3 out of 5 stars
Champions 2017 Syd Fest 1 (Photograph: Heidrun Löhr)
Photograph: Heidrun Löhr
Champions 2017 Syd Fest 2 (Photograph: Heidrun Löhr)
Photograph: Heidrun Löhr
Champions 2017 Syd Fest 3 (Photograph: Heidrun Löhr)
Photograph: Heidrun LöhrMelanie and Marnie Palomares
Champions 2017 Syd Fest 4 (Photograph: Heidrun Löhr)
Photograph: Heidrun Löhr

Eleven female dancers put the moves on the footy field in this fusion of sports and theatre

Champions features a diverse ensemble of female dancers performing choreography inspired by footy, with bookends and interstitial sections of commentary by Channel Seven sports presenter Mel McLaughlin. Simply put, the show presents the dancers as if they were sportswomen (which they are in a way – they certainly look field-ready), and the work itself as if it were a footy match.

It’s a neat concept, devised by choreographer Martin del Amo and FORM Dance Projects in consultation with the Western Sydney Wanderers' new Women's League. The intersection of dance and sport yields some good choreography and laugh-out-loud comedy – particularly McLaughlin’s commentary, which parodies many of the tropes of that banter, whether it’s commentating the action or talking to players behind the scenes.

It’s powerful to have 11 female dancers carving out space in a theatre at any time, let alone in relation to a sport dominated by men. There are interesting facts offered up during the show that suggest that there’s a far greater hunger for female footy than many of the broadcasters or advertisers would care to admit.

The show also makes a parallel between the physical toll of dancing versus sport, with a section in which ‘player stats’ are scrolled through on a bank of screens above the stage: number of shows, awards and meniscus tears, for example.

While Champions touches on issues of sexism, gender inequality and the pay gap, and the different ways we talk about culture and sports in Australian society, the ideas aren’t developed as much as they might be, and the majority of the work is comprised of long choreographic sequences, too many of which repetitive and overlong, passing from hypnotic to tedious. The show’s striking and luxe-looking aesthetic (from the bank of lights and screens, to the interplay of bright-coloured guernseys on bright green astroturf) wears thin.

Even though Champions hasn’t stretched quite far enough beyond being a great concept, the talent of the dancers is undeniable, and a pleasure to watch.

Champions is part of Sydney Festival 2017.

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