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  • Liane Morris

A Critical and Playful Glance into Humanity

Catapult Dance is a choreographic hub and a professional contemporary dance company based in Newcastle and the Hunter. It cultivates and champions the professional development of mid-career and emerging professional dance choreographers and multi-disciplinary artists and commissions new dance works with scores by Newcastle composers.


At Maitland Regional Art Gallery on May 20 and 21, Catapult Dance will perform Human Remains, choreographed by Omer Backley-Astrachan, with performances by Alexandra Ford, Nicholas Jachno, Mikayla Nangle, Remy Rochester and Sophia Van Gent and music by James Hazel.

Human Remains was created for Catapult Company and premiered in March 2020 as part of Mixed Bill in Newcastle and Sydney. Described as a critical and playful glance at humanity in the 21st century, the piece is set in the aftermath of an apocalypse caused by humanity's hubris. Human Remains inhabits a dystopian world emerging from the ruins of what was once a glorious kingdom. The survivors in this harsh terrain emerge from the ashes, revealing beauty, grace, pain and power.

The choreographer, Omer Backley-Astrachan, is an independent artist experienced in choreography, installations, film, multimedia and movement research. Originally from Israel, Backley-Astrachan is Sydney Dance Company's Pre-Professional Year program course coordinator. His works have been performed in venues and festivals both in Australia and overseas, such as Carriageworks, PACT, Sydney Fringe Festival, Fringe World Festival, Suzanne Dellal Centre, Tel Aviv Summer Dance Festival, Newcastle Art Gallery, The Lock-Up Gallery (Newcastle) and State Theatre Centre (Perth).

Backley-Astrachan has been working with Catapult since 2016 in a long-standing creative relationship that has played an integral role in his professional development as a choreographer. The idea for Human Remains came from his observation that many stories today focus on the individual as victim, rising above external factors with society as the aggressor. He wanted to explore that from the other direction with the concept of individualism as the aggressor leading to the breakdown of social structures and community with chaos as the outcome. The piece explores connectivity and seems apt for the times we live in now.

"I've got friends, dancers, travelling to Europe expressing discomfort at performing during such difficult times with covid and everything that's happening in Ukraine," says Backley-Astrachan. "But I think now is the perfect time to inspire others to invest in their mental and spiritual health and enrichment. Connection through art and creativity is critical during hard times."

Performing Human Remains in the Maitland Regional Art Gallery is a way to remove alienation from the art form of dance and have it reach a wider audience – one that wouldn't necessarily attend contemporary dance performances.

"When you go to an art gallery, there is an expectation that you don't have to understand the narrative of the creative pieces you will view to enjoy it. Dance is often measured by its understandability. We wanted to remove this expectation and perform in a space where it doesn't exist. It's not a theatre – it's performed in a different context. Some things in an art gallery you will connect with, and others you can enjoy without fully understanding. You can admire and appreciate the art's form, flow, colour and context, and our piece is no different."


Human Remains

Maitland Regional Art Gallery

20–21 May at 7pm

Tickets from



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