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Amardeep Sohi reviews Janice Parker's unsettling 'Private Dancer' / 9 September 2012

photo of a blurred screen with a vague figure of a dancer behind

Janice Parker's 'Private Dancer' plays with the boundaries between audience and performer, dancer and voyeur

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“Your journey is your own individual journey” states Richard Layzell as the audience congregate to around a large, white, installation, made up of five separate rooms, seated neatly in the level five function room of the Southbank Centre. As the audience move through this space in the hour long promenade piece, the experience is certainly unique. 

Directed by Janice Parker, 'Private Dancer' plays with the boundaries between audience and performer, dancer and voyeur, private and public. Eighteen performers, made up of local, international and core performers have collaborated on the piece that becomes anew in every location.

Accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack, solo performers invite selected audience members into private rooms that have been adorned with items connecting to each individual dance; from rocks to photographs and elaborate costumes.

Once inside, the chosen few experience an intimate one-to-one performance. Outside, the audience have the choice to roam or peer into the rooms through holes in the doors. Each member of the audience is given the choice to pry, marvel or join in, but can only experience one section of a whole at a time. That is until a giant screen appears to allow outsiders a momentary birds-eye-view of the lines, rhythms and movements forming within the installation. Dawdle and you risk missing it altogether.

Performers are knowingly toying with the audience’s sense of expectation throughout. They’re an omniscient group who lead, guide and surprise through a series of individual and collective dances, but the lasting effect feels somewhat clinical and contrived.

Although aesthetically sophisticated, Private Dancer leaves one with the unsettling feeling of being neither fully immersed nor isolated. There’s rhythm, but very little connection.