Dance reviews: Sixbythree, Riverside Theatres

A contemporary dance festival at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres saw three separate dance works presented over two days.
A single dancer is spotlit. She is all in white and covered in powder that falls off her as she poses.



The premise of Lien is inspired. One dancer (in this case, Clementine Benson) and one audience member came together on a stage that was completely bare except for two chairs facing each other within the circle of a bright spotlight. The auditorium was also empty; the dancer and audience member the only people in the theatre. 

Entering Riverside’s Lennox Theatre and taking a seat opposite Benson felt like entering a church and sitting across from a priest. The atmosphere was holy. Reverential. After taking my seat, Benson asked various questions about my life: What inspires me? What is my family like? Where do I feel safe? When was the last time I truly felt heard? 

It felt like a confessional – in the most pleasant, non-judgemental way. 

Then it was time for Benson to tell me about her life. But instead of speaking in words, she used the form she knows best: dance. So began a very special private performance: a one-off show that will never be repeated. 

Originally from Adelaide, Benson – who trained at the New Zealand School of Dance, the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance and the Canada National Ballet School – is clearly very talented. It was a privilege to see her fluidity and strength up close in such an intimate setting. 

The show was presented at 15-minute intervals and was only experienced by a small number of people, due to its one-on-one nature. It’s not for everyone (certainly not those who dislike audience participation), but it was certainly unique and interesting. 

By Lewis Major
Artistic Director, Choreographer, Lighting Designer, Visual Designer: Lewis Major

Composer: Various

Performer: Clementine Benson



Cowboy was billed as ‘an interactive, solo contemporary dance work that unpacks one’s ability to have a complete, genuine and meaningful experience as an imagined self’. Like Lien, it was an interesting premise. 

Created and performed by Michael Smith and held in the Riverside Courtyard, this one-man show was initially intriguing. The setting was not a typical theatre set-up; the audience was spread throughout the space, some sitting, some standing, some in groups, others alone. Smith entered the courtyard before proceeding to slowly dress up in his cowboy clobber. 

What followed was a piece showcasing Smith’s commitment to “becoming a cowboy”.

The show was essentially a pastiche of stereotypical cowboy behaviour, with Smith miming the machinations of a hard-drinking, horse-riding, gun-toting character from a Western movie. There was dancing, a fair bit of audience participation and a few laughs. 

Perhaps Smith wasn’t in peak form on the night (Friday 5 July), but much of the dancing seemed sloppy and not very well-executed. 

Overall, to this reviewer at least, Cowboy felt like watching someone play dress-ups. It was more like a self-indulgent cosplay show than a true theatrical experience.

By Michael Smith 
Producer: The Farm
Music Composition: Ben Ely
Sound Designer: Anna Whitaker 
Lighting and Production: Chloe Ogilvie 
Mentor: Gavin Webber 
Dramaturgs: Martyn Coutts, Liesel Zink, Gavin Webber
Performer: Michael Smith



As the name suggests, Quartette comprised four separate pieces, in this case Two, Mort Cygne, Lament and Epilogue.

Australian choreographer Lewis Major directed all four pieces; he was also choreographer of all but the Two cycle, which was choreographed by Major’s mentor, British dance luminary Russell Maliphant OBE.

The works were performed by three dancers: the previously mentioned Clementine Benson, as well as Elsi Faulks and Stefaan Morrow. 

Two featured all three dancers on stage, illuminated by their own individual spotlights, dancing to edgy, electronic music composed by Andy Cowton. The effect was thrillingly mechanical, urgent and exciting. 

The next piece, Mort Cygne, was a modern reimagining of The Dying Swan, the solo dance originally created by Russian choreographer Mikhail Fokine and performed by Anna Pavlova (after whom the pavlova dessert is named) more than 4000 times. This time, it was performed by Benson, who beautifully portrayed the inherent sadness of the piece. 

Lament was quite a different affair. A duet performed by Faulks and Morrow, it had Morrow carrying and moving Faulks through various dances and poses. Both were excellent in this fast-flowing piece, which saw Faulks barely touch the ground for the whole five minutes. The fitness and strength on display was astonishing, with Morrow the central figure around which Faulks continually twisted, turned and twirled. 

Read: Exhibition review: Wilder Times, Bundanon

In Quartette’s final piece, Epilogue, Benson portrayed a ghostly, ethereal figure covered in white powder and creating clouds of white dust (which resembled mist) with each movement. As Benson danced in the “mist”, she made striking outlines on the powder-covered floor. The combined effect of Benson’s strong, beautiful dancing, the “mist” and the music by Dan Yates (after Debussy) was mesmerising, presenting a suitably impressive conclusion to this enthralling work. 

Artistic Director: Lewis Major

Choreographer: Russell Maliphant OBE
Music: Andy Cowton
Lighting: Michael Hulls

Performers: Clementine Benson, Elsi Faulks, Stefaan Morrow

Mort Cygne
Choreographer: Lewis Major
Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer: Clementine Benson

Choreographer: Lewis Major
Performers: Elsi Faulks, Stefaan Morrow


Choreographer, Costume, Lighting Designer: Lewis Major
Composer: Dane Yates (after Debussy)
Performer: Clementine Benson

Sixbythree was held on 5 and 6 July 2024 at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta NSW.

Peter Hackney is an Australian-Montenegrin writer and editor who lives on Dharug and Gundungurra land in Western Sydney - home to one of Australia’s most diverse and dynamic arts scenes. He has a penchant for Australian theatre but is a lover of the arts in all its forms. A keen ‘Indonesianist’, Peter is a frequent traveller to our northern neighbour and an advanced student of Bahasa Indonesia. Muck Rack: