REVIEW | Arkadia

(c) GregoryLorenzutti


A Theatrical Triumph Blending Myth, Sci-Fi, and Contemporary Dance

Reviewed by Brendan Daynes

Melanie Lane’s latest production, Arkadia, is an exquisite dance opera that transcends traditional artistic boundaries. This a mythic dance-work, imagines life and afterlife in a paradisiacal garden, blending speculative utopias and science fiction into an immersive experience that lingers long after the final bow, inviting spectators to traverse a realm where gods, nymphs, and aliens exist in harmonious yet strange juxtaposition.

The plot is an abstract yet resonant exploration of a utopian Garden of Paradise. Here, mythic entities embody the transitions between the natural and digital worlds, creating a space where the lines between reality and fantasy are artfully blurred. Lane’s vision encourages reflection on profound existential themes, making the audience ponder the delicate balance between life and death, and the potential for rebirth and transformation.

Lane’s choreography is a masterclass in contemporary dance, showcasing the exceptional skill and versatility of the performers. The dancers, including Rachel Coulson, Tyrel Dulvarie, Benjamin Hancock, Samuel Harnett-Welk, and Georgia Rudd, exhibit a seamless transition from collective movements to moments of poignant solitude. Their synchronisation in unison sequences is awe-inspiring, while their individual solos allow each dancer’s unique artistry to shine through. 

A particularly striking aspect of the choreography is the incorporation of high heel platform boots. This unconventional footwear choice adds a dramatic visual and auditory element to the performance, integrating with the soundscape in a way that is both innovative and compelling. The dancers’ ability to maintain grace and precision while navigating these challenging costumes speaks volumes about their technical prowess and adaptability.

The production elements are meticulously crafted to enhance the otherworldly experience. Set and costume designer Eugyeene Teh has created a visual feast that is both simple and profoundly effective. The costumes feature clean lines and a minimalist aesthetic, with moments of unexpected creativity, such as the boots, which become integral to the choreography and overall visual impact.

The set, originally conceptualised by Marg Horwell and brought to life by Teh, is dominated by a pool of water. This feature adds a dynamic element to the performance, allowing for inventive and captivating choreography that plays with reflections and the fluidity of movement. The water becomes a medium through which the dancers express the themes of the production, enhancing the dreamlike quality of the narrative.

Video design and animation by Kim Laughton, combined with Bosco Shaw’s lighting design, further immerse the audience in the mythical world. Laughton’s digital artistry seamlessly integrates with the live performance, creating a backdrop that oscillates between the fantastical and the real. Shaw’s lighting enhances the ethereal quality of the production, using shadows and highlights to create a mystical ambiance that envelops the entire theatre. Composer Clark’s original score is an auditory journey that perfectly complements the visual and choreographic elements.

Arkadia stands out as a unique theatrical experience that resonates deeply with its audience. The production’s ability to combine diverse art forms into a cohesive and compelling narrative is a testament to the extraordinary talent involved. From the visionary direction and choreography of Melanie Lane to the exceptional performances of the dancers and the innovative contributions of the production team, every aspect works in harmony to create a mesmerising experience.

Arkadia played as part of Melbourne’s RISING festival at The Substation from 5th June – 8th June 2024. For more information, visit

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