SERMON at Melbourne Fringe Festival

SERMON at Melbourne Fringe Festival

Lawyer-turned-choreographer Rhys Ryan returns to Melbourne stages with SERMON – a new dance work exploring the choreographic codes of religion. Using Catholicism as its frame of reference, the show dives deep into divine ceremonies, rewriting these ancient choreographies to discover new forms of self-expression.

SERMON follows in the wake of Rhys’ breakout work Bodylex – a show about the physical effect of legal systems on the body – which picked up a nomination for Best Choreography at the 2022 Green Room Awards. This latest project again forges links between his two disciplines – this time looking to the centuries-old doctrines of Canon law to understand the power the Church wields over the individual.

“I’m a Catholic, so regardless of whether I choose to practise or not, my baptism means the Church forever has jurisdiction over me,” explains Rhys. “And not just my physical self but also my conscience. Every action I take as a Catholic is measured by its compliance with, or violation of, the image of God. This approach to authority is extreme, and it’s what I find most compelling about the religion.”

In creating the show, Rhys has drawn on liturgical rites – examining how we arrange our bodies in service to ghostly figures. Sacred rituals have been isolated and fractured in the dance studio, repurposed for a new kind of communion.

“A Catholic mass is loaded with choreographic codes,” says Rhys. “Each movement carries great meaning, dutifully executed in adherence to a higher authority. But what if we rewrite these dances? Can we find alternative hierarchies and truer physical expressions of the self?”

These are just some of the questions audiences will be asked in SERMON as it seeks to build a new kind of altar on which we may dance.

SERMON will be presented at Melbourne Fringe Festival 2023 as a double-bill with object-shun by award-winning choreographer Erin O’Rourke. The season of object-shun / SERMON is presented by Dancehouse and SERMON is supported by Yarra City Arts. The double-bill runs 11 – 14 October with 8 pm performances at Dancehouse. Tickets start at $15. Visit to learn more.

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