ACMI commission: Stuck in the Middle With You

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About the work

Stuck In The Middle With You is an exciting and immersive virtual reality experience that puts you front and centre with the Sydney Dance Company. Using motion tracked headsets and cutting-edge technology, viewers are taken on a vibrant and pulsating visceral journey, that fuses choreography, performance, documentary and drama to generate an unprecedented lifelike experience.

Part of an energetic and at times, frenetic contemporary dance piece, viewers are transported on stage amidst a cacophony of movement and sound. As the experience evolves, viewers begin interacting with other performers, boldly interrogating them about the nature of dance before becoming a component of the choreography themselves. 

This landmark moving image work is directed by award-winning filmmaker Matthew Bate and ex-Chunky Move artistic director Gideon Obarzanek, whose previous short docu-drama collaboration, I Want To Dance Better At Parties, won the Dendy Award for Best Short Film at the Sydney Film Festival (2014).

Stuck in the Middle With You was first shown at ACMI from 5 -14 March, 2016.

About the creator

Jointly directed by award-winning filmmaker Matthew Bate and internationally acclaimed director/choreographer Gideon Obarzanek, Stuck in the Middle With You is a virtual reality experience in which the viewer becomes part of the on stage performance of a live dance work originally choreographed by Obarzanek for the Sydney Dance Company ensemble.

Matthew Bate, Director at Closer Productions, had previously collaborated with Obarzanek a short docu-drama, I Want To Dance Better At Parties, which won the Dendy Award for Best Short at the 2014 Sydney Film Festival.

“I liked the idea that for the first time ever Sydney Dance Company could dance for you and you alone – that their focus would not be an audience in the stalls, but rather the audience would be you, standing amongst them on stage,” said Bate.

”This collaboration has enabled an exciting and daring venture into this new world of virtual reality,” continued Bate. “To have everyone come on board this experiment in dance storytelling with such enthusiasm has been incredible, and to have it commissioned by and shown at ACMI speaks to a wonderful kind of creative risk taking. We hope that by utilising this new storytelling technology the viewer can experience dance in a new way and from a perspective they may never otherwise get. I think we’re on the verge of a revolution in the way we experience stories using VR – and we are more than excited to have taken this first step with these incredible partners.”

The VR dance and drama narrative has the viewer waking up on stage in a packed auditorium, amidst a frenetic performance by the Sydney Dance Company. As the dance evolves, the viewer begins to interact with the dancers, interrogating them about the nature of dance before becoming a part of the performance themselves.

Choreographer Gideon Obarzanek said Stuck in the Middle With You inverts the traditional spectator-to-dancer viewpoint, investigating what it means to be a performer.

“Working closely with dancers in a studio I have always thought the best experience of what they do is to be right amongst them. VR literally places you in the centre free to look around and I find this position so natural I'm convinced in a few short years we will look back at traditional screen viewing as a contrived way of seeing,” said Obarzanek.


Images from the work