If you're not the type to give up your personal space too willingly, then approach Opus, a work of immersive dance by Twisted Element, with caution. Be warned, though, you will be missing out on a funny, fearsome, beautiful, and thought-provoking work.
The disorientation that greets the audience when entering the dark space at Erskineville's PACT Theatre is palpable. A lone figure stands impossibly tall in a floor length gown, while motionless bodies litter the floor. The audience crowds around as the music fades in and the movement begins slowly, gradually. Throughout, the audience moves around the room as the dancers build a surprisingly concrete narrative from their otherworldly choreography.
The dancers alternately snap to a grid with jaw-dropping accuracy, or melt into chaos. The contours of their bodies - whether curved or angular - transform the space in an instant. Falling in and out of sync to the sound of simultaneously organic and mechanical electronic music, the dance and their remarkable costumes suggest a kind of cultish conformity to be, act, and move in a certain way. Forced standards of beauty and femininity are presented in a way that's often frightening - horrifying, even.
With robotic, seemingly glitchy movements, the dancers weave through the audience. They will collapse on you, shake your hand, hug you, give you a high-five, and more, all without breaking character. Masked with hoods covered in tiny lights, or made identical with shiny synthetic wigs, the dancers are an imposing presence from which the audience is likely to recoil.
The stamina of the dancers, as well as the storytelling acumen of the Twisted Element team is on full display. Despite the unusual, intimate presentation of the piece, the narrative arc is clear. When Opus culminates in a gorgeous and emotional two-person dance to Nils Frahm's composition "Says," the uncomfortable laughter that accompanied the dance's most unhinged sections is obliterated by quiet awe.
Eerily beautiful and unforgettable, go into Opus with an open mind and you will be blown away. Twisted Element have created a dance piece that transcends our preconceived notions of what a "performance" is, and what an "audience" is, with the aim of making us reconsider how we relate to the people around us.
Opus is on for two more performances at PACT Theatre, Erskineville. See the Sydney Scoop calendar for details.