One of the major highlights of this year’s Festival of Sydney, this stunning show is a hypnotic, cross-cultural music and dance collaboration, where the audience are also performers. ONE INFINITY blends traditional Chinese music and contemporary dance, the audience an essential part of the performance, in an intricate, mirroring dialogue.
It started with the music: Australian recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey working with Chinese guqin master Wang Peng, and later English composer Max de Wardener and the Jun Tian Fang Music Ensemble.
Eventually they decided their work required a sense of theatre and engaged Gideon Obarzanek as choreographer and director who brought together 10 dancers from Townsville-based Dancenorth and the Beijing Dance Theatre.
When we enter we discover that the audience is divided into two sides and the assorted musical instruments are on stage. There is a glossy reflective covering on the floor like a dividing river.
As director-choreographer Gideon Obarzanek informs us at the start of the performance, the audience does not just watch ONE INFINITY but is an integral part of the work. We are briefed to copy the gestures made by two dancers (Amber Haines and Gao Jing) when they are spotlit throughout the show.
The piece begins with Genevieve Lacey playing a haunting solo on recorder. Wang Peng then plays the guqin, one of the oldest and most revered of China’s musical history, and the work becomes meditative and transcending.
Under choreographer Gideon Obarzanek ‘s direction the audiences seated in the split halves are intermittently led through slow, mandala-inspired arm movements ,a simple raising of an arm , fluttering hands , birdlike movements, for example ,while the professionals from both Dancenorth and Beijing Dance Theater are amongst the audience and at times become a writhing sculptural mass, ebbing and flowing, curling and unfurling ,or cascading in tumbling movement towards the stage, as an example. At times they are like fish darting among coral. The Chinese dancers are in cool (green/blue) colours, the Australians in earthy russet colours. Eventually they strip down to bikini style outfits for the women , shorts and a semi-transparent top for the men .There are duets , very intimate and beautiful.
There is a marvellous sequence where the dancers are lying on the floor on their backs and gently start to move – at first just a tiny movement of a foot or hand, eventually leading to a crawl and standing upright. Obarzanek’s choreography uses radial patterns, repetition, waves of movement and symmetry all of which were magnificently performed by the ten dancers. Stillness is contrasted with slinky, sensuous movements .At one point it is as if a storm is building and then the tension is released .
There is a sense of meditation throughout, a sense of community, of Buddhist calmness and meditation, of shared ritual. A mesmerising and compelling performance .
ONW INFINITY is running at Carriageworks as part of the Sydney Festival 23-27 January 2019.
Running time approximately 75 minutes no interval
Producer: Ziyin Wang Gantner
Associate Producer: Jess Zhang
Producer (China): Wang Peng
Director/Choreographer: Gideon Obarzanek
Co-Composer Max de Wardener
Co-Composer/Musician: Genevieve Lacey
Co-Composer/Musician: Wang Peng
Lighting Designer: Damien Cooper
Sound Designer: Jim Atkins
Costume Designer: Harriet Oxley
Associate Choreographer: Amber Haines
Set Design: Gideon Obarzanek/Damien Cooper
Jun Tian Fang Music Ensemble
Beijing Dance Theater