All art is subjective. This is a major part of both its beauty and its appeal and also the cause of many disagreements. Art has the capability of bringing us together as well as dividing us..

Everyone has their own personal different prism of experience and thus filters through their individual lenses.

I like it.
I don’t like it.
It becomes very polarised as too many things in today’s society are.

Where is the grey?
It exists, people.

Can we escape our limiting and limited understanding?
How open are we able to be?
How do we deal with the various challenges of life?

Israeli born dancer and choreographer Omer Backley-Astrachan creates Terrarium, a contemporary dance piece with collaborators and dancers:
Allie Graham, Jess Goodfellow, Renata Commisso, Sharon Backley-Astrachan.

It is described as “A series of short stories, each delves into a different aspect of life, love and death.”


Contemporary dance is the perfect example of subjectivity in action as there is rarely dialogue and the audience has to translate what we see and hear in this expression of dance. It can be seen as an insight into the human condition but equally it could be some flexible dancers making a series of random shapes.

I am by no means an expert but I have seen many dance shows over the years and contemporary dance seems to be the most dividing.
Audiences in general usually want a nice bow to tie it off and put it into a context that is easily understood. It is easy to be perceived as pretentious or failing.

This is not the case with Terrarium.
It is a piece that evokes thought and has moments of wonder and emotion.
What I love about this world is the infinite possibilities and the many ways the art can be processed.


The piece, which is still in the work in progress stage, begins with the 4 dancers standing in a line facing the audience with one hand on hip and staring out whilst baroque music plays. This opening is striking and gently confronting.

Inviting an audience to a work in progress showing is massively useful for the artists and incredibly interesting and a wonderful sneak peak into the process that is rarely seen by the public outside of the rehearsal rooms.

A great example of this is watching the wonderful, genius English comedian story-teller, Daniel Kitson. He has been putting on ‘work in progress’ shows for years before he finalises the piece and I have seen both his WIP and the finished performance of several of his shows. I enjoyed the WIP pieces more than the end product (although the end product is still incredible). The insight into the process of the artist is like sneaking a peek behind the curtain of the method of the artist. Seeing the wizard. It’s a privilege to be part of the development of the piece.


There are interesting uses of ‘tableau vivant’ (living pictures) during the piece and this adds to its power. Statues and movement. The stop and the start. As I said before, it can be confronting but there is nothing more brave for a performer than standing still and looking straight at an audience. Direct connection. This opening tableau brought to mind Stanley Kubrick’s magnificent Barry Lyndon.

There is a moment halfway through the piece when one of the dancers stands centre stage, whilst the other 3 retreat to the darkness of side stage, and she sings; a line and then silence and then repeat. There is space and silence here juxtaposed with the sound of the voice singing. This puts the audience into the place of uncertainty and is again brave and the purpose of true art.
Try, experiment and be not afraid of failure, it is an integral part of the journey.

The four dancers are talented and give emotional performances. The blending of movement and feeling works a treat.


Ephemeral and difficult to categorise, Terrarium show us emotions and moments as opposed to traditional story-telling, this allows (as it should be) the audience to interpret the art without being hand-held through the performance.

According to the choreographer Omer, the work takes short stories with subjects including what it means to be foreign and lonely and creates with the wonderful dancers a piece that will stay with you, whether you ‘understand’ it or not.

Terrarium premiered as part of The Flying Nun by BrandX in Darlinghurst, Sydney in March 2019.

I look forward to seeing the growth of this interesting piece.