Friday, May 2, 2014


Choreography: James Batchelor

Design: Ella Leoncio
Sound Design: Morgan Hickinbotham
Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre, until Sunday May 4th.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Canberra choreographer and dancer, James Batchelor is on a mission to change his audience’s perception and expectations of what a dance performance should be. For his latest, very professionally produced, abstract dance and installation piece, “Island”, his designer Ella Leoncio has transformed the courtyard into a huge black box with mirrored walls and floor outlined in neat perspective-challenging white lines. Positioned within this box are six large free-standing transparent perspex screens surrounding six circles of white light on the floor. During the work the screens and white lights are manoeuvred into different positions by the dancers. There is no conventional theatre seating, although stools and chairs are available for audience members requiring them. Instead the audience is invited to wander around the installation and view the performance from different parts of the installation as the performance progresses.   

The three dancers, Bicky Lee, Amber McCartney and James Batchelor himself, clad in identical loose fitting crisp white costumes and make-up, perform as series of complex kinetic rap-like movements to a relentlessly driving soundscape devised by Morgan Hickenbotham. The work, divided into three sections, each following the other without interruption, commences with a rather slow mime-style solo performed blank-faced by Bicky Lee. A  busy, intricate duet featuring Amber McCartney and James Batchelor, also performed blank-faced, and much of it in unison, follows, before all three dancers combine for the final section.

The  movement is committed and skilful and while appearing  repetitious at first, as the viewer becomes aware of the constant small changes of detail, multiplied and heightened by the mirrors, white lines and perspex reflections,the effect is  mesmerising.

Whether “Island” represents the new direction for dance remains a moot point but it certainly provides a fascinating and worthwhile experience for its audience, who, in another break with tradition, are invited to contribute a donation on leaving, instead of paying for a ticket in advance.
                                                                Image: Helen Musa
             This review appears in the digital edition of CITY NEWS published 2nd May 2014


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