Both a dance work and an artwork, Spectra explores the inevitability of connection

Seven dancers stand in line, each with a hand holding another’s elbow and as their arms rotate there appears to be only one endless arm rippling and floating, in serpentine swirls.

Simple yet mesmeric, it was the most beautiful moment of Dancenorth’s Spectra, and one that summed up the work itself.

Spectra depicts the way we connect, our need to connect, and how one thing leads to another.

Only an hour long, Spectra stays in the memory for days.

The power of the piece is the way the choreography flips from meditative moments to anguished twitches, from explosive dance patterns to complete stillness, and how the touch of one dancer triggers a rebounding action from another.

The work was performed for the first time in Sydney this week as part of the Sydney Festival although it premiered in 2015 as a collaboration between the contemporary dance company, Dancenorth and Batik, an all-female Butoh group based in Tokyo.

The cast in Sydney represents the two dance styles.

The Dancenorth performers are Kyle Page, the company’s artistic director, Amber Haines, the associate artistic director, and dancers Mason Kelly and Jenni Large joined by freelance Australian dancer, Josh Mu while the Batik dancers are Rie Makino and Misako Tanaka.

With intriguing and inventive set and lighting designs Spectra is as much an artwork as it is a dance.

The set design of the Japanese artist, Tatsuo Miyajima, and the lighting design of Niklas Pajanti add immeasurably to the production.

The philosophy of Miyajima, a Buddhist, aligns with Page and Haines initial concept for Spectra.

Coincidentally, Miyajima’s body of work over many years can be seen until early March at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art in an exhibition titled Connect With Everything.

Within the exhibition is an installation called Mega Death that displays thousands of flickering LED lights.

Suspended LED lights are also a major element of Spectra’s set.

Early in the piece, the lights flicker one by one until they appear to be creating their own choreography to the music of Jiro Matsumoto, who sits at the side of the stage throughout the show using his guitar and voice to create a mystical soundscape.

The women dressed in ghostly white dresses move like fabrics blowing in the wind.

The Japanese women, in particular, reveal their inner feelings with microscopic gestures, statue like poses, shivering and leaning while the male dancers throw themselves at one point into gymnastic spins and flips across the floor.

Spectra expresses the first “noble truth” of Buddhism, “existence is suffering”, but it’s more likely to leave you elated than downhearted.

The season at the Seymour Centre, Sydney, was brief and will end on 15 January, but the company will be performing another work, Attractor, at the Arts Centre Melbourne in late February.

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Rie Makino, Spectra, photo © Prudence Upton

Rie Makino, Spectra, photo © Jenni Large

Spectra, Dancenorth, photo © Ashley McLellan

Spectra, Dancenorth, photo © Ashley McLellan

Tatsuo Miyajima at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, photo © Anna Kucrea