Riverside Theatres have launched their 2018 Dance Bites season with an outstanding contemporary double-bill, Wildebeest and Valley by Israeli-born choreographer Omer Backley-Astrachan with FORM Dance Projects.
In a world premiere, Wildebeest, the shorter of the two pieces, examines the artifice of social and gender behavior through a distillation of human interactions.
The choreography moves between raw and frenetic, while the slow movements sometimes had the joint effect of showing the control of the dancers but also like their own arms and legs are alien to them. There were definite moments when the dancers shone and where very clearly in their element. Mason Peronchik’s rapid turns were sheer grace and athleticism.
The lighting scheme for Wildebeest is striking with the lights focused downward and in from the wings placing the dancers in a constant state of shadow, adding an undefined, murky nature to their interactions.
Valley is the second and far stronger piece utilizing connection between the dancers. Valley features four dancers moving around each other and the stage exploring solitude, vulnerability and sensuality worked. I found myself trying to follow the development of the choreography, trying to figure out where it had begun as a solo piece. Valley is elegant, hopeful and entirely beautiful, working perfectly as a group piece.
The Sisyphean cycle is set on a frozen and desolate Arctic island where this society of four co-exist. The lighting is softer as the dancers progressed through unusual patterns and connections, rising and falling, loving, chasing and running. The story the dance tells is visible through arm, step, and turn, clearly in the foreground of the dancers’ thoughts.
Wildebeest and Valley are a provoking double-bill examining human interaction and connection.
Lara Bendeich spends much of her free time trapesing round Sydney’s theatres, always with a drink in hand. Follow her musings at @elleellabee.
Wildebeest and Valley is on at Riverside Theatres from 15-17 February. Buy tickets.