The Sensationalists is an immersive dance experience

Photo courtesy of David Cooper.
Photo courtesy of David Cooper.
Photo courtesy of David Cooper.

Up close and personal on the Cultch stage, the 605 Collective danced around, in between, over, and under us as we were immersed in their performance.

This experimental work had the dancers wearing headphones while singing or speaking to us about various topics, such as the Milky Way galaxy. It was very interesting to see how audience members reacted to the dancers as they repeated a sequence of movements and we slowly began to mimic them. Throughout the entire show, there seemed to be a collective consciousness at work.

If you weren’t interested in standing on the Cultch stage for most of the performance, there were cheaper balcony seats available where you could comfortably watch the action unfold below. While I had been apprehensive about joining the group on the stage, I was glad that I wasn’t stuck in the balcony where I wouldn’t have been able to experience the full effect of this work.

As the dancers moved through us, hands gently touched backs to signal their presence and they gradually came together, moving as a unit and subtly carving out an open space in the centre of the stage. They took turns placing their headphones on an audience member who would timidly copy them by singing what they heard.

After we all felt a bit more comfortable on stage, the group began walking over each other, holding audience members’ hands for support. Their choreography was impressive as they climbed over each other making their way to the back wall where they pressed one dancer straight up and brought a group of us to hold up our hands as she gently laid down on top of the crowd. Another beautiful moment was when she stood on the shoulders of two others and they moved her legs, as if she was walking on air.

After what felt like a very short time, we were guided to stand along the back wall behind the dancers who gradually led us to our seats, where a pair of headphones were waiting for us. Now it was the six dancers’ turn to use the entire space of the stage, performing their sweeping, athletic choreography. A microphone at the front of the stage broadcasted into our headphones as the dancers took turns telling us secrets about each other and talking about sensory experiences.   

This collaboration between the 605 Collective and Theatre Replacement is an innovative project exploring the senses and the boundary between audience member and performer. That relationship was blurred many times throughout the performance, and it was thrilling to be a part of their creation.

The Sensationalists will be presented by the 605 Collective and Theatre Replacement May 12 to 16 at the Cultch. For more information, visit thecultch.com.

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