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  • Kate Gaul

Grey Rhino - Sydney Festival 2022

Something you need to know about the title of this compelling dance work as part of Sydney Festival - a “grey rhino” is a highly probable, high impact yet neglected threat: kin to both the elephant in the room and the improbable and unforeseeable black swan. Grey rhinos are not random surprises, but occur after a series of warnings and visible evidence. The bursting of the housing bubble in 2008, the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, the new digital technologies that upended the media world, the fall of the Soviet Union…all were evident well in advance.

Why do leaders and decision makers keep failing to address obvious dangers before they spiral out of control? Political analyst Michele Wucker coined the phrase after a series of interviews with leaders from around the world and asks how we recognise and strategically counter looming high impact threats.

“Grey Rhino” is about philosophical questions explored through contemporary dance.

A collaboration between award winning choreographers Charmene Yap and Cass Mortimer Eippe (you may know them from Sydney Dance Company) sees this vibrant premiere, produced by Performing Lines, burst forth in the open space of Bay 20, Carriageworks. It is energetic, cheeky and very entertaining. Seven dancers move together, in solos and duets across 55 minutes responding to a provocation on how to survive and avoid getting trampled! Some of the movement is playful, at other times virtuosic in its patterning. This is a high tempo ensemble show and it’s easy to forget the energy coming off the stage as the dancers make this look effortless.

Beautifully designed and lit by Damien Cooper a white floor dazzles as a rim of lights hits. The rig tilts, lowers and hovers providing an impending threat around the dancers. It is super classy, almost forensic at times. Or trippy as the design swaps out from white light to a super saturated primary.

Alesha Jalbert has established herself as the go-to designer for dance and her costumes on this one are deceptive. Essentially street clothes, it’s the gorgeous colour palette that satisfies and the way in which the garments move on the bodies.

Alyx Dennison is composer and sound designer. Alyx has an impressive body of work (look her up!) and it’s the sheer range of sounds and source material that impresses on “Grey Rhino”. Everything from classical musical, what sound like overheard conversation, percussion, original composition – it’s a cool eclectic mix that keeps you listening. A highlight of the production for me.

Original, stylish, thought provoking – “Grey Rhino” is a Sydney Festival highlight and not to be missed.


Thursday 20 January, 2022

Kate Gaul


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