Frontera at Sydney Festival is a show with three main elements: dance, live music and lighting effects. Sadly the dance element was not of the same high quality as the sound and lighting and let the show down.
The premise of the show was to ask what space remains for the unruly, ungovernable body in an age in which the human body is subject to increasingly invasive forms of oversight and processing. To that end, the fact that Frontera at Sydney Festival opens and ends with no resolution make sense. It opens and ends with individuals pacing, lost and trapped liked caged animals. They are distressed, despondent and at a loss. They share with us the share the experience being trapped, isolated, frustrated, helplessness, losing your mind so forth.
Unfortunately though, the dance element at the opening night of Frontera at Sydney Festival was disappointing. While we appreciated the highly energetic and frenetic moments, the dancers were not in sync when the choreography was set to be so. The opening scene didn’t connect with the lighting – people separated by bars of light breaking though, swapping with other individuals. That said, the choreography of the scanner scene was impressive and a high point in the dance.
Canadian electro-rock group Fly Pan Am were the highlight of the show. Those who were not previously aware they would be providing the soundtrack live, were clearly quite surprised to see the curtain rise to reveal them on a stage in the background complementing coloured backdrops. Their music was so good that it would be worthwhile seeing them live in their own right. They were the highlight of the show but they didn’t steal it as they were only visible for short periods throughout the show.
Fly Pan Am provided gritty, grungy, techy, organic sounds and sometimes softer soothing sounds that were deep, confusing, grating, reassuring, hopeful. Excellent choices for the subject matter. At times it sounded techy- like machinery scanning for assessment – almost quite creepy and invasive.
United Visual Artists (UVA) provided a synchronised, intricate and staccato field of light and projections which were superb. A highlight was the scene in which the scanner that scanned from left to right of the stage over the 10 dancers. They’d move away from the light (escaping in a sense then learning to stop while scanner was moving over them so not to be detected).
Regretably, Frontera was a missed opportunity overall of expressing a very important message regarding the impacts of borders, surveillance and their effects on humans individually and as groups or subgroups. Overall, Frontera was very drawn out and there was a lot of unnecessary dance at the end. Perhaps trying to convey the endurance one needs to have to survive such a diabolical situation however I wanted to escape myself. I was bored. I got the message already.
Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Sydney Festival