Michael Ralph is one of Australia’s leading choreographers, always striving to create work that is ground-breaking, fresh and relevant. As part of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, Ralph has gifted audiences with a 60-minute dance piece that explores every facet of an artist’s psyche. It is appropriately titled SELF, and stars none other than musical theatre heart-throb, Rohan Browne.
Browne is the protagonist of this story, and it is his struggle that we follow. As an artist, one thing that can either make or break you isn’t the level of talent you have, or who you know in the biz; it’s your ego. Self-love and self-loathing are the essence of one’s ego and to see Browne’s internal battle expressed through dance is gut-wrenching yet beautiful. Dance as an art form can convey meaning sometimes not able to be communicated in words. It’s this kind of storytelling that Ralph has perfected over the years, and with a cast and crew as strong as this one, there’s no doubt this is Ralph’s defining moment as a prominent figure in the arts community.
Supporting Browne in his quest to unveil his true self is an ensemble of six extremely talented dancers, each with thriving careers of their own. Loren Hunter, Sheridan Anderson, Romina Vilafranca, Alex Given, Max Patterson and Jordan Turner bring an energy, strength and finesse to this story, and through their commitment not only to the dance but to the story, we as an audience are able to see the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. A notable pas de deux between Vilafranca and Given cannot go without mention; it was sensual, strong and showed just what it takes to be a dancer at an elite level.
Jackson Rudge is no newcomer to the spotlight but what a show to be a part of. The young boy plays Browne’s younger self and is a reminder for him to remember his authenticity. His storytelling through movement goes beyond his years, and the final pas de deux between the two of them was the only way this work could have ended. It was emotional and playful, and a cue for everyone to remember the joys in life.
Ralph’s signature style of choreography and motfis was further enhanced by the original score created by 21-year-old Jack Earle. It was part Broadway, part jazz, part Latin-inspired and through each spell-binding moment, music and dance were in sync. Ralph and Earle are the future of our arts community. At such a young age they have made a work that is so powerful and so relatable, which can only mean that what they endured in the creative process allowed them to achieve such greatness.
SELF is a must-see at this year’s Fringe Festival. For tickets and more info, head here.
Images by Sean Higgins.
The review attended the show on opening night, Friday September 22nd.