Dance review: SHOP I AM, Melbourne Fashion Festival

Experimental dance that explored whether fashion is intertwined with identity.

One night only, in an art exhibition as part of Melbourne Fashion festival, SHOP I AM, choreographed by Nebahat Erpolat mingled boldness and tenderness with high impact.

In red tulle and lilac Lycra, Benjamin Hurley flounced into the centre of the exhibition space, standing in balletic fifth position, posing with his arms flung outwards like arrows or signposts. He lunged towards the floor with inexplicable grace and flicked his hair as he turned. Emma Riches entered the space with a similar oval-like movement, reaching and holding with Rodinesque composure.

They danced over a sheet of bright pink silk, shimmering like a sunset, lifting it at one point to wrap Hurley like a present, with ribbons around his neck and waist, gesturing towards the work’s themes of concealment and artifice.  

The duo blew bubble-gum pink balloons, letting them fly around the space, with a laconic gaze cast over their faces. They launched towards and away from each other, stopping within arm’s reach in front of audience members. The work evolved into a frantic pace, as Hurley skipped around the room, arms behind his back and Riches delivered a monologue: ‘I can’t stand the way you walk… I cringe every time I hear you.’

The words ‘narcissistic, annoying, nauseating’ were thrown into the air like grenades as they danced – discombobulated and frustrated. The loud random piano keys of the soundtrack by Daniel Tucceri amplified the messiness. 

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Hurley switched his iPhone on speaker, playing Katy Perry’s ‘Hot N Cold’, emulating the fickleness of the piece, crumpling down into a pitiable, though beautiful pile. The dancers appeared worn down and disturbed by expectation and materialism, yet remained innately beautiful and precious. An experimental dance work that brimmed with liveliness and interaction with the audience and setting, SHOP I AM was a riveting work that required us to interrogate our relationship with image, and our own ideals and projections.

SHOP I AM, Melbourne Fashion Festival
Fashion Culture Program
West End Art Space

Choreographer: Nebahat Erpolat
Dancers: Emma Riches and Benjamin Hurley
Costume designer: Sarah Karklins
Sound artist: Daniel Tucceri

SHOP I AM was performed on 10 March 2023 as part of Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Leila Lois is a dancer and writer of Kurdish and Celtic heritage. Her poetry, essays and reviews have been published in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada by Southerly Journal, LA Review of Books, Honey Literary Journal, Right Now, Delving Into Dance and more.