Dance review: Infinitely Closer, Festival Theatre

A boundary-pushing experiment with a powerful impact.
Infinitely Closer. Image is three dancers in tight flesh coloured t-shirtsa and grey pants, two close to the camera, one at the back of the stage, spotlit and bent over, with large screens covered in projections of other dancers. Audience members can be seen seated to the far right and far left.

After six touring performances, Singapore-based The Human Expression (T.H.E) Dance Company brought its latest project centred on human connection to Adelaide. Infinitely Closer could be described as an experience, rather than a performance – it invited audiences onto the stage at eye-level with the dancers, encouraging interaction with the performers and set.

The “stage” was separated from the 360-degree audience seating area by mere masking tape, but this, for Adelaide’s audience at the opening performance, seemed to be enough of a clear boundary. Despite audience interaction being the intention, no one really overstepped into the dancers’ space during the show.

Infinitely Closer opened with three sheer, large-scale panels arranged in triangular formation, trapping Australian Laotian guest performer William (Billy) Keohavong within. As the show progressed, Keohavong went through different states of being, from confinement to finding freedom, agency and connection with the other six company dancers – Ng Zu You, Klievert Jon Mendoza, Fiona Thng, Haruka Leilani Chan, Chang En and Franky Drousioti.

Artistic Director Kuik Swee Boon was conscious about letting the dancers find their own expression and character and, together, the six company members made the most of this opportunity, interacting with audience members and challenging them to insert themselves into the performance. Kuik’s set concept design was complemented by Adrian Tan’s dynamic lighting choices – a full spectrum of colour and form to drive home visual and emotional impact – while sound and composition by Kent Lee rounded out the fully immersive performance. As the dancers zoomed around the set and contorted their bodies with awe-inspiring control, Choi In Sook’s costumes fitted them like a second skin.

Projection mapping to the sheer panels and, at times, matched to the dancers’ bodies, explored the potential of technology in a considered manner, never detracting from the flesh and blood human expression of the dancers. The 80-minute performance passed in a flurry and time became a slippery concept in the push and pull of the choreography.

‘Infinitely Closer’ by T.H.E. Dance Company, presented as part of OzAsia Festival 2023. Photo: ArtsHub.

Rather than reading too closely into the figurative, Infinitely Closer’s most powerful impact lay in its abstract expressions. The dancers’ movements were immaculate, and it was impossible to imagine how such organic – no less impactful and challenging – physicality could have been choreographed or rehearsed. While there was clear intention in the twist of a torso or stomping of the feet, it felt natural and intuitive, in the sense that there was no right or wrong. The level of improvisation would surely depend on audience interaction/interference on any given night, but the dancers were clearly equipped with sufficient professionalism to deal with whatever was thrown their way.

Read: Performance review: 我咽下一枚铁做的月亮 I Swallowed a Moon Made of Iron, Dunstan Playhouse

Infinitely Closer was an experimental masterpiece. Unafraid to push boundaries, it was clear that this project will grow with every iteration, together with the dancers and the audience. Due to its nature, Infinitely Closer was a performance that would be worth re-experiencing, time and time again.

Infinitely Closer by T.H.E. Dance Company
Concept and Artistic Direction: Kuik Swee Boon
Choreography: Kuik Swee Boon in collaboration with the performers
Dramaturgy: Kok Heng Leun
Lighting Design: Adrian Tan
Sound Design and Music Composition: Kent Lee
Spatial Sound Design: Guo Ningru
Soundscape System Support: d&b audiotechnik Asia Pacific
Projection Content Design: SEESAW (Jay Lei and Jay Lee)
Filming of Projection Content: Pangolin Films and melonrock
Projection System Design: Low Wee Cheng (Ctrl Fre@k)
Set Conceptualisation Design: Kuik Swee Boon
Set Realisation: ARTFACTORY
Set Fabrication: INDC Pte Ltd
Costume Design: Choi In Sook
Costume Realisation: Fertileland
Performers: Billy Keohavong, Ng Zu You, Klievert Mendoza, Fiona Thng, Haruka Leilani Chan, Chang En and Franky Drousioti
Producer: Athelyna Swee

Infinitely Closer was performed on 27 and 28 October at Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, as part of OzAsia Festival 2023; check out the full program.

This writer travelled to Adelaide as a guest of OzAsia Festival and the Adelaide Festival Centre.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. She took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs and was the project manager of ArtsHub’s diverse writers initiative, Amplify Collective. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne and was most recently engaged in consultation for the Emerging Writers’ Festival and ArtsGen. Instagram @lleizy_