‘It’s Called Achilles’ // MELT Festival

‘It’s Called Achilles’ was joyous.

‘It’s Called Achilles’ formed part of the MELT Festival at Brisbane Powerhouse. It was a joyous and compelling work of solo dance performance brought to life by Dancenorth artists Michael Smith and Felix Sampson.

Originally commissioned by Dancenorth in 2021, this solo contemporary dance work performed by Smith included live accompaniment from composer Sampson. This undressing morphs Camp archetypes with depictions of self.

The short work took place in the ‘Studio’, an open space dimly lit and coated in a thin veil of smoky haze. The performance started suddenly with Smith emerging from a cavity in the wall panting and gasping – a sound design that, whilst initially coming from Smith’s own mouth, became integrated into the vocal work of the piece.

Audience members were scattered around the walls of the room and we were advised to move as required – even being requested or directed to move by the performer as the show went on.

The intimacy of the work was its greatest success. Dance, physical theatre and circus often occur at a distance – with an established spatial gap between performers and audience. ‘It’s Called Achilles’ flipped that expectation, with the performer dancing within hands reach – you could see the sweat and exhaustion, you could hear their breath. This completely changed the feel of the work, allowing audience members to connect deeply with the movements and feel included in the world of the show.

The piece was bathed in a glow of pink and purple as Smith writhed and filled the space of the studio. At some points, their movements seemed deeply internalised and self-explorative, and at other times, they seemed to encourage the audience to engage in their dynamic movements as they played with the spatial relationship between us and them.

For this reviewer, the work spoke of a journey from queer repression to queer expression. An intimate work of powerful storytelling that left audience members in a buoyant moment of celebration.

Culminating in the surprise appearance of delicious live music from Sampson – whose falsetto resonated and bounced off the walls of the studio, the artists took our hands and pulled the audience into a shared dance party that brought us into the space in a joyous outburst; filling the space with smoke and strobe.

‘It’s Called Achilles’ performed until November 26 at BRISBANE POWERHOUSE as part of the 2022 MELT festival. For more information visit their official website.

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