Kairos: Sydney Festival 2023

Rebecca Varidel
21st Jan 2023

Contemporary. Dance. Transported. Transformed. Visionary.

As the audience enters Carriageworks Bay 20, the floor of the Kairos stage is being prepared with painted white concentric circles. In creating this labyrinth, the stage informs us visually of what may transpire. The circles of the labyrinth are an ancient spiritual tool designed to foster contemplation and spiritual transformation, as the title of the dance Kairos is ancient Greek for “the right or opportune moment for doing, a moment that cannot be scheduled.”

Placement of the dancers, and the lighting relay that the centre of the circle is key.

Childhood innocence. Adult conflict. Resolution? Impermanence. Transformation.

Kairos has taken more than two and a half years since the initial discussions between acclaimed contemporary dance choreographer Meryl Tankard AO and Annette McLernon the Director of FORM Dance Projects to arrive here in Sydney Festival 2023. And it was well worth the sweat, determination and wait.

Meryl Tankard, herself a dancer of international renown, is credited with concept, direction and choreography. Her unending career has been formative in introducing Australians to contemporary dance. And wow she is also wholly responsible for the magical set design.

The stage is draped with translucent curtained 'wings', illuminated with projected images by Meryl Tankard's long term life partner and artistic collaborator, Regis Lansac, that enhance the magic. Already the audience is captivated.

The Kairos soundscape beckons us with nature then complies to the dancers' musical tool - the piano. This single instrument is just one key to the brilliance of the multi-layered multi-generational Kairos. Performing on the black and whites the pianist Elena Kats-Chernin AO is also the composer. Her playing, with the pluck of a rehearsal piano adds simple sustainable impetus to the piece. To accompany her, percussion is achieved through thuds of dancing feet, distressed breathing and sometimes punctuated with chatter, including the recitation in French of a poem by Arthur Rimbaud .

Perhaps the highlight of Sydney Festival 2023 ~ Kairos is a complete wholistic work of majestic proportions where all the creatives, crew and cast come together to deliver something much bigger than the sum of their individual parts. This outstanding contemporary work features a collection of young yet exceptional dancers who in the modern style of collaborative innovation are also credited alongside Meryl Tankard as the choreographers. Each dance in their unique style.

Transformation. Consider the moment when one barefoot dancer, Cloé Fournier dons shoes. Throughout her performance, physicality and presence call our attention. She grapples with life, her dance grabs us. Shoes or not. The magnificent Lillian Fearn is ethereal, haunting, captivating. Her movement is more than dance, more than life. She floats. By contrast, Zimbabwean Thuba Ndibali owns his life force and regales the audience with street style influence. Dancers Taiga Kita-Leong, Jasmin Luna, and Julie Ann Minaai magnificently complete the ensemble with the child, Izabelle Kharaman.

In the labyrinth, the child can go straight to the centre, the adults have a longer path. 

Kairos explores that longer path, life in all its unique personalities, its forms, the balance of light and dark, challenging, hostile, contorted, beautiful, funny, joyful. A work that must be seen if you love the dance. A work that should be seen if you love theatre. A work that could be seen by anybody who thoughtfully considers human existance in the world.