Review: Pile of Bones

4 years ago
Aidan Johnson

Pile of Bones, a contemporary dance show choreographed by the Stephanie Lake Company, is something that takes the audience on a journey. Channelling Lake’s style, which has won prestigious awards in Australia and helped her launch a highly successful career across the world, Pile of Bones has restraint and precision as well as reckless abandon, which makes it engaging to watch from start to finish. A well-rounded performance that is worth seeing.

The dancers in Pile of Bones were truly inspiring in their performances. The nature of the show meant that during the 60 minutes each of the performers had to show a variety of different moods, from sombre, mysterious, and slightly menacing through to upbeat, inspirational, and almost funny – via things such as the absurd. Aside from the range of the skills shown by the performers, their physical prowess was also put on display. There were moments that were just shy of gymnastics (with hints of tumbling – although they much more restrained and controlled than a circus performance), and they were, to use a phrase uttered by an audience member, “mind blowing in their abilities”.

To add to the strong performances of the dancers were the well-crafted performances of the lighting and props team. Although the set was quite minimal (the lighting show at the beginning was very minimalistic in its style), the impact was powerful – especially when the lighting was minimal and the show was almost entirely one light on a performer. The other cool elements of the show included the clever use of bubble wrap (which was a particularly inspiring scene), sticky notes, and even camping chairs. Although there weren’t crazy props or costumes, the ability of the choreographer, dancers, and props team to create something effective from what they had screams volumes about their skills.

The soundtrack was also strong. As with all dance shows, it is nothing without music to drive along the performance, and Pile of Bones was no different in that regard. The range of music was interesting as well – there were a few sections which didn’t have traditional music per se, but rather a series of sound effects which created a sense of being in a location rather than on the stage. There was Tibetan throat singing as well, which was very interesting to see in a performance, and the other styles ranged from dynamic and fast paced party or dance music through to ambient sounds and sustained, timeless notes. Regardless of the sounds chosen, the music drove the performance well.

What brought it all together however was the choreography. Lake’s ability to bring together all the elements listed above and then combine them to create something more should not be understated – it very much was highly effective. Even little things, such as the dancers dancing to a triplet rhythm over the top of a pulsing electronic beat highlighted the attention to detail and creativeness of Lake. Pile of Bones clearly shows why Lake is certainly someone to keep an eye out on in the future, and shows why she achieves such success already in the dancing world.

One good thing about Pile of Bones is that although having an appreciation of contemporary dance or music is a bonus, it is not necessary to understand or enjoy the show. There is a strong emotional response to the performance, and even if you do not know something about dancing, Pile of Bones was able to make you understand exactly what was going on through the those emotions. The fact that there were teenagers in the audience who were enjoying the show should be an indication of the accessibility of the show. Then again, this is Melbourne, so it should be expected that the teenagers are highly cultured.

Overall, a very well put-together performance which reflects the professionalism and artistic skill of Lake’s crew. Considering how well the show is put together, how strong the performance is, and how it affected the audience emotionally.


Pile of Bones plays til Saturday 19 August. For more information or to buy tickets, head to the Arts House website.

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