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2007 Media Release - Mortal Engine

Issued Thursday, November 1 2007


Direction & Choreography Gideon Obarzanek
Interactive Systems Designer Frieder Weiss
Composer Ben Frost
Costume Designer Paula Levis
Laser & Sound Artist Robin Fox
Multimedia Operator Nick Roux
Dancers Antony Hamilton, Lee Serle, Charmaine Yap, Amber Haines, Sara Black, Kristy Ayre

“[Chunky Move are] not so much a breath of fresh air as a gale force wind ripping through contemporary Australian dance.” The Australian

“[Chunky Move produces] aggressive, high-octane, technically brilliant stuff.” HQ Magazine

Mortal Engine is a dance-video-laser performance at the collision point of biology and technology.  This latest work from Melbourne’s Chunky Move fuses digital technology with human movement to the point where the dancers use their bodies to literally take control of the music, lighting and animation. 

Mortal Engine occupies a world where the limits of the human body are an illusion.  Raw, physical impulse is fused with interactive, digital animation, enveloping lasers and movement-responsive video projections. In Mortal Engine the motion of the dancers’ bodies both trigger and control the music, lighting and animation.  Within this spinning, humming, digital environment, dancers fluidly exchange and combine form with the light around them in a constant state of connection, interaction and separation.  From moments of exquisite cosmological perfection to grotesque evolutionary accidents, the dancers demonstrate the ceaseless propulsion of the reality of permanent change.

The five dancers step through a digital portal into a unique, other-worldly experience.  Mortal Engine uses a sophisticated video tracking system to control and generate lighting and graphic images in response to the dancer’s movement and position.  These interactive technologies allow the dancers’ physical gestures to extend and manipulate the video world that surrounds them.

Mortal Engine is a continuation of a collaboration between Chunky Move’s Artistic Director Gideon Obarzanek and software engineer Frieder Weiss, who first worked together on the solo interactive performance, Glow.  The collaboration is about creating a fictional fusion of biology and technology.  At times Mortal Engine is an illustrative extension of the dancers’ movements; at times it is a visual expression of internal emotions the dance is evoking; at others it becomes a self-contained, animated environment.
Distinctive yet unpredictable, Chunky Move uses diverse media to connect dance with contemporary culture.  Gideon Obarzanek collaborates with a range of artists across music, design, fashion and film.  Established in 1995 by Obarzanek and Garry Stewart, Chunky Move became the official dance company of Victoria in 1998, and has since toured nationally and internationally to Europe, Asia and North and South America.  Seeking to constantly engage with the broader definition of contemporary dance, Chunky Move’s work has included installations, dance films and new media as well as its site-specific and theatrical live productions.

Gideon Obarzanek’s work is directly inspired by popular culture, including pulp fiction, cartoon animation and electronica.  His choreographic work features a distinctive, brutal physicality and dark satire.  Born in Melbourne and spending his early childhood in Israel, Obarzanek trained in jazz and classical ballet before joining the Queensland Ballet.  While there, Obarzanek pursued his choreographic interests, creating works for workshops and conferences and exploring the cross-over between dance and films.  He continued his choreographic work while a dancer with Sydney Dance Company, before working as an independent performer and choreographer within Australia and abroad. 

Obarzanek’s choreography consistently seeks ways to investigate the dance genre and extend its form, infusing his works with irony and witty self-reference.  A recent recipient of New York’s Bessie Award for Outstanding Choreography/Creation for Tense Dave, other awards include two Melbourne Green Room Awards for I Want To Dance Better At Parties (Sydney Festival 2006), a Mo Award for Best Choreography for Bonehead and the Prime Minister’s Young Creative Fellowship in 1996.

Frieder Weiss is a software engineer for various German companies including Bosch and Siemens.  The system he created, Eyecon, allows the individual muscle contractions to affect sound and projection, so for example, a dancer’s heartbeat can control the music’s tempo.

Mortal Engine is Chunky Move’s third show with Sydney Festival after I Want To Dance Better At Parties (2006) and Tense Dave (2004).

Mortal Engine is part of Sydney Festival’s About An Hour Movers & Shakers series.

Where: Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House Bennelong Point, East Circular Quay
When: Preview January 16 at 9.00pm
January 17 & 19 at 9.00pm January 18 at 6.00pm & 9.00pm
January 20 at 3.00pm & 6.00pm
Duration: 55mins, no interval
Price: $25
Bookings: Sydney Opera House  02 9250 7777


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