IPAC stage floods for Lake production

Water springing from the roof of a theatre is usually cause for concern, but for dance production Lake, it is all part of the magic.

A 70 square metre pool has been erected on the stage of the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, filled with 3000 litres of water spread two inches deep across the floor. Reflected light ripples across the pool and plays on the back wall, as giant tree boughs hang from the ceiling and a fine sheet of rain mists down from the rafters.

Lake is a dance, and while its performers get all the credits, it is the water itself that is the real star here.

“The story came from a trickle of images and words in 2010. In a nutshell, it uses water as a metaphor for human emotion,” said choreographer and director Lisa Wilson.

“It’s the idea of dredging up what lies beneath.”

Ms Wilson said the water took on a character of its own, with light reflections, video projections and sprinklers giving the entire theatre and stage a watery feel.

“We always say the lake is another performer, and it has a life of its own in many ways,” she said.

“We can’t choreograph every drop, but when we churn through the water or let it sit still, it still has its own life.”

Performers act and dance entirely inside the pool in bare feet, ending up drenched in mere seconds; it is “getting cold feet” in the most literal sense, with hot showers and heaters backstage to keep dancers warm between scenes. 

Timothy Ohl, the male lead, said warmth was a key factor, but performing in water – even water only four centimetres deep – presented a raft of unique challenges.

“The weight of pushing through the water takes a toll, like having weights on your limbs,” Mr Ohl said.

“There’s stiffness and soreness, but the floor is a matte finish pool liner, so you don’t slip and slide as much as you think.”

Lake opened at the IPAC on Friday night, and finishes on Saturday night.

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