Sydney Festival 2024 promises to be bolder than ever

GöteborgsOperans Danskompani. Photo by Lennart Sjöberg.
GöteborgsOperans Danskompani. Photo by Lennart Sjöberg.

The mainstay of Sydney’s high summer season, Sydney Festival, sails back this January with a first class line-up of world premieres, extraordinary immersive experiences, cutting-edge public art, Australian exclusives, free events, trailblazing First Nations programming and an epic live music offering.

Once again, Sydneysiders and visitors are invited to rediscover their city differently – from parks to beaches, harbour inlets to retro fun parlours – proving there’s nowhere else but Sydney to experience an exhilarating summer of art. From 5 – 28 January 2024, get ready for 24 days of music, performance, theatre, art, fashion, circus and dance right across Greater Sydney. Featuring 26 world premieres, 29 Australian exclusives, 15 co-commissioned works, and 43 free events amidst an expansive program of local and international highlights, Sydney Festival will host more than 1,000 artists and over 150 events.

This year, Sydney’s iconic harbour will take centre stage, with works and events presented on – and in celebration of – water throughout January, including Puccini’s nautical one act opera, Il Tabarro, performed aboard the Carpentaria lightship, and live music from global roamers, Arka Kinari, whose bespoke sailing vessel serves as both their touring van and stage.

Sharing her third program as Festival Director, Olivia Ansell said, “Saltwater stories, freshwater stories and the weaving of over 1,000 local and international artists. Get ready for a blockbuster summer that speaks to the heart and soul of Sydney – the best harbour city in the world. With an explosive music program and the biggest to date, 2024 also offers spellbinding theatre, exquisite dance, electrifying circus and immersive experiences that lift Sydney’s underbelly – see you in January at the Thirsty Mile!”

One of Europe’s foremost contemporary dance companies, GöteborgsOperans Danskompani presents a Swedish double-bill of cutting-edge contemporary dance at the Roslyn Packer Theatre. In Skid, by Belgian and French choreographer Damien Jalet, 17 dancers battle gravity on a vertiginous, 34-degree slope – sliding, swaying, struggling back to the top as the dancers are quite literally pushed to the edge of their abilities to perform without toppling down the slope.

Then, in Sharon Eyal’s SAABA, an intoxicating dancefloor with pulsating rhythms sees dancers pushing movements to an unearthly extreme. Drawing from the catwalk and club to produce a hybrid choreography, Eyal’s dancers wear flesh-coloured body suits by Dior’s Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri and perform on demi-pointe for almost the entire work.

At Sydney Dance Company, two high-octane works from Australia and the UK explore class, gender and the fortitude of feminism. A highly physical work somewhere between dance, cabaret and performance art, Emma Harrison’s solo work Wolverine, explores critical notions of gender, power, the pervasiveness of feminine archetypes in our stories, and the repercussions of those tropes on women’s bodies. And in Hope Hunt and the Ascension into Lazarus, the id of the Northern Irish chav is broken down and raised again in Oona Doherty’s dextrous choreography. It’s a swaggering, loving tribute to a group rarely afforded space in contemporary dance.

Directed by Amber Haines and Kyle Page, Dancenorth Australia joins forces with three-time Grammy nominated Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote and sound artist Byron J. Scullin to create a soaring composition evoking pleasure and possibility. In Wayfinder, an undulating sound sculpture condenses and expands this scintillating score, immersing audiences in a new sonic dimension. Japanese-Australian visual artist Hiromi Tango offers her joyful, heart-expanding artwork to both the stage design and costumes for this sublime new performance.

Drawing on diasporic connections, Southeast Asian martial art silat, and Yawuru and Minangkabau dance forms, intercultural dance company Marrugeku brings to life the buried, haunting story of Broome’s pearling industry in Mutiara at the Seymour Centre. Marrugeku’s Dalisa Pigram and Singaporeans Soultari Amin Farid and Zee Zunnur co-choreograph and perform, collaborating with Broome ex-pearl diver Ahmat Bin Fadal. Reflecting on both the early colonial racism and the bonds between Malay peoples and First Peoples of the Kimberley, Mutiara is a celebration of the resilience, love and the strength of ancestors.

The Seymour Centre courtyard will be transformed to Banyan Pasar, a Southeast Asian market tucked away in a celebration of the rich, artistic culture of Cambodia and its neighbours. Featuring food trucks, tuk tuks, craft markets and live entertainment from local artists and DJs from the Southeast Asian-Australian communities, perfect for the hot summer nights.

The Hon. John Graham, MLC, NSW Minister for the Arts, Minister for Music and the Night-time Economy, said, “Sydney Festival brings our city to life in Summer. It opens a new year with a burst of cultural expression and artistic activity full of diverse ideas from around the world alongside a deep commitment to First Nations expression and a championing of the multicultural force we have become in NSW. The sounds, tastes and emotions of the communities the Festival interacts with kick off any year with great joy. It is why you are in Sydney in January. It is why so many people from around the country and the world want to be here, too.”

Sydney Festival runs 5 – 28 January 24. Tickets for all shows are now on sale. Visit www.sydneyfestival.org.au for more.

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