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Image - Steph Beausaert

for the Queensland Dance Sector

Issue #2, 2019

Contents Hybrid Arts Special



Capturing Dance through moving pictures... 2 by Jax Oliver

Collaborating in a responsive environment.............................................. 10 by Courtney Scheu & Tessa Rixon

Lights, Camera, Dance............................... 30 by AB SOW

A Partnership of Equals.............................. 24 by Lisa Wilson & Nathan Sibthorpe

DANCE & THEATRE You want to dance like common people?.......6 by Neridah Waters

A creative journey...................................... 22 by Sarah Youngberry

DANCE & CIRCUS Empty Canvas............................................. 8 by Alex Mizzen

DANCE & VISUAL ARTS Genre is a matter of occasion....................... 4 by Libby McDonnell

Mediations on coalescing Visual Arts and Performance Practice................................. 28 by Reina Takeuchi

Front Cover - Steph Beausaert @sbeausy_photography

Hey, Alexa................................................. 32 by Jacob & Ben Watton

YOUR AUSDANCE QLD SECTOR Get QLD Dancing in pictures....................... 14

ADQ - Seed Residency 2019 A Quest for Joy...........................................18 by Sandi Woo

Book Review.............................................. 20

Welcome from the Ausdance QLD Chair Welcome to the second issue of Ausdance QLD’s IN/FORM online publication. I am particularly excited to be able to provide the introduction for this collaboration themed issue. Working across disciplines and experimenting with hybrid forms has formed the core of my own creative practice and research for the last ten years. Like many of the contributors in this issue, collaboration continues to drive and shape my art. Coming from often rigid world of opera, I found the power of collaboration was in its ability to break me out of my own head. When you have been training in your artform for years, it’s very easy to get trapped in the rules of form and tradition. It can also be hard to see your cage from the inside. Collaboration allows us to view our practice and our ideas from another perspective. It can provide new creative languages and can open up a world of possibilities. Of course, it’s not always easy. Collaboration requires trust and communication. It needs open minds, flexibility and relationships that can weather conflict and criticism. It can be exposing and frustrating or can just feel impossible. However, in my experience, it’s the moments that test us, require us to defend our ideas, forcefully, sometimes painfully, open our minds to

Dr. Jordin Steele Ausdance QLD Chair

new solutions or new ways of thinking… It’s these moments that can bring magic. It’s these moments that help us grow as artists and as people. I hope that this issue of IN/FORM encourages curiosity, spirited discussion and inspires more collaboration across our sector. You just never know what will happen when minds get together and forms collide! 1.

CAPTURING DANCE THROUGH MOVING PICTURES By Jax Oliver For decades the moving picture has been a medium used to tell stories, capture emotion, showcase artistic talent and entertain. The connection that dance has with each of these things is much more ancient. So naturally, the two artistic mediums couple to create a powerful platform to share culture, tell stories and inspire movement in people. 2.

My background as a filmmaker includes documentary pieces overseas with conservation and environmental protection organisations such as Sea Shepherd – living onboard a peaceful, vegan warship and assisting foreign defence forces in apprehending and prosecuting illegal fishing operations. The constant adrenaline buzz is extremely addictive and participating

Jax climbing out of a fish hold of an illegal fishing vessel - credit Sea Shepherd Global

in these international partnerships feeds both my adventurous and activist tendencies. Although, even with this it can be hard work getting these sort of documentary projects to fulfil the extremely persistent creative side of my brain. Collaborating with dancers to create film projects is one of the most creatively fulfilling processes I’ve been involved in. To me, capturing this footage is a highly creative practice – working with light, colour, space, shape and movement to tell a story which is portrayed by the emotion and character that the dancers embody. It is essential to find a balance between using camera techniques to emphasise these key emotional points and allowing dancers the space to take the limelight. You want the audience to be fully engaged with the performance and not distracted by the production of the film. Of course, the use of music, special effects and graphics are all essential elements which deserve special mention for their

application as filmmaking tools – but ultimately, it’s the connection between the dancer and the camera which can’t be faked or “done in post”. This connection is something that has to be made from the moment you meet a dancer. I’ve learnt the importance of taking the time to first just watch a dancer and learn the way they move before putting a camera between us – this always builds a more genuine connection and allows the dancer to perform for an audience rather than being conscious of the camera. This social media age that we’re living in is often criticised for the way that it affects our interpersonal communication. But never before have we seen it so easy for artists – including dancers – to create a work and share it with the world. It allows dancers to tell a story beyond the traditional setting of a live audience and enables storytellers to emphasise the emotion of the performance with the aid of all the techniques used in modern cinema. These days, the imagination really is the only limitation to how a dancer can share their story and it’s up to us to continue to challenge the status quo of how we create dance works for audiences. 3.


“Genre is a matter of occasion. If you’re invited to a wedding party you write a wedding song.” Anne Carson. The above Anne Carson quote delights me. It gently destabilises the idea of creative genius and turns the act of making art into a practical necessity. Creating work in hybrid art forms can emerge from genuine artistic inquiry or they can happen because of external forces such as funding opportunities, an invitation or in my case, accidentally. They are all valid and it is the quality of the encounter, the knowledge acquired and the final product that matters. I have an Associate Degree in dance from QUT and for the last 7 years, I have been working as a designer and creator at a circus company. I would describe myself as an artist who works across diverse genres. Important to my work is the body, material, and movement. This year I found myself accidentally studying a fine art honours degree at Griffith, QCA. After a supportive career consultation, it became necessary for me to return to study. From day 1, seminar 1, I was surrounded by some of Brisbane’s most interesting fine art students; painters, sculptors, and photographers. They spoke a different language. I fell in love with the experience of relearning what I thought I knew. Through my studies, I researched the history of fine art practice, western art institutions, and dance. I am currently creating a contemporary physical performance informed by visual arts research methods for an art gallery/art museum audience. Re-encountering performance-making practice through the language and lens of visual art practice has created positive disruption and questions that I am trying to answer. - Libby McDonnell


I’ve heard so many stories from people saying that they got to a certain stage with their dance training and a teacher has told them that they don’t have the right body/facility/turn out/height etc. to be a dancer and then they have stopped dancing. I don’t believe that dance is only for the elite and I am trying to change that view among the general public.

I took ballet and jazz classes from 5-16 but stopped when I became bodyconscious and thought dance was about being elegant, beautiful and taking yourself seriously. I fell into my current kind of work by accident - I trained as an actor but after graduating I gravitated toward physical theatre over text6.

based work. Dancing with friends socially at clubs, I discovered that dance can be really funny or ugly and tell stories and that I could combine my love of clown and comedy and theatre into dance.

I performed in cabarets doing comical dance-based acts and got asked to choreograph dances for theatre on the strength of this. I wondered why they didn’t ask professional dancers but I think maybe my theatre training meant that I may have been coming at it from a different angle; one with an emphasis on story and character and an ability to translate movement for nonmovers in a fun way.

Much of the work I’m choreographing is for professional actors who aren’t dancers or for people in community projects with very little dance experience or with Queensland Music Festival on large scale communitybased projects in regional Queensland. Choreographing hundreds of school children, skaters, horses, tug-boats, senior-citizens, orchestras, cheerleaders, you name it.

In my classes I create a nonintimidating environment for people who may feel self-conscious;

there’s lots of joking and I try to accommodate all ranges of movement - if a person can’t manage something in their body I will work with them to find what they can do that has the spirit of the move intended. I avoid using dance terms and invent comical names. Instead of saying left or right I’ll find things in the space that are on particular side of the room - if the toilets are on one side I’ll say “step on your toilet leg” or if there’s a picture of the Queen on the wall of a hall I’ll say “stretch out your Queen arm”. I supply half-time oranges in my classes - this helps build community - people always chat over food and it changes the context from a solo pursuit to that of a team.

This year I created ‘Common People Dance Eisteddfod’ - an ironic rock eisteddfod for all ages (3 to 83 years) and abilities (people who have never danced before to ex-professionals). I built four teams across Brisbane and arranged an outcome at Brisbane Festival in The Spiegeltent where all four teams competed for a giant crap-tastic trophy. The nostalgic and competitive elements as well as the emphasis on teamwork and community is the strongest example of my principal aim - helping people who think they can’t dance to dance and to find the joy of dancing with a big group of people. 7.


I am a Brisbane based independent artist with a practice involving both circus and dance. I am a maker of work, director of others, performer and facilitator of numerous self-designed creative programs. I am writing this article from the viewpoint of a curious circus artist in the midst of creative expansion. How do you successfully integrate art forms? By definition to make a hybrid, one must first start with two art forms. Let’s make the daring claim that circus is in actual fact viewed as an art form (and overlook the glaring fact that it is still not recognised as its own entity by our grant bodies). It is from here that we can undertake a conversation in integration. I believe the success to integrating art forms lies in knowing the process in which the hybrid exists. For example, are both components of the hybrid true to their original form? Two art forms simply being added together, like a symphony being played to a light show, is labelled as a hybrid. We need to ask, has a distinct fusion taken place to create something ultimately unrecognisable from its components? Or, has one of two art forms informed the other? The latter is evident generally when the art forms are already similar in nature, and for the purposes of dance and circus I believe this to be the most accurate. This type of hybrid does 8.

not give you a new art form per se, but rather a fuller expression of the original. I consider myself a circus artist who informs her work through dance practise. The underlying effect here is a quality of true embodiment. A potentiality cultivated within the dancer’s body that is not directed toward a specific skill set as it is in circus. It exists as a tool in and of itself and in combination with the virtuosic skill of a circus artist, a new embodied language of detail, nuance and precision can be found and accessed to convey concept. Contemporary dance has had a rich history: there have been pioneers that have challenged our perspectives of the form, and in some cases undoubtedly altered the way in which we view it. Contemporary circus by comparison is new and is still working out how to move forward from its traditional predecessors. All too often circus creation is tripped up by its very own building blocks - the skills. It is not uncommon to see circus artists overlook the specificity and nature of their form and instead see an ‘empty canvas’ from which to create. But really is it not dance that has the advantage of this ‘empty canvas’ starting point? Is it not in movement that the artist can enter into a process and create from a truly ‘empty’ space, each time allowing an entirely new language to emerge? I believe this is what gives way to a model of circus that exists within a battling duality of wanting to be artistic but not being able to move past the compulsion to look a certain way or exist in a certain model. The dramaturgy of circus before any

creative process that is undertaken already suggests so much. The skills themselves contain their own unique dramaturgy, the apparatus used, the idiosyncrasies of the speciality are suggestive, and of course the circus artist’s body is not a neutral canvas. These each speak volumes and need to be considered as a whole when making circus works. Contemporary dance on the other hand does have an advantage of an ‘empty canvas’ from where they have the choice to embody exactly what is needed to convey. This distinction is paramount. This is where dance can inform the nature of circus. The circus work I create leans heavily on this detailed and nuanced response to concept. Relying on circus skills alone (with no other consideration) to be the vehicle of concept and vision

is not enough. We can allow dance to inform by standing on the shoulders of the 20th century dance pioneers who changed and shaped the way dance was experienced and understood, to explore how we can transcend the notion of gratuitous skill and shift not only our perception of circus and what it is capable of, but our audience’s perception of it as well. If we lean in to this fundamental characteristic of an ‘empty canvas’, take into consideration the dramaturgical elements that the nature of circus affords us and utilise the body outside of skills to convey concept, we will begin to push through the current thinking of how circus ‘should’ look and find out what it ‘could’ look like instead.

Image - Oscar Sun



COURTNEY SCHEU - choreographer TESSA RIXON - scenographer Our collaborations explore the human brain - its function and its failures - through the research of improvisational scores and interactive technical systems. We focused on developing a shared language and process, to have a deeper understanding of the other’s form and practice.


Why scenography and dance? What was the initial inspiration behind the collaboration? TR: Our inspiration was to explore the relationship between improvisational choreographic methods and interactive, real-time technologies. The two forms have similar approaches to notions of time, space, openness, reactivity and agency. I believe there is a beautiful symbiosis between Courtney’s work and my own. We also wanted to work in a way that privileged both design and body equally, rather than making one at the service of the other.

What is scenography? TR: There are many different understandings of scenography performance design, mise-en-scène - I prefer to think of it as the shaping or creation of the performance environment through physical and audible elements including light, sound, set, new media, costume and more. 11.

How was dance involved? CS: We created improvisational scores. We are referring to a ‘score’ as a set of rules, instructions or guiding principles to dictate decision making. We used scores to develop movement and scores to govern the responsive programs, including Isadora and Microsoft Kinects. Scores also determined how movement and technology would interact.

What were some approaches you used to facilitate collaboration? CS: We started by making a manifesto: YES to being friendly to our thoughts/ NO to being anxious/NO to expecting greatness /NO to performance/NO to roles/YES to play/YES to saying yes and supporting ideas or suggestions/YES to solo time and reflection. We also played Arts Tag, to find a point of focus (for us it was neuroscience). One person shared something, an article, short creation, sketch or sound clip for example and the other responded within 24 hours - an approach we came across through Zaimon and Lizzie Vilmanis. The content and information gathered was the preliminary research for our experimentations in the studio. TR: Show-and-Tell was a crucial part of our collaboration. In the beginning, we would work separately, devising and testing scores, configuring different interactive systems or testing effects in 12.

Isadora. We then shared our individual discoveries and discussed in detail the technology or techniques used to create them. Through this we built a shared vocabulary, which strengthened our ability to combine dance and technology, which resulted in over 20 dance-technology combinations during the developments.

What do you find helpful in a collaboration? TR: I strongly believe designers and technologists need to spend more time on the floor. We need to experience embodied practice, so when it comes to integrating scenography into the process, there is a better understanding and a shared language. Also, be willing to play. As Scott Palmer and Sita Popat wrote in 2005, we need spaces to play together as equals, without fixed outcomes in mind. Only then can we find common ground. CS: Time in skill sharing is as important as time creating. Share links, articles and books so you can build an understanding of the scope of possibilities and shared references. Communicate clearly and always feel free to ask questions!

Creative developments supported by Ausdance Queensland through the Ausdance Queensland Creative Development Residency Program - The Space the Arts Centre Gold Coast (now HOTA, Home of the Arts). Thank you to guest performers Emma Barnett, Lara Hedgcock, Amelia Stokes, Chiu-Ju Wang and Ashleigh White.


Get QLD Dancing In September, Ausdance QLD held a two day convergence “Get QLD Dancing�. Over the two days participants took part in workshops with community leaders from 5 distinct groups - LGBTIQAP+, Mobility, Culturally and Linguistically diverse, Sensory and Older people. Here is a look back in pictures.


“Diversity was the key word for the programme, but interaction was uniformly wholehearted and inclusive.�


“There was a nice sense of equality and dialogue within the group... everyone felt safe and able to express themselves freely.�


“Optimism and inclusiveness from Ausdance QLD, and the presenters’ enthusiasm and passion about what they do was the key to a very successful event.”


Ausdance QLD: SEED Residency 2019

A QUEST FOR JOY By Sandi Woo The Quest was a series of community based contemporary dance workshops that built on the successes of the 2017 QPAC and Royal Ballet community engagement project, We All Dance. The groups involved included participants from Access Arts, Micah Projects and The Journey Dancers. Over a number of weeks and an intensive four-day development at QPAC, participants explored personal stories and experiences inspired by George MacDonald’s 1883 children’s fantasy novel, The Princess and the Curdie. The novel’s main character, Curdie, goes on a quest for pleasure and joy, and is gifted a power to see the true authentic soul of those he touches. The essence of The Quest came from the novel and manifest in several questions: How do we acknowledge the differences in our lives? How would these differences, including dance experience, combine to represent something of our unity? What would we ultimately create? Like Curdie in MacDonald’s work, our quest for joy came from the following: 18.

Image - FenLan Photography

THE JOY OF DIVERSITY Having a wildly diverse range of individuals in the studio together was wonderfully chaotic. There is no single way of being, to live life, to move and no solitary approach to making performance. It’s a process that seeks our unity while respecting what makes us unique.

THE JOY OF BEING VALUED Humans thrive when we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. Walking through the backstage area of QPAC and into the rehearsal studios that have hosted countless national and international artists lifted our creative spirits, stimulated by the lingering energy of those who had danced before us.

THE JOY IN IMPROVISATION Improvisation is about being in the moment, responding to impulses, your own and those around you. Through improvisation we learn about ourselves and each other. ‘When you move you feel the moment, [like] no one else is around and you blank everyone else out,’ says Micah participant Sherryl.

THE JOY OF HUMAN CONNECTION The richness of observing the moments and spaces between people when we move and create together is to experience human connection, which then folds into the dance and movement we are creating. Katie from Micah reflected, “I didn’t expect to see that level of communication and focus… [performers] reaching out for connection and being supported.”


The joy of performance was in that exhilarating moment we invited an audience in to share what we had been working on and also test the performative frame in which to view the developing work, which was largely improvisational. From these lessons a question remains; what is the right performative context for this work to be viewed by an audience? The aim is for the audience to join our quest for joy and like Curdie, see the authentic souls of the performers.

Thanks to all participants for their trust in the process and to artists Tim Brown, Nerida Matthaei, Yenensh Nigusse and Anja Ali-Haapala. Also a special mention to En Rui Foo (QPAC), Tnee Dyer (Raw Mint Productions) and Katie McGuire (Micah Projects). The Quest was possible with financial support of Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Queensland and Ausdance QLD; venue support from QPAC, Phluxus2 Dance Collective through the Blue Door Insider Initiative, and Queensland Theatre.

Book Review of the Romanov dynasty. It is clear that the author has done extensive research in order to authentically represent all aspects of Russia and the Imperial Ballet at the time of the Russian Revolution. I was drawn to all the nuances of ballet life within a company and Turner has done well to describe them in such accurate detail, from the execution of a warm up to the soaring feeling of dancing freely in the midst of a repertoire.

The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers by Kerri Turner

Review by ADQ member Mikaela Kranz The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers is Kerri Turner’s debut into the world of historical fiction. Turner does an excellent job of painting a picture of the Russian revolution, the political tensions and the spectacular downfall 20.

Set in Petrograd, Russia from 1914 to 1917, we are introduced to members of the Romanov’s Imperial Russian Ballet. Luka Vladimirovich Zhirkov, the son of a factory worker who was saved from the war by his acceptance into the Imperial Ballet School and later into the Imperial Russian Ballet as a Romanov dancer. He begins being called ‘malysh’ (baby) by members of the company but is forced to grow up quickly through the harsh realities of life amidst a revolution. Valentina Yershova’s life would not be as comfortable financially if she did not have the support of her protector. It comes at a price though, which we learn through Valentina’s experiences. Valentina is forever a slave to her protector. Her heart cannot be taken by another, only her benefactor. This is where her troubles begin. Mathilde Kschessinska features in the story, and was a real life figure in the world of Russian ballet at the time. It was interesting to read the author’s

notes on her at the end of the book and I was inspired to carry out additional reading to find out more about this complex and fascinating lady.

Enjoying IN/FORM?

How will each character respond when their privileged, opulent world crumbles around them at the hands of the poverty-stricken? This book had me quickly and eagerly turning each page in anticipation of what would happen next - from the highs to the tragic lows that the characters must endure. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. My sincere thanks to Ausdance QLD for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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A CREATIVE JOURNEY By Sarah Youngberry A couple of weeks ago, I uploaded images of my recent experience on QUT’s study tour to Timor-Leste to my social accounts. Usually a vocal disliker of Facebook and Instagram, I captioned the posts, “Still unpacking the many ways in which Timor-Leste and its beautiful people changed me.” Weeks later, my discussions with those who have travelled to the tiny paradise confirmed that my experience of the generosity, unwavering determination and sincerity of Timor-Leste was not unique. For the first time, the QUT TimorLeste project (traditionally only open to BFA Dance students), included students from BFA Drama and QUT’s broader degree, Bachelor of Creative Industries. The change in direction was fought for by QUT students and supported by the faculty staff, switching the focus for the program which previously championed the use of dance in the classroom, to a transdisciplinary one. This highlighted the importance for the teaching artists to understand that all creative skills are valuable in the classroom, and to foster their own hybrid communities of practice. With dancers, actors, writers, choreographers, visual artists, 22.

designers, musicians, and a singer/ songwriter in the mix, our project team naturally drew on our diverse range of skills to pull it all off. This meant we could offer our students multiple access points throughout our classes, and multiple levels of involvement in the final performance depending on the interest, confidence and availability of each individual student. For me, the opportunity to see dance actively practised by a community in a range of contexts was one of the most valuable lessons. Our Timorese friends shared with us social dances in the evenings, artists and students of the Le-Ziavla Cultural

My teaching team and some of our students of Maliana One High School.

Class activity incorporating art and later dance into our English language lesson for the day

Foundation performed cultural dances for us. They explained how Timorese cultural identities were reclaimed with dance, music and song, after painful decades of horror, genocide and occupation. I learned far more from our Timorese students and new friends than I could ever teach them. As dancers, we can often perpetuate an elitist culture within dance and contribute to this exclusive perception in the wider community. But in this project, we were forced to see dance democratised and consider dance as one part of a suite of creative solutions to a problem. And what was the problem? To create an inclusive English language class using dance and drama AND a performance work, in six hours or less, for Timorese high school students who are accustomed

to chalk and talk lessons. (Oh‌ by the way, the Minister of Education is coming to that final performance. But no need to worry. No pressure). To solve this problem, our hybrid team of creatives used not only dance movement and eventually devised choreography, but also drew on theatre games, music, painting sessions and storytelling. In my own class’ grand finale, we featured rap, body percussion, drama, narrative, comedy and a backdrop painted by the Timorese students. We were challenged to re-think what is performance-worthy, and recognise that the performance aspect of our project was the end goal, but certainly not the most valuable part of the creative journey. It turned out to be the journey that mattered. 23.

A Partnership of Equals Lisa Wilson and Nathan Sibthorpe discuss their cross-disciplinary collaboration as co-directors (and respectively as choreographer & video designer) on BUNKER, a new intermedial performance work. We first met during the development of WIRELESS in 2017. Lisa was the co-director of this work, and Nathan came in during the final development as a video designer. During the process we discovered a strong interest in juxtaposing choreographic physical bodies with illusory virtual bodies. This was realised by moments of the work where we staged real dancers alongside their projected avatars.

This use of form left a strong impression on both of us after the project concluded, so we started discussing how else we could intersect our practices to develop something new and interdisciplinary. We wanted to consider both of our art forms as equal contributors from the very start of a process. LISA: Often video and media design is something that comes in at the end of a dance process and feels like an extra layer that is added on top. With this new process, it’s been really rewarding to start devising a work with those elements at the core. Parts of our early development process so far have involved empty spaces with 24.

just Nathan and I playing with design concepts. That has been really useful in defining what makes this work unique. NATHAN: I tend to resist the term ‘Hybrid Art form’ because to me that says the art forms are blended together in some kind of seamless fashion, and that’s not what I’m interested in. I’m more inclined to expose the seams between art forms – it’s important that we can recognise the different elements coming together in the moment because that’s what makes the performance theatrical. In the same way that two bodies interact as two parts making a temporary whole, I want to feel as though the design and media technology is acting as another dancer in the space – interacting but not necessarily integrated so much as to be invisible. Knowing that we wanted to make a work that used dance, but also had media forms front and centre, we went looking for a starting point that spoke to both physicality and technology. We became really interested in the 2016 Hawaiian missile alert crisis, when false



text messages were accidentally distributed to the population warning of an impending ballistic missile. The way that the people of Hawaii responded to this threat led us to our objective – to explore the physical threat of virtual alarm.

before, it opens us up to a new way of perceiving performance. The most interesting moments we have found in this work only make sense in the space between the media design and the physical dance – not in either one single form.

In BUNKER, these ideas have expanded to include broader physical repercussions of digital fear. We’re interested in threatening Trump tweets, Russian propaganda, ideological censorship, hyperbolic conspiracy, the fake news epidemic, and the designer bunker industry. We are reminded of our frailty in a world where utter destruction is not only possible, it is threatened offhandedly in a tweet. Where do we find refuge amidst the potential chaos? How do we construct the illusion of safety in a climate of fear? And when do we begin to believe the panic online?

LISA: When used sensitively, technology is capable of illuminating and embodying our internal landscapes and responses, which may otherwise be invisible. Through this use of form, we hope BUNKER will develop as a work that ultimately connects and resonates with an audience.

In developing BUNKER, we are exploring switch glass as a projection surface, introducing a new dimension to projection design by toggling between opaque and translucent qualities in rapid synchronisation with content timecodes. This medial feature serves our ideas by playing with binaries of visible/invisible, murky/clear, on/through, inside/ outside, and hidden/exposed. NATHAN: I do believe that when forms come crashing into each other in a way that we haven’t seen

BUNKER has undergone a first stage creative development supported by Arts Queensland, Metro Arts and a ‘4 Walls’ residency supported through Ausdance Queensland and Expressions Dance Company.

Images by FenLan Photography



I remember talking to a friend about experiences of visual art. He also happens to be a remarkable choreographer and independent artist. He had said that when he enters an art gallery, he’s constantly expecting something to happen. He’s waiting for a performance to take place. The performance that he knows will never arrive. Little did he know that this casual comment would spur on years of questioning for me. Ones that I would come back to time and again during my Masters research. How could a contemporary art viewing experience be more than just an appetizer, an amuse bouche to the senses? How could it be turned into an embodied engagement that would stay with viewers over days, months, perhaps their entire lives?

Image - Nic Dunning


I guess in the eyes of some, contemporary art can seem a bit pretentious, sterile, or a little too

complex and confusing to grasp. At least to me it did (keep in mind I studied a Visual Arts degree). My mind always turns to contemporary dance – the experience of bodies propelled in space, the somatic immersion of live performance. Could coalescing these practices – choreography, performance and visual arts – be the thing that enlivens perceptions of contemporary art? Could the collisions between these worlds foster more embodied and, potentially, more meaningful experiences of the genre? Throughout my Visual Arts degree, I was consciously steering myself towards examining the body through mediums such as dance film, sculptures and performance installations. There was something that intrigued me about what dance practitioners brought to the table when they worked with the body on a daily basis. They become a vessel of knowledge, their body brimming with somatic understandings that are only realised through constant investigation.

Time to embark on explorations of bodily practices. Time with other young, emerging artists and access to a wide range of national and international artists. Time for research. Whether this research year has brought me any closer to answering my questions, I can’t say for sure. It feels as if they’ll take a lifetime to answer. I do hope though that I have begun to amass a toolkit. One that encompasses these different ways of engaging with the body and how they can be applied to contemporary art experiences. I’m beginning to grasp what it means to move through the threshold between passive spectatorship into one that’s enlivened and performative. I hope that these questions may form an educational archive that may spur future art practitioners to use choreographic play to challenge their viewers, be it in the theatre, in the art gallery or on an average Monday, working in the studio.

I needed to embark on this constant exploration myself, so I decided to partner my research at Queensland University of Technology with an experience of Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional program. It made sense to me because the year offered training, choreographic workshops but, most of all, time.


Lights, Camera, Dance. By AB SOW

Dance and film have always been involved in a mutually beneficial relationship. And with the rise of social media, online content, and the increased accessibility to cameras able to record high definition footage, the hybridisation of these two art forms was inevitable. As a professional dancer/filmmaker, not only have I had the privilege to witness these two worlds collide, but I have also been able to seamlessly 30.

transition from one practice to the other. This is proof of how compatible these two art forms are on a fundamental level. In essence, dancers want to perform, and the camera loves a performance. It is a simple exchange of value, in a fair, self-sustaining and mutually beneficial relationship. In other words, I truly believe that dance and film are meant to share a connection. As a filmmaker, I have witnessed

the sudden magic and energy that explodes out of dancers as soon as you press the record button. It’s as magical as when the curtains open and it’s Show Time. Filmmakers and dancers also share a common appreciation for aesthetics. This practical and tangible shared skill is one of the key success factors in creating a dance film. Dancers instinctively know what looks good and filmmakers know how to achieve this look on a technical level and can embrace the creative suggestion. From my experience, I would encourage all dancers to imagine and communicate key creative directions to their filmmaker collaborator if they wish to create their unique dance film, and avoid relying on the filmmaker only to make all the decisions such as location, look, composition and music. Another key success factor for dance and film collaborations is the dancer’s ability to perform on camera. Some dancers are great at it from the start, but others must work hard on mastering that skill. The camera can be scary for some dancers, it can put them off psychologically or in extreme cases, dancers can lose their very ability to dance well at all. As a dancer who has performed live on national television, I have felt, but thankfully overcame, the sudden powerful assault of nerves that can absolutely destroy a dancer’s self-esteem, focus and technical skill. This is an

interesting focus area for dancers. On the other side of the coin, what’s the challenge for filmmakers? Well let’s just say that capturing objects that are constantly moving requires a specific set of skills. The filmmaker must know how to follow the dancer’s movements while maintaining a pleasing composition that best shows the dancer’s technical skills. Some moves look better from a certain angle and bad from another, I learned this whilst filming a dance showreel. A dance style that particularly put this to the test was ballet. It took the most takes, as technical execution of lines had to be visually rendered correctly on camera. This makes filming dance a valuable area of development for filmmakers as they have to select the focal length, frame rate, movements and framing to best complement the style being filmed. The connection between filmmakers and dancers therefore nurtures and encourages the growth of their respective practices, especially on a technical level. They sharpen each other and right now this is visible on social media. Look for yourself and you will appreciate how dancers and filmmakers have developed fruitful relationships that have contributed to the rise of many lucrative careers for dancers. All from one knowing how to dance on camera and the other knowing how to capture a dancer on camera. 31.

HEY, ALEXA By Jacob & Ben Watton

‘Alexa, turn the light on’ is a work in development created by brothers Jacob and Ben Watton. The work was presented at Ausdance QLD’s Scratch Night as a work in development. Jacob is an independent artist working primarily in Brisbane and Toowoomba as a choreographer, performer and teacher. Ben works in business systems and business application design with a heavy emphasis on workflow systems. They are different. ‘Alexa, turn the light on’ was born from a collaboration between their differences.

What draws you to the Amazon Alexa Technology? BEN: What drew me to the Alexa platform initially was knowing that it would be fairly easy to integrate with and write tailor made Alexa skills. I then wrote a pile of personal tools; for instance, I developed a podcasting solution that when I press pause on my podcasting app on my phone, it writes to a database my current position in the podcast. Later when I ask Alexa to play that podcast, because of my tool, it will begin where I left off. These small, tailor made solutions served as the initial inspiration to manipulate Alexa beyond her out of the box skill set. 32.

JACOB: I would describe my relationship to technology as kicking and screaming. I wasn’t so much drawn to the Alexa technology; it just turns out that when you have an Alexa in basically every room of the house (that includes the bathroom, graciously only for a short period), Alexa is instead, drawn to you. What surprised you about the collaboration between Performance and Technology? BEN: When I first wrote one of the skills for our showing, I did a pile of testing. I ran the skill over and over and asked it questions, indeed I asked some of the questions that we ended up using in the showing. However, when I asked those questions, I found no compelling narrative to the answers. I just got input and output. When I watched Jacob perform with my technology, it was very clear that he was able to elevate that skill far beyond the raw inputs of the technology. It was exciting to see his performance push beyond what I imagined the boundaries of my technology to be. I think this interplay between my technology and his performance is what makes this show so compelling as a concept. We didn’t know this was the case until we presented at Scratch Night. JACOB: As I was working with the technology, I was surprised by its ability to develop content all on its own. Instead of scripting the Alexa to say

what I wanted it to say, when I wanted it to say it, the Alexa interacts with the performance in a really nuanced way all on its own. As a performer it was a reminder to remain present within the performance space; how my role, and the direction of the performance on stage was actively informed by choices made by Ben’s technology. What are you most interested in as a Tech Developer for this project? BEN: I like that the work will be ever changing. As things we ask the Alexa to search for change, what it responds with will change as well. For example, if we had a major news event that happened to share some search terms with something that Jacob talks about, the Alexa’s output during the performance would reflect that world shift. The project changes, as the world around it, changes. What are you most interested in as a Performer for this project? JACOB: I’m excited to see how Ben’s technology and his choices manifest themselves onstage. For me this technology feels intrinsically connected to my brother, and whilst the audience may not see Ben as clearly as I do, I am hoping that Alexa’s persona on stage takes on some of Ben’s sensibilities.


Ausdance QLD The Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Arts Level 3 420 Brunswick Street Fortitude Valley QLD 4006 Phone: 07 3122 7628

The views and opinions expressed by the various authors included in IN/FORM are their own and are not necessarily those of Ausdance QLD.

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IN/FORM - Issue #2  

Issue #2 of IN/FORM is looking at hybrid arts. Read about our local Queensland artists that are mixing dance with technology, visual arts, c...

IN/FORM - Issue #2  

Issue #2 of IN/FORM is looking at hybrid arts. Read about our local Queensland artists that are mixing dance with technology, visual arts, c...