The dancing body is a marvel, and when many dancing bodies collect together as a whole, they acquire a kind of grandeur.

This is the premise of Colossus, by Melbourne-based dance-maker Stephanie Lake now showing as part of Melbourne International Arts Festival. It is a striking work of inventiveness, power and ambition.

Colossus. All photographs © Mark Gambino

Fifty dancers dressed in black lie on their backs in a circle on stage, feet forward and arms above their heads, as the audience wanders in. In the intimate space, they can notice birthmarks, tattoos and dark nail polish on the bodies before them. The sense of distance and anonymity usually present in the auditorium is disrupted and dancers and audience alike feel each other’s presence.

A single note announces the start and the circle becomes alive, arms and torsos creating ripples of movement. From there, the dancers explore the latent dynamics allowed by a mass of lithe bodies, and Lake displays ingenuity in teasing out thoughts and ideas.

There is the individual versus the group, a soloist who breaks away from the circle. There is the group controlled by an individual, responding to gestures like automatons. The...

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