Back by popular demand after a string of sold-out performances in 2022 and 2023, Manifesto is back at Arts Centre Melbourne for 10 electrifying nights.
Off the back of performances across Australia and Germany, the show has an unbroken streak of standing ovations and whooping audiences. Performed in front of a towering watermelon-pink velvet curtain, Manifesto sees nine dancers and nine drummers – on nine separate drum kits – work in harmony. In the space of an hour, bodies twitch, glide and ricochet across the stage to the unamplified sounds of explosive drumming. As the rhythms become more complex, so too do the movements.
It’s the work of choreographer Stephanie Lake (of Stephanie Lake Company) and composer Robin Fox, who’ve been working together for well over a decade – and romantic partners for even longer.
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“Working together is a really interesting push and pull,” says Fox. “I love making music for dance; the relationship between those two energies over time is incredibly sympathetic and, in terms of how sound sits in relation to movement, it’s very fulfilling to compose.”
“We’re addicted now to working with live music. It’s completely electric,” says Lake. “It’s a really different way of working – having musicians in the studio, there’s a layer of chaos and electricity and creativity that none of us had experienced before; the dancers were bouncing off the walls.”
Manifesto has toured major Australian arts festivals over the last year, selling out at each one (Melbourne’s Rising Festival sold out in just a couple of hours), and has just completed its first international tour to Germany’s Ruhrfestspiele – one of the largest arts festivals in Europe.
“We really didn’t know what to expect overseas, whether the sense of humour would translate, but it was the same – audiences were just as connected,” says Lake.
“Audiences change from night to night: some are more raucous, where it becomes more like a concert – which rarely happens in contemporary dance shows; others are a little more reserved and feel harder to win over, but they still leap to their feet at the end,” says Fox. “The joy and electricity on stage oozes out to the theatre. You feel revved up, amped.”
Manifesto is largely the same beautiful show since it last performed in Melbourne, now with a more experienced cast after so many seasons. One difference in the second week of performances, however, will be a special guest appearance by Fox who’ll take a seat behind one of the drums for the first time in three decades (outside of a brief stint in Germany).
Another difference is the venue. “It’s exciting to be in the Playhouse, it’s such a beautiful setting for a show,” says Fox. “Seeing it in these plush theatres, with curtain reveals, is just gorgeous.”
In the next two years, Manifesto is set to tour Europe, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, North America and Asia. “I hope and expect it will go well wherever it travels,” says Lake. “It was created during a challenging time in Melbourne, but the fact that it’s been this big success is all the sweeter.”
As for what comes next, Lake and Fox are in the middle of creating their next show, which will feature 12 dancers and a choir. “I like to throw him challenges,” says Lake. “He did well with the drumming, let’s try choirs.”
Manifesto will play at the Art Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse across 10 performances from Wednesday October 25 until Sunday November 5, 2023. See more information and book tickets.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Art Centre Melbourne.