Phillip Adams’s memories of being a young boy watching Saturday morning TV cartoons in the 1970s have had a profound impact on the creation of his latest dance work, Origami.

Adams, the choreographer of the new work by his dance company BalletLab, recalls watching such iconic Japanese cartoons as Astro Boy, Marine Boy and Kimba and being attracted to not only the characters, but the styling and colours of the screen images.

Astro Boy and Marine Boy were really like early gay icons to kids, Adams says.

I was only about nine at the time, but there was an automatic attraction to them. In retrospect, there was some wrestling with the idol role, because I put them up on a pedestal.

Astro Boy was in his fabulous tights and his big puffy chest, silhouetted against the landscape of the earth like a hero. And then there was Kimba the white lion, who was different and unique, but prepared to put up a fight when he needed to.

There was a queerness that surrounded the colour and textures of those images. These were the Japanese-American cartoons of the time, and that was what I was thinking about when I began on this dance work.

I gave the architects a brief that I want the ballet to be a pseudo-western perception of everything Japanese.

BalletLab’s Origami marks a unique collaboration of a choreographer with architects, animators and composers. With such strong Japanese images in mind, Adams consulted with an architectural firm to design the set he wanted to tell the story of the piece.

What is significantly important in the way I create dance is my dedication to the fold, he says.

So I have been able to augment the notion choreographically through the use of architecturally designed sets, costumes and animation.

I needed something that could pop-up to be a mountain, then fold to be a valley and then fold down to be a flat surface. An origamist then designed this big grid and handed it over to the architects, and we eventually had this beautiful fold-up-and-away floor.

Basically, I wanted to make a beautiful contemporary dance piece which exemplified everything BalletLab is about. It is an experimental way of showcasing ballet.

Origami has already played to a sell-out season in Melbourne, and the BalletLab company has also recently performed in New York, UK, China, Germany and Korea.

Adams completed the dance work Platinum for the Australian Ballet’s bodytorque season, but Origami marks his company’s first appearance at the Opera House since the 2002 production of Upholster.

Origami is playing at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, until Saturday 5 August. Bookings on 9250 7777.

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