ACMI teams with Sydney Dance Company and Closer Productions on VR work

17 February, 2016 by Staff Writer

Stuck in the Middle With You.


ACMI will present a virtual reality collaboration between Closer Productions and the Sydney Dance Company.

Jointly directed by filmmaker Matthew Bate and director/choreographer Gideon Obarzanek, Stuck in the Middle With You allows the viewer to become part of the on-stage performance – a live dance work originally choreographed by Obarzanek for the Sydney Dance Company.

The VR work – the first that ACMI has presented – will run from March 5 to March 14.

Stuck in the Middle With You is a unique work in its approach to VR", ACMI CEO Katrina Sedgwick said. 

"This is a cross-disciplinary collaboration which uses pioneering VR technology to capture a live performance experience in an entirely new, immersive platform. It not only places the viewer in the middle of the stunning dancers of Sydney Dance Company in a way that could never be possible in a theatre space, but it is both funny and surprising in this adaptation of this critically acclaimed dance piece”.

Sydney Dance Company Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela commissioned the original dance work on which the film was based, and jumped at the chance to be part of the project.

“As Australia’s leading contemporary dance company we are committed to being at the forefront of new developments”, he said. 

Stuck in the Middle With You provides an incredible opportunity to not only showcase Australian choreography and dance talent, but also to expand audiences by bringing more and more people – quite literally, through the virtual reality experience – into the world of contemporary dance.”

Closer Productions' Matthew Bate previously collaborated with Obarzanek on a short docu-drama, I Want To Dance Better At Parties, which won the Dendy Award for Best Short Film at the 2014 Sydney Film Festival.

“I liked the idea that for the first time ever Sydney Dance Company could dance for you and you alone – that their focus would not be an audience in the stalls, but rather the audience would be you, standing amongst them on stage,” Bate said.

”This collaboration has enabled an exciting and daring venture into this new world of virtual reality. To have everyone come on board this experiment in dance storytelling with such enthusiasm has been incredible, and to have it commissioned by and shown at ACMI speaks to a wonderful kind of creative risk taking". 

"We hope that by utilising this new storytelling technology the viewer can experience dance in a new way and from a perspective they may never otherwise get. I think we’re on the verge of a revolution in the way we experience stories using VR – and we are more than excited to have taken this first step with these incredible partners.”

Choreographer Obarzanek said the work inverts the traditional spectator-dancer perspective.

“Working closely with dancers in a studio I have always thought the best experience of what they do is to be right amongst them. VR literally places you in the centre free to look around and I find this position so natural I'm convinced in a few short years we will look back at traditional screen viewing as a contrived way of seeing”.

A public panel and industry immersion session will take place at ACMI on March 6.