the world, this iconic show with a super-strong all-female cast is now on from 10-25th May 2024 at Beaumaris Theatre, a small welcoming bayside venue.

This amateur theatre group have consistently produced a wide variety of Theatre Arts since starting up in 1953 in the attic of Bill & Angela Martin; a bonus story I was interested to read about in the program. Amongst the many fantastic posters covering the walls are past promotions of comedies, dramas and musicals, so it seems this amateur theatre group is still very active and exciting. Steel Magnolias is their 302nd production and expertly directed by the vibrant Debbie Keyt, who was happy to chat amongst the attendees and gratefully thanked everyone for coming. Debbie is also president of the group’s Committee and this is her 25th show as a Director with the locally treasured Beaumaris Theatre.

Steel Magnolias is set in a beauty salon in Louisiana wherein six excellent Melbourne actresses will share with you a journey of friends bonded together through love and loss. A story about being both delicate and tough, hence the title name.

My first impression upon sitting in my seat, was the extremely accurate 80s era presence in the colourful set (I was a teen in the 80s myself). The audience is on the ‘mirrors’ side of the salon, so we would closely see into the ‘reflection’ of them for the next two hours. Splashing water, bright lighting, music on an old radio with some appropriate song choices and great sound tech. made for a most realistic setting.

First on stage is salon owner “Truvy” played by Trudi Sheppard and “Annelle” played by Caitlin Leong. Annelle is Truvy’s new assistant – a little mysterious at that and which side-story is portrayed instantly, so you are already intrigued and thinking “hmmm …what is going to happen with her?”.

Truvy is extremely loveable in each scene as the best hair stylist in town and the show depicts what probably actually does go on in every hairdressing salon, but especially in a country town. It’s typical tell-tale of women visiting their preferred salon where they feel they can literally ‘let their hair down’ to talk about what’s going on in their lives, what’s important to them and how they feel about each other and the people close to their hearts.

It’s hard to pick a favourite character, especially if you see it as a woman yourself – you will probably relate to each one of them in some way, or, picture in your mind, a friend you could easily have represented by one of them somewhere within the plot. Equally, you might smile at a visualisation of your husband, an in-law or a neighbour from the extended verbal storyline as you can clearly picture what is going on outside the salon’s window, even though you cannot see it.

The topics quickly unfold of a mother and her daughter who is getting married, then having a baby under extreme circumstances, with the love and support needed from each other and from the ladies they catch up with and confide in at their salon visits.

Full of comical moments where you can be smiling one second, gasping the next and crying (or trying not to) when they cry, this play should not be missed by anyone who enjoyed the movie, loves celebrating women and friendship, or perhaps even for nostalgia of times at your own hairdressing salon, which, like the play, often does far more than just tease up a few curls!

The absolutely believable accents from the Deep South of America make the show extra entertaining and not once did these actresses slip up on their dialogue, which is extensive. Comic timing is also everything and I must applaud the cast for their obvious well rehearsed dedication in bringing this script totally alive to have me reflecting upon its message for the next week at least. I especially loved the part where the audience was dead silent in sadness and then within minutes we were all laughing hysterically at an almost girl-on-girl fight about expressing human reactions, ramped up with courageous spirit by Wendy McRae as “Ouiser” and Kate Harvey as “Clairee”. I could hardly believe they could do that scene without bursting into laughter themselves, I’m sure they did in practice!

I do hope that Claire Abagia, in her first production at Beaumaris, dreamily playing “Shelby” with her youthful outlook, and her stage-mom “M’Lynn” played with such great concerned emotion by Samantha Stone, a Drama and English teacher, enjoyed working together as much as we did watching them. As the two characters at the centre of this story, they could have genuinely been a real mother-daughter duo in their intense interactions. My favourite was the stare given from M’Lynn at Shelby’s new hairdo, it was exactly how I remembered my Mum once looking at mine. Later on, my Mum said she too had thought the same thing.

This production of Steel Magnolias is certainly lots of fun, and very memorable. As it was my first time taking my Mum out to see a play on Mothers’ Day too (the reason we chose initially to go for something different to do), the surprise afternoon tea provided by the theatre when the interval doors opened was also indeed, a hit!

Congratulation to the Beaumaris Theatre Team. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend their latest rendition of Steel Magnolias.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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