One Infinity @ His Majesty’s Theatre
Thursday, February 7, 2019
Simplicity and complexity, chaotic tension and contemplative relaxation, personal isolation and collaboration; One Infinity was a beautifully transformative experience of connectedness that brought opposites together to create a unified whole.
The stage design was simple, a rectangular black vinyl floor that created the illusion of glass, various instruments dotted around reflecting in on themselves, yet the dynamics created by breaking the fourth wall was complex.
The audience sat in tiered benches facing each other with the members of each dance group sat together as a group in the centre. The Beijing Dance Theatre members were across from me while the Dancenorth Australia members were amongst the people on my side. We were welcomed and then advised that we would be part of the performance if we chose to and to follow the movements of the performer that was perched at the very top of each section. Each side felt isolated from the other yet when the music started, and the movement was mirrored by the dancers on each side, and the audience moved together simultaneously, there was such an overwhelming sense of unity — something remarkable to achieve among a group of strangers.
The unified movement of the crowd to the majestic ancient and contemporary music (played by amazingly talented co-composers and musicians Genevieve Lacey and Wang Peng and members of the Jun Tian Fang Music ensemble), was transcendent and profound. The timing of the lighting and the abrupt sharp notes of the guqin (a Chinese stringed instrument) coupled with the intuitive movement of the dancers created an electric atmosphere that fostered a deep contemplative state of reflection.
This was so much more than a cross-cultural performance as the dancers moved together like they had been moving as one company since they had all begun dancing. It felt more cohesive than two separate entities coming together as it felt like each dance company was the identical twin of the other; each dancer had their own style, but their movements were so precise, strong, purposeful and cohesive that they looked like a reflection of each other.
The music and lighting created an ethereal environment and it sometimes felt as if the music was coming from the roof, resounding all around us, behind us; the bass so low at points that it felt as if it was reverberating in my head and through my body emanating slowly from the floor.
Everything was perfectly balanced, and stark contrasts made the show something genuinely unique, even down to the cool blue and white of the Beijing Dance Theatre costumes contrasting to the warm orange and tan of the Dancenorth Australia costumes.
Even though it was meditative and ritually repetitive there was always forward motion; the action was always building. The movements of dancers enacting the evolution of the species grew more significant and more erratic as the music swelled and subsided. The audience movements increased from contained slow gestures to fast, wide, sweeping motions that made you evaluate the meaning of personal space.
Breaking the fourth wall and guiding the audience to participate was such a smart way of flipping the idea of individuality within a crowd on its head. Generally, people do not want to join in because of the fear of being the odd one out in a group, standing out and making a fool of themselves. In this context, it was the people who did not participate that would stand out and even though you didn’t want to stand out and be the only person not participating it still felt natural and not forced. Everyone joined in, creating such an extraordinary visual component to the music. Not something easily achieved among a group of strangers.
The performance was such a refreshing look at cultural communication and relations. Iʼm sure there were various socio-political subtexts of the performance, I certainly read it through my personal lens, but the apparent thing we all took away from it was the remarkable sense of connectedness we felt with each other. The music, the lighting and the stories that were told through body movement said more to me in an hour about the hope of a connected world than any politician has ever said and that is what is truly unique about this type of immersive experience. That is the power of art.
This was a truly unique experience that cannot be missed.