Form Dance Projects
Bay 17, Carriageworks
245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh
Season: 7-29 January
The parallels between dance and sport are strong, and yet the two are slotted into different categories with polarised associations. Champions is a contemporary dance performance (with a bit of a twist) that draws the two forms together, highlighting undeniable similarities. In doing so, one's understanding and respect for both the dancer and athlete is augmented.
While the show is predominantly contemporary dance, there is a strong theatrical influence that carries through the premise of a dance performance being a sports game for athletes. Video interludes provide both comedic entertainment and an insight into the rigorous experience dancers endure. This is an excellent aspect of the show, making it just that little bit different from other dance productions, setting it apart. The reliance on the distinct personality of each dancer is a wonderful touch, creating characters in the minds of the audience and feeding into the great humour of the work.
At one point in the production, the spotlight moves to the rife inequality in sport. Titanic pay gaps based on monumental assumptions and the prejudice involved in a world that's more comfortable with women punching each other in boxing than men doing a ribbon routine in rhythmic gymnastics - this show manages to shed light on complex issues and get you thinking.
Production design is thunderous by Clare Britton, creating an atmosphere that brilliantly evokes a training ground in the evening. Impressively, the design furthers the more conceptual aspects of the production, particularly through the use of vast digital screens covering the back wall, including video design by Samuel James. Linking sport sponsorship advertising to that of the Australian Government and the Packer Foundation emphasises the connection between the two forms, noting the dual reliance on corporate sponsorship for survival. Lighting design by Karen Norris continually brings a dramatic feel to the work that accents the work of the dancers and the music reverberates through the Carriageworks performance space as a pounding force.
Del Amo's choreography is demanding of its performers and showcases their immense stamina and focus. Using lots of formation work and repetitive movements/variations, the choreography itself wasn't the ultimate highlight of the show for me, however it works well in conjunction with various production elements to create an interesting and entertaining show. It does, however, rouse a great respect for the dancers who are so evidently committed to their craft, phenomenally fit and quite frankly, undervalued in our society.
With the flair of a self-deprecating and meta-theatrical sense of humour, Champions communicates pertinently to a contemporary audience. Refusing an elitist approach that can sometimes sway artistic pieces, Martin del Amo’s work speaks to the audience in terms they can understand, and get behind. A wonderful fusion of theatricality and contemporary dance, Champions explores key ideas in Australian society in our relationship to art and sport that often go without scrutiny, and it makes for a great show.