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Am I

Jennifer Porter

Am I is a journey of the senses, a dreamy, tolling experience to be enjoyed, not over-analysed
Am I

Image: www.shaunparkercompany.com

Am I
, a music-dance collaboration between Shaun Parker and Nick Wales, fusing east and west, is an ambitious production which explores the essence of identity, borrowing from the doctrines of science and religion. An exquisite musical score by Nick Wales is skilfully rendered by a live band and vocalists perched on a platform which is set back above the dancers. The band is only revealed partway through the show and the effect is truly magical. This ethereal quality is enhanced by the flawless vocals of soprano, Jessica O’Donoghue, Alyx Dennison and Jess Green.

The beginning of the show is spellbinding, using every media device to evoke an awakening or beginning: the gradual fading in the pulsing of light, breathtaking vocals and the exquisite Kuchipudi dance of Shantala Shivalingappa, whose performance and narration is used throughout the performance to bind the various movements. The narrative borrows from Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, Religion by Alain de Botton among others. Social media also gets a nod in these musings and proselytising. Although perfectly delivered and witty, at times it feels as if the spoken component could have done with an edit; it is a little indulgent and overly prescriptive.

In the second movement, the choreography is derivative of Chunky Move’s Aorta in its depiction of life processes, biomechanics and interconnectedness. The incorporation of steel batons into the performance as a ‘symbol of man’s acquisition of knowledge’ in his ‘anthropological trajectory’ doesn’t quite hit the mark, however, their use in the show is visually mesmerising. A highlight of the performance is the depiction of the slow mechanics of a clock: a rhythmical musical composition backing gentle vacillation of the rods in the hands of the dancers with the pulsing lighting behind, proving seductively hypnotic. As with the majority of the show, the different elements are cleverly and artfully integrated.

The lighting, a wall of warm toned globes set behind the dancers, is used effectively in representing the power of the sun and other luminescent forces of nature. At the end of the first movement when the lights came on at full power suddenly, it’s like a solar explosion and we’re forced to look away. The wall of lights takes on a persona of its own, a credit to the lighting designers and technicians.

Am I is a journey of the senses, not so much bang and drama, more a dreamy, tolling experience in the vein of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Rating; 4 out of 5 stars

Am I
Shaun Parker & Company
Choreography: Shaun Parker
Music:  Nick Wales

Melbourne Festival
The Coopers Malthouse
23 - 26 Oct


What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Jennifer Porter is a Melbourne-based writer and reviewer. She is currently working on her first manuscript, a work of fiction set in the inner suburbs of Melbourne.


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