Review by Rowan Brunt
GöteborgsOperans Danskompani, a Swedish dance company, is making waves at this year's Sydney Festival with a daring double bill featuring SKID by Damien Jalet and SAABA by Sharon Eyal. Both performances showcased the company's audacious ambition and the dedication of its ensemble of dancers, leaving the audience in awe.
SKID, a mesmerizing optical illusion, transformed the entire dance floor into a 34-degree slope, setting the stage for a unique exploration of endurance, control, and conviction. This piece takes the stakes to new heights and is something I have not seen in contemporary dance. The dance, accompanied by Christian Fennesz and Marihiko Hara’s electronic score, began reminiscent a kaleidoscpre of bodies falling and tumbling. They cascaded, slow to begin with, until they were nearly crashing and colliding dragging each other down or up the floor. The dancers, clad in starship-like uniforms showed visible strain, which I really enjoyed, the element of endurance becoming a part of the performance. SKID's emotive power lay in its perseverance, culminating in a symbolic rebirth that pushed the performers to physical exertion.
The first 11 minutes featured aerobic and physical movements, creating arresting images of bodies moving top-down repeatedly. The middle section became nearly a military operation, leap frogging up the wall in a cohesive cohort, with a focus on timing and tempo. As the performance unfolded, a naked man hung like an insect fetus in the centre of the wall, a moment of rebirth. The experimental style really dominated, leaving the audience in awe of the technical difficulty and superb execution.
SAABA, choreographed by Sharon Eyal, presented a stark contrast with its exaggerated style of demi pointe shuffling, stiffened heads, and pronounced crotch movements. This piece was camp in nature but incredibly serious on the other hand. As the piece grew and changed the repetitive determination of the work gradually became arresting and intoxicating. Dior's creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, designed nude body costumes, adding a layer of controlled femininity to the performance. The ensemble's procession, accompanied by Ori Lichtik's loud music, showcased precise body articulation and pace.
SAABA was a perfect pairing as it was cheeky, seductive, with a slightly sinister vibe. The exaggerated ballet-inspired movements, coupled with body-hugging costumes, created an alluring visual experience. The repetition in SAABA, at times hypnotic, occasionally felt overdone, detracting from its overall impact. Light, haze, and stage set-up added to the mysteriousness, allowing the 13 dancers to seamlessly transition between solo repertoires and group routines.
Both pieces were great examples of the potential of contemporary dance and how innovation is there if only you wish to start experimenting. Both pieces did not disappoint the audience, evidenced by long-standing applause for SAABA. The juxtaposition of the two works highlighted the company's edgy dance style and commitment to pushing artistic boundaries.
Programmed together, SKID and SAABA showcased the strengths of each choreographer while emphasizing the uniting vision of GöteborgsOperans Danskompani. Both performances, hauntingly captivating, pointed to the wild ride that characterizes the human condition, leaving the audience with a memorable and thought-provoking experience at the Sydney Festival. The pick of the festival for myself.