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Jack Gray
Performance Reviews
Sydney Opera House
Sydney, OT (Australia)
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Shaun Parker & Company - AM I

by Jack Gray
January 9, 2014
Sydney Opera House
Box Office
Sydney Opera House
GPO Box R239
Royal Exchange
Sydney NSW 1225
Sydney, OT (Australia) 1225
+61 2 9250 7777
Sydney Festival 2014
A synergistic fireball of creativity was unleashed at the Sydney Opera House for the World Premiere of AM I (by Australian contemporary dance artist, Shaun Parker & Company) plunging the Sydney Festival into the depths of human consciousness.

A simple stage, black, except for a large partition wall, set the scene. A blinking amber eye slowly hypnotises the crowd, surreptitiously changing our visual sensibility, probably scientifically slowing down our brain waves bring us back to the 'beginning'. A slender, beguiling enchantress (Shantala Shivalingappa) is at first silhouetted, then imprinted; invokes the esoteric root of this story – our story – the story of life itself.

Deft hands weave mudra; her intonated voice speaks of our ancient origins as a planet, before we are momentarily blinded by a hot blast, as the partition wall reveals itself as a powerful light source, consciousness, magma. A flock of dancers begin to be revealed. We make out figures to be men and women, as the genealogy of humankind is fleshed. The dancers enact various genetic codes, using mostly arms, hands and group interactions to create kaleidoscopic configurations.

As these dances speak, we become aware of a group of musicians situated above the light wall, swathed in an intriguing quarter light, there but not there. The music by composer Nick Wales is quite succinctly, sheer brilliance. It crosses world music boundaries, hopskotching over continents, the rhythms are raw, voices pure, and a melange of instruments, some Western, some folk, interspersed with the kind of electronic rumbling that would amount to a sonic boom.

Julian Wong is a prodigious dancer for me. Originally he came into the project as a musician, and somehow magically inspired the choreographer not only to recast him as a performer, but to integrate stick implements from his Chinese martial arts lineage into the work itself, transformed somewhat by the choreographer's deliberate choice to use metal (futuristic) rather than wood (traditional) in the show. His peaceful masculinity emanates through emphatic movement actions, speedy martial arts (he masterfully manipulates a black silk fan), and composure that connects to a feeling of totality. Stalwart company member, Marnie Palomares leads the female charges, a pocket rocket, her staunchness holds down a sense of strength and tamed wildness. An eclectic ensemble of seven, their execution is pinpoint, complexity heightened by a sense that if one of them were "off", it would be disastrous.

A beautiful shape shifting scene through all the gods and goddesses known to humankind, utilise the silver sticks as ornamental detail, becoming arms, wings, lotus, Chinese headdresses, reminding us that 'God' (in essence) encompasses metaphysical energy each culture perceives in different ways. As we become lured by these immaculate conceptions, the narrator's assertion that Facebook and other Big Brothers of today as manifestations of 'Source' – pokes fun at our culture of technological worship and an addiction to feeding the great ego of "I".

Parker's desire to create a bold human language that cuts to our core questions; contains within its flurry, the incandescent need we all experience as we grasp at life itself. The stories we are told, drizzle like a light rain, evaporating before we are conscious, teasing, reminiscent evolutions that exist within us.


Photo © & courtesy of Prudence Upton



Photo © & courtesy of Prudence Upton

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