Elysian Creative’s The Underground was well on its way to a sell-out season when the five-day snap COVID lockdown hit Perth, but luckily for Perth dance fans, you can’t keep a good dance brand down. The Underground was given an encore season in the Main Hall at Girls School and these talented performers lit up the stage with loads of Latin and R&B passion and a hefty helping of humour from Dave Callan as MC, and you wondered why they weren’t given a main stage spot to begin with. The show promised, and delivered, something “mysterious and electrifying” which included top-notch dance artists (a couple of whom are also top-notch vocalists as well), live percussion and specialty acts.
The show opened with Mia Simonette, who took on a sort of singing host’s role (when she wasn’t stepping into a number as a dancer) and drummer Mark McDonald, who commanded a drum kit from upstage centre. The other dancers slinked in and took their seats at the cafe tables dotted around the stage, as we found ourselves in an underground bar or cabaret somewhere in the world – probably someplace hot, given the red-coloured surrounds.
The audience was then introduced to the “special act,” which was a young Latin dance couple, Flynn Roughsedge and Elina Ismayilova. They gave us a taste of the highly disciplined world of ballroom dancing, with all its exacting moves. MC Dave Callan came along to deliver a short set and teach four volunteer audience participants some Latin dance moves. The joke was on Dave, though – at least two of the eager volunteers were trained dancers themselves, and one very nearly stole the entire show with her tipsy enthusiasm. Callan kept it all in check and soon we were back to the planned (predictable) content.
The dance artists appeared in various configurations, solos, duets, trios, and full company numbers to perform vignettes with standard narrative tropes, primarily of men and women vying for each other’s affections. There wasn’t a whole lot to ponder thematically and not many surprises in storytelling, but perhaps you’d look for a different kind of dance show for that. The Underground aims to please with energy, rhythm, charisma, and hairography (so much impeccable hairography), and these performers have all of it in spades.
Renee Russo brought the distinct dance style “Waacking” into the mix, fusing it with Latin stylings, creating a niche for herself within the show. Braydon Nicholas and Saolin Naidoo teamed up and sparred throughout the show, raising the audience’s volume each time they appeared. You couldn’t take your eyes off director Rafaela Lico when she came on scene, and Lisa Drennan got a chance to show off not just her dance skills but her vocal skills as well. Callan too came along for a final group number and he earns his place amongst the flexy, flashy troupe.
The Underground is quality, Fringey fun, for both dancers and those with two left feet, and it has hopefully earned its rightful place as a main-stage fixture in next year’s festival, should Elysian Creative reassemble the cast for another go.