🥁 Manifesto by Stephanie Lake Company

An arresting testament to the potential of optimism which made me want to live more, to be more, and to feel more.

🥁 Manifesto by Stephanie Lake Company
Image: Ryan Hamilton

Stephanie Lake Company describes Manifesto as a 'tattoo to optimism,' which is A) some fucking great copywriting and B) an incredible description of the hour long dance work. Nine dancers, nine drummers, nine drumkits, and one massive red curtain.

I arrived late and much to the chagrin of the kind usher who escorted me in during the latecomer's entry point, I took the first empty seat by the aisle I could find—I wasn't going to be squeezing through a row of seats in the middle of the show. But unfortunately for my eardrums, I ended up sitting right next to the speaker stack. 🤡

Manifesto is propelled by nine drummers who surround the stage, elevated on pedestals and looking down on the dancers like gods. The interplay between the two groups was electric—at times playful, other times dictatorial. Control over the stage was always shifting from rhythm to movement, as the two groups competed to fill the space with joy.

Manifesto by Stephanie Lake Company — Closeup on drumkits
Image: Ryan Hamilton

This is an incredibly affective and considered dance work. Stephanie Lake’s choreography effortlessly shifts between the minutiae of a dancer's finger to (at the climax) a massive choreographic rampage of movement, chaos, and ecstasy.

Robin Fox's composition is the foundation for the work, and the experimental use of drums is stunning, creating a whole orchestra out of the drums.

Bosco Shaw's lighting design is as much an interlocutor as the drums and dance are. It takes its turn to lead the action, establish structure, and play with the rhythms established by the rest of the ensemble. It's a real treat to see lighting design so elevated and cohesive. One striking moment was when the drummers were performing a cannon and the lighting was so perfectly in sync, guiding us through the rapid shifts in musicality. It felt like I could hear better because it was lit so well.

Paula Levis' costumes too were a treat. Dancers began in regimented and buttoned up attire, which slowly gave way to flowing lace and fabric, highlighting the fluidity of the dancers movements.

The unbridled joy and passion on stage was infectious, leading almost the entire audience to give a well deserved standing ovation. I wish I could watch it again just to ride that emotional arc again.

Manifesto is an arresting testament to the potential of optimism. As bleak as our world is, I think optimism is the only way through it, which seems to be what Manifesto is getting at. Not hope (a useless fucking emotion), but optimism—an urge to make a better world.

This is a work which made me want to live more, to be more, and to feel more.

Manifesto is at Arts Centre Melbourne until 5 November.
Tickets are available here.