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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 8 JULY 2015 — Entering the theatre one was handed out a pair of special glasses, the sign that what one was going to see would be, well, a different dance experience, something other than perhaps expected. As indeed it was. The audience was assailed with new technologies, with new sensations as it was forcibly embarked on a trip into the world of the future as the dancers played around with optical illusions and 3 D projections. Garry Stewart, artistic director of Australian Dance Theatre* since 1999, a man fascinated by the study of physics, plunged his audience into the heart of the universe.

Stewart, who began his dance career at the age of 20, shot to notoriety with the creation of works such as Birdbrain for his troupe, a work which is said to have attracted thousands of spectators over four continents, and which was followed by his staging of 300,000 people for the opening of the Sydney Festival in 2009.

Choreography: Garry Stewart
Australian Dance Theatre
Photo: Chris Herzfeld

Now, together with the collaboration of the Deakin Motion Lab of the University of Melbourne, he has created Multiverse, a show for three dancers, but where one’s attention is too often captured by the amazing moving kaleidoscope above them. Dancing rayon of white and pink, concentric circles that resemble spider’s webs, and shooting stars cascading downwards in  crimson showers forming archways of moving red dots take precedence over the three muscular young people on stage despite the fact their movements frequently echo the slants of the crimson pathway. Images of giant octopus’ with enormous waving tentacles give place to angular blocks of emerald green matter covering the stage.

But where was dance in all this fabulous technological prowess? The second half of the piece probably worked better than the first when the dancers started to assert themselves and began to guide the images, pushing the parallel bars and directing the three dimensional figures, but they were defeated by the majesty of the projections. Particularly outstanding were the giant whirlpools and gaping black holes high in the air above their heads, where dance had no part.

Fascinating for some, but soulless for others, Multiverse was more an experiment in mixing dance with three dimensional images, for if one adds the repetitive soundtrack  by Brendan Woithe, a non-ending succession of electronic vibrations lasting one hour, the work went on too long. Indeed, despite the majestic images, people, frequently bemused, began looking at their watches when the piece was barely halfway through. Had Stewart condensed his creation into just 30 minutes, it would have been almost enjoyable. As it was, it proved hard going with dance relegated into second place.

*Australian Dance Theatre was founded by Elizabeth Dalman in 1965.

Based in Paris,  Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.

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