Review: Football collides with contemporary dance in ‘Champions’ (Sydney Festival)

January 19th 2017

Champions (5) - photo by Heidrun Lohr

All images by Heidrun Lohr 

Champions is the football equivalent of that scene in Honey where Jessica Alba choreographs a dance inspired by the movements of basketball players. For this production, FORM Dance Projects have worked with the Western Sydney Football Club to create a piece that playfully tackles the similarities and differences between their two disciplines. The resulting performance is warm, cheeky and captivating.

The amount of people who watch the Soccer World Cup each year might outnumber the audience at Carriageworks significantly, but you still walk away from Champions with a sense that the elegance of sport and the athleticism of dance are comparable.

Champions (2) - photo by Heidrun Lohr

Walking into Bay 17, the atmosphere of a grand final match is palpable. It is in everything from the balloon-arched entrance to the delightfully comical mascot, following through to the tension in the dancers’ movements. It’s so real at times that the audience yell out whoops of encouragement from the ‘stands’.

Champions tows the line between sport and dance in an attempt to bring non-dance fans on side. It achieves this by being charmingly self-deprecating. In a pre-recorded ‘half-time interview’ with Channel 7 sports commentator Mel McLaughlin, dancer Carlee Mellow’s jokes; “You wouldn’t be the first person baffled by contemporary dance.”

Champions (1) - photo by Heidrun Lohr

But Champions does more than just mimic the movement of a football match. By poking fun at the classic tropes of sports commentary, the show leads you through the careers and personal stories of each of the dancers complete with the kinds of player stats you’d see in the televised coverage of any sports match. These stats include each player’s career highlights as well as number of injuries, children and years spent on Centrelink. Champions doesn’t shy away from confronting us with the realities of being a female athlete. In true Wesley Enoch style, it is art that makes you laugh and then makes you think.


WHAT: ‘Champions’ at Sydney Festival
WHEN: 17-22 January 2017
WHERE: Bay 17 at Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh
HOW MUCH: From $37 here



FBi’s Arts & Culture executive producer.

Read more from Nerida Ross