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Brendan O’Connor, Tony Yap


Visual media artist: 

Khaled Sabsabi


Creative collaborator/performer: Rob Meldrum


Musician/sound artist: 

Tim Humphrey



Kirsty Ellem, Kath Papas Productions



Dionysus Molecule


This is a powerful new work that sees Tony Yap and Brendan O’Connor, dancers, joined by acclaimed Sydney-based visual artist Khaled Sabsabi, creative collaborator Robert Meldrum,  and composer Tim Humphrey. Dionysus Molecule parallels ancient Greek mythology and theatre traditions with the mediumship in Asian trance practices.  In ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ (1872), the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche contrasted Dionysus with the god Apollo as a symbol of the fundamental, unrestrained aesthetic principle of force, music, and intoxication versus the principle of sight, form, and beauty represented by Apollo.

Both the Greek and Asian perspectives are sympathetic to the idea that spiritual transformation is intrinsic to theatre practices; this is fundamental to the work’s poetic narrative. This inquiry serves as a foreground to Tony and Brendan questioning issues of masculinity, the deep bond between them that developed through the theme of their fathers’ deaths, and their creative practice together as dancers with a 20-year age difference.

"Dionysus Molecule is an enactive, immersive, ritual work. While aesthetically informed by Tony Yap’s distinctive mixture of Malay shamanism and Butoh, its rituals also hail from contemporary performance. Yap’s early experience with theatre maker Renato Cuocolo locates his aesthetic firmly in the camp of those who want performance to be striking or powerful, rather than representational or conceptual. The figure of Artaud oversees this Dionysian realm. […] The collaborators of Dionysus Molecule are all skilled in their own right. The world they have created transforms the everyday into a theatre of the night, a sensorium of time passing. The challenge (and risk) of the work lies in its intertwining of distinct traditions and styles. The mark of its success could be measured through the impact of its impulses and intensities. Would Dionysus have been pleased? I like to think so."


– Philippa Rothfield, Real Time 129"

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Butcher Boys


The quietly majestic Smith Street icon, the Patterson Building is scheduled for demolition to make way for one of the ubiquitous inner-city apartment developments is a tragedy. However, Tony Yap's use of the airy, vaulted and subtly elegant 1911 first floor interior of this former furniture emporium is far from tragic. Indeed the raised, pressed tin ceiling and columns through the space added to a refined air that complemented the sometimes delicate and always considered aesthetic of Yap's contemporary dance work, Butcher Boys.

Upon entering the space, the audience is met with a number of large photographs along the foyer walls. These explore the occurrence of roadkill on Australian highways and contain some startlingly beautiful images. Probing further into the space, it becomes apparent that the front half of the entire first floor has been converted into a series of chambers created by old office partitions and giant black curtains. Two small, interconnected office rooms had also been given over to visual art with installations that explored more visceral subject matter, replete with real skins and fake intestines. All the sculptural elements were suspended with butchers hooks. It was in this room that the piece began. 


It was here for the next hour that Yap, Lewis and the sometimes mesmeric Brendan O Connor moved to the compelling sounds of Kevin Lo. Exploring these themes physically the dancers worked together and independently to create some stunning moments. Highlights included O Connor carrying the table and Lewis and Yap moving with the butcher's paper. 

An elegant and interesting night of contemporary dance; Yap is a skilled performance maker and has created a stunning environment. The work is well made and there is not much scope for the mind to wander. 

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