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Ilana Charnelle: A Class Act, playing at The Butterfly Club

Home > Melbourne > Disabled Friendly | Jazz | Performing Arts | Theatre
by Donna Sue Robson (subscribe)
Donna Sue Robson specialises in the communication- and healing-arts. Jamie Natural Health and Healing is her energy-healing consultancy. Her modalities, workshops and boutique natural products can be viewed and purchased from
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Jazz Diva is All-Class
Ilana Charnelle A Class Act The Butterfly Club Auslan Ned Dixon
Ilana Charnelle and Ned Dixon- a jazzy duet who collaborate to create and use lyrical musicianship to tell great stories.

Ilana Charnelle's, A Class Act, was exactly that. Musically, this jazz show features Ilana's original compositions, with the exception of one tribute to Amy Winehouse that was sensitivity treated and perfectly positioned within this live visual-album performance. A Class Act was a dual appraisal of the 'single-track' style of 'ITunes era' marketing with the theme-album concept of bygone vinyl days, proving to both Generation X and Millennium's that the two approaches can balance each other both artfully and stylistically. That production concept alone crosses generation divides and gives A Class Act broad market appeal. Add another layer, which is the very simple yet strong visual setting of the 1940s, and you begin to see just exactly what is meant by 'class': a rare embodiment of experiences over time that becomes a woman's grace.

Ilana delivered a very mature and well-edited consideration of 'class', which she defines early as 'standing in your own integrity'. Although this is a universal message, A Class Act is a particularly great night out for women or all-female groups. I say that simply because the stories told are very much told from our own deep story lines and shared experiences of dating and often times, of being ignored or treated disdainfully. A Class Act is structured around a theme but still has flexibility to explore narrative and emotional charge through changes of rhythm, tone and performance intensity. With these tools, A Class Act really explores the breadth of jazz history and the elasticity of the genre.

Ilana Charnelle A Class Act The Butterfly Club Auslan Ned Dixon
Ilana's real talent is in her warm and authentic connection with the audience. Her emotion is raw and enables her to convey real women's stories that crosses generation-divides.

Even though the staging of Ilana's live album is simple, she unexpectedly weaves textures of communication and interpretative devices throughout her very warm and well-considered production. Visually, audience focus is clearly on Ilana, as she represents women's personal stories and strength of beauty: she even looks like a picture-postcard from pre-war Europe. Ilana has chosen to personify, in both music and fashion, an energy that both suits her and makes her stand out. Stylistically, this in itself promotes a key message to women- be proud of and be recognised for who you choose to be.

Compare Ilana's declaration of iconic womanhood to Ned Dixon's visual stage presence: a formidable musician, he is virtually blocked from view. Consider too, the all-black-clothed Kirri Dangerfield, an Auslan Interpreter, who stands on Ilana's right-hand-side throughout this free-flowing one-hour performance. This staging contrast not only focuses visual attention onto Ilana as the solo vocalist and lead storyteller, but also works to subtly promote the musical and interpretative genius of both Kirri and Ned who, on their own terms, contribute lyrical weight and a balanced visual perspective to A Class Act.

Ilana Charnelle A Class Act The Butterfly Club Auslan Ned Dixon
The inclusion of Kirri Dangerfield as an Auslan interpreter highlighted communication itself as performance art.

It is easy to see why Ilana hand-picked Kirri Dangerfield for this role. Kirri's inclusion went way beyond paying lip-service to the deaf community and merely providing translation for them. As an interpreter, Kirri expresses the emotion, sentiment and message of each composition that was the heart of this live-album concept, in Auslan. Watching such an emotionally rich language detailed with facial expression and body language - actually gives the audience another layer to the show's sound and musical composition. Experiences were enriched: stories are not just told through words, melody, rhythm and sound, but through Auslan which adds class to musical theatre and more emotion to jazz composition.

Ned Dixon, the pianist and sole instrumentalist in A Class Act, is an extremely gifted musician with clear virtuosic potential. He is graciously and generously acclaimed by Ilana and co-owns the musical spotlight. The creative energy between these musicians is warm, familiar and truthful. On-stage respect is yet another dimension to the meaning of 'class'. Ilana may look like a 1940s pin-curled Diva, but her performance energy is earthy, real and quite humble. It is touches like mutual respect and comfortable interplay between performers that not only create a real 'jazz' energy but which also give this show an intimate 'lounge-room' vibe that is completely appropriate to both genre and its artistic themes.

Ilana Charnelle A Class Act The Butterfly Club Auslan Ned Dixon
Ilana has chosen the right musical genre to display multi-dimensional talent: emotionally and musically, jazz covers the bases and can really explore emotional content and compositional narrative.

Despite a couple of timing and volume-balance issues, A Class Act is delivered gracefully and is special in is 'jazziness' style and fusion of languages and story-telling evocation. Beyond her performance vision, Ilana's true gifts lie in both composition and in her ability to connect with the audience and to tell her stories, as if they were the audience's own.

It is great to see The Butterfly Club supporting theatrical visions and rising talent in Melbourne. This show is playing at this funky venue until 23rd of October, but as A Class Act is soon to be released on ITunes, hopefully other clubs, cabarets and venues will pick up Ilana's show to support the album's release. While you are on ITunes, check out Ilana's EP 'Speakeasy', which was released 5 years ago and is also an artistic work of great merit, vocal excellence and rich content.

Follow this remarkable artist as Ilana gives full attention to language itself and tells emotive women's stories that touch the heart.

Ilana Charnelle A Class Act The Butterfly Club Auslan Ned Dixon
The styling of A Class Act is simple and effective.
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*Donna Sue Robson was invited as a guest
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Why? Enquiries and bookings
When: October 19-23rd
Phone: 03 9663 8107
Where: The Butterfly Club 11 Carson Place, Melbourne
Cost: $32 full price $28 concession
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