“Dancers are the cleverest with their feet, next are footballers.” Johan Cruyff, soccer legend
Have you ever been in turmoil when understanding the distinction between dance and sport? If you have, this work will either confuse you further, help affirm your decision, or alternatively, like myself – raise that annoying question yet again.
Last night, Carriageworks hosted the opening night of the compelling and witty contemporary dance performance Champions, directed by Martin Del Amo and supported by FORM dance projects. The performance is showcased as a part of Sydney Festival, and is a dense work that draws similarities between the athleticism and practice of soccer and dance. While Champions did not include any grand kicks of soccer balls, the work had it all; the performer bio displayed on the big sports screens, the backstage interviews by Channel 7 sports presenter Mel McLaughlin, and warm up – inclusive of sports commentary, the strategy talks, the intense group concentration, the competition, not to mention the typical sporting gear, the wins, falls and losses of the game, and even the fake grass. Yet the performance had a lot of quirk, which I felt was presented through the blatant honesty of the show.
For me, this work held a mirror up at both dance and soccer, and satirized them both through the deliberate sports/dance-fusion commentary, sound, script and movement. From a tutu’d duck mascot plodding out swan lake repertoire, to the performer’s bio, too quick to fully catch but listing every detail of their life, including number of injuries, cup size and favourite pastime, to Carlee Mellow’s response to the replayed falls in slo-mo “ah yeah that wasn’t a mistake, that was choreographed. All planned.” While this was humorous, the work also confronted a more serious issue in the sporting world; gender inequality. This segment of the piece was beautifully tied in as each performer was tossed pompoms. And while shifting between various stances, a voice over fed the audience some eyebrow raising questions and facts. Such as, how is it okay for women to punch each other in boxing tournaments yet men can’t compete in rhythmic gymnastics? How is it that women’s soccer (e.g. the Matilda’s vs the Socceroos) is so much more underpaid than men’s? The matters raised aren’t new to performance, however I feel there are never enough ways to use art to focus on issues like this in society.
I wish that I could take the choreography in my hand and mash it into the face of my old sports coach who was an avid football fan and had no appreciation for anything other, or anyone who shared similar views. Yes, dance can collide with soccer.
In regards to the initial question, this work solidified my views on dance as an art form. Sure, it can be analysed and assessed through the degrees of artistry, stamina, coordination and musicality, however unlike sport, dance can bring to light so much more. It can be comical, draw emotion, be challenging to perceive and it can make you think, and inspire you in ways that aren’t purely aesthetic. Champions is a must see, it kicked me in the face with witticisms and juicy movement. The performances run from the 17th to the 22nd of Jan at Carriageworks – get amongst.