Melbourne International Arts Festival Review: One Infinity explores ideas of cultural exchange through incredible contemporary dance

  • Tiana Sixsmith
  • October 22, 2018
  • Comments Off on Melbourne International Arts Festival Review: One Infinity explores ideas of cultural exchange through incredible contemporary dance

I have a single word for you. Wow!

Walking into Malthouse Theatre, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. The audience was split in two, both facing each other on opposite sides of the black lacquered stage, which is set up minimally with Eastern Asian instruments. We are told to mirror the women who sit in a chair on the opposite side of the stage. To mirror is to learn, and through the exploration of cultures colliding and forming, the mirror becomes a symbol of the divide and the need to recognise both the differences and similarities in our cultures.

One Infinity was a contemporary dance that was infinitely beautiful, infinitely interpretive, and my love for it may have reached that same infinite. Directed by Gideon Obarzanek alongside the Jun Tian Fang Music Ensemble, and with dancers from the Beijing Dance Theatre and DanceNorth Australia, the show will blow your mind in the most pleasant way possible.

The show begins with Genevieve Lacey playing a delicate and utterly magnificent solo on the recorder, before long Wang Peng begins to join in playing the guqin (a seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family). Suddenly we have immersed ourselves into an entirely new world. The dancers, from within the audience, move to the stage for a mass of gorgeous pieces, which often find them writhing on the ground, throwing their bodies into almost grotesque movements, whilst also floating and twisting in such a gracefully entrancing way that often it was a struggle to avert my eyes to the most important part of the show: the audience participation.

Copying the figure on the opposite side to us, suddenly we became a part of the production and performance as well. Along with the almost horror-film-like immersive eastern fusion soundtrack, each side of the audience were lit up momentarily by backlighting to show a pose or movements that would complement the actions of the dancers in the midst of the stands and stage. At times it was frightening, particularly a pose that had the audience members holding their throats against a ferocious backing track. But, for me, the audience participation really made the show.

Exploring themes of growth and maturation, the interpretive movements of the dancers often moved from subtle and slow steps to savage and intense jumping. Contradictory, yet at times also supplementary, there were often moments were two dancers would participate in an intimate duet. These duets were passionate, where neither dancer spent more than a few momentary milliseconds without keeping contact. The pure expressions of love and support between the two individuals and their carefully choreographed movements created an engaging and enchanting moment that I struggled to move my eyes away from.

Overall, the show explored ideas of cultural exchange; where we witnessed the connection and need for support between cultures and the immense similarity between ourselves and others through the metaphorical mirror. The collision between Western and Eastern Asian music is something I had never seen before, and all I can say is that I am begging for more of this beauty. Art brings cultures together, and there is no better example of this than through this magnificent performance.



One Infinity was performed as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. The reviewer attended the performance on October 20th at Malthouse Theatre. 

Photo: Sarah Walker