Above: Floor fabrics used to clothe the dancers. Photo credit (above and featured): Sammi Landweer.

This early Sydney Festival 2024 event is a raw romp full of enchanting creativity, joy, stamina and colour. Its flow features a massive crescendo of energy as we are carried along with  the evolving ingenuity.

Referencing all things under a beautiful spell, and dynamic beings traversing the celestial and earthly, this new piece from Lia Rodrigues’ Companhia De Danças surprises, amuses and thrills. Its analogue ability of using the human form, fabric and constant costume morphs sans technical effect is a shape-shifting, thrilling live event.

This contemporary dance group presents a compelling hour of entertainment. The event starts slowly. We endure an extended, silent opening in which the floorpiece-multiple fragments of multicoloured fabric- is unnervingly slowly unrolled before us.

Following this slow opening the troupe of dancers enter completely naked. One by one the cast members immerse themselves in, under and wrapped around by the fabric swatches. Being at one with the environment in magical innovative symbiosis could be drawn by extension here. A troupe of colourful, chameleon beings under a spell, shifting with enchantment between worlds, is referenced in the programme notes.

The bold invention of covering the dancers’ bare bodies and heads in securely wrapped, layered outfits is a constant eye-opener here. The tight, interlocking groupings and cameos of ensemble dancers structure the remainder of the event.

From the extended silent minutes of the opening, the work increases in volume with regards to the frantic fabric shop stock tossed and pulled about the stage.

Dancers feature alone and in small ensemble posse in comic caricature whilst displaying their cleverly wrought costuming with both statuesque and exaggerated posture.

Above: Members of Lia Rodrigues’ Companhia De Danças perform Encantado.

Syllabic scattered utterance and even huge squeals, screams and novel growls as sound effect precede the final chapter of the piece. The climactic section has a greater emphasis on ecstatic dance, with déshabillé shapes turning into exotically dressed forms swamped in piles of material scooped off the stage.

Dancers all have their solo moments of character and shape-shifting, shrouded in fabrics various. There are some wonderful pas de trois and other numbered dance moments with flavours and accents of characters emerging in catwalk comment for only seconds at times.

The characterisations come and go with swift, fleeting fluidity. This slick portrayal of shades of humanity’s gesturing is a dramatic achievement as virtuosic as the transformative fabulousness of garment or headdress creation wrangled impressively before us.

The work’s final section is danced to repetitive soundtrack music, poignantly chosen from music used in a recent indigenous peoples protest in Brazil aiming to protect ancestral lands. This use of musical looping and the increased tossing around of fabrics assists with the frenetic build to a jubilant conclusion via a formidable acceleration of  the early momentum.

The costuming towards the end of the show gets more intensely layered until the cast is fully covered. Following this climax of twisted and draped fashion elements, the shedding of layers (of cares?, of inhibition?, of oppression?) makes for a satisfying arch. We see the cast exit in the same bare-bodied, natural state in which we first met them.

Encantado is perfect international arts festival fare. The cultural sharing and reference to the vitality of humanity plus the layering of our modern, mixed lives makes this a worthwhile and spirited experience.

The audience amazement voiced around me in the Drama Theatre demonstrated people’s obvious enthralled state after watching this work’s unique creativity and energy. That reaction is precisely what an arts festival event discovery should bring.

‘Encantado’ plays at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House until Jan 10.

One comment

  1. 2024 (not 2023)
    Thanks for the review – looking forward to seeing it

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