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WOMEN’S WORK |

WOMEN’S WORK CRITICAL PATH

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WOMEN’S WORK Editor Copy Editor and Project Co-ordinator Designer

Julie-Anne Long Paul Walker Deborah Kelly

First Published 2020 by Critical Path, The Drill Hall 1C New Beach Road, Darling Point (Rushcutters Bay) NSW 2027 Australia Critical Path is Australia’s lead organisation for choreographic enquiry, research and development. Our mission is to nurture and support independent Australian choreographers to push the boundaries of existing contemporary practice. Critical Path supports choreographers to explore new ways of working, develop new collaborations and engage in dialogue and critical conversations. criticalpath.org.au Supported by Woollahra Council through a Cultural and Community Grant. Critical Path is an initiative of Create NSW, with program funding from the Australia Council, the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body. Critical Path would like to acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the land we work on.

CONTENTS Introduction - Julie-Anne Long PART ONE: WOMEN’S WORK

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To Ground and to Exchange - Kathy Cogill Women’s Work Workshops: January, March and April Talking Dance - Anca Frankenhaeuser Observations and Thoughts - Lee Pemberton PART TWO: INVISIBILITY

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Some Thoughts On Invisibility - Anca Frankenhaeuser A Conversation with a Dramaturg or a Conversation with a Lady - Anny Mokotow Laugh About It - Kay Armstrong PART THREE: THE WORK OF DANCE 25 The Work of Choreography (Part 1) - Sue Healey Enfleshment: A practice on the edge - Elisabeth Burke Writing Dancing: Now/In the past/In the future - Julie-Anne Long Writing Dancing: An Experiment - Nikki Heywood The Work Of Choreography (Part 2) - Sue Healey PART FOUR: ARTISTS SPEAK OUT

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The Shifting Body: New constructions of a self - Clare Grant Musings on the Older Professional Female Dancer - Sonia York-Pryce Fear of Erasure: Dance and the ageing body - Rakini Devi ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

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Alia Ardon / Kay Armstrong / Elizabeth Burke / Kathy Cogill / Rakini Devi / Lux Eterna /Anca Frankenhaeuser/ Clare Grant / Sue Healey / Nikki Heywood /Julie-Anne Long / Anny Mokotow / Lee Pemberton / Charemaine Seet / Sonia York-Pryce 2

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INTRODUCTION JULIE-ANNE LONG We respectfully acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora nation, the traditional owners and ongoing custodians of the land on which Critical Path is based and where we met for the Women’s Work project. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging. In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, elders play an important role through the passing down of traditional knowledge and the advice and wisdom they share. They are held in high regard and are often recognised as being able to provide advice, offer support and share wisdom with other members of the community, particularly younger members. Whilst the Aboriginal elder can be of any age they are frequently older with considerable life experience. There is much we can learn from the position and respect afforded to elders in Aboriginal culture. In dance, many older dance artists are held in high regard and respected for their insights born of embodied experience. Older dancers frequently work within the intertwining of generations, noted especially for their contributions as teacher, mentor, choreographer and/ or director, leading, guiding and facilitating younger artists. However, the older dance artist who continues an independent creative practice, is often regarded as less significant than those in earlier stages of their career. While older can refer to being senior or more experienced it can also have a derogative application, as in general use, ‘senior citizen’, ‘old age pensioner’, or elderly. For the older dance artist, the body is inescapable and when that body is slowing down and ‘not what it used to be’ it can be confronting for both artist and audience. Within dominant western societal conditions and expectations, the older female body can be particularly unsettling – even more disconcerting when moving and dancing. 4

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WOMEN’S WORK: CONVERSATIONS AND QUESTIONS This publication has grown out of the project Women’s Work, a series of workshops and facilitated discussions, initiated by Critical Path in 2019, which I facilitated. Women’s Work explores the nature and role that senior women play in dance and choreographic practices and the arts sector as a whole through consideration of individual artist’s own definitions of their artistic practices and what ‘the work’ of creativity is for them. Women’s Work is part of a series of conversations around the need to support those practitioners who continue to create but because of their age (and one would argue their gender) and independent artist status, are often unrecognised and/or undervalued at a significant moment in their creative life. To start, these conversations considered the challenges senior female dance artists face. We talked about our experiences both good and bad as the dancing body ages, from which tensions about our identities arose, such as, how we see ourselves as older dance artists, as different to how others may perceive us. Questions were raised around: How old is old in dance? At what age do you move from the invisibility of middle-age into the role of ‘elder’ with accompanying visibility? What can we call ourselves? Mature (definitely not), senior (not particularly popular), older (than what?), established (yes, although this identifier can suggest a sustainable position that is not the reality of most of these artists), experienced (yes, we liked this one best). We agreed that established and experienced reflected a certain gravitas (not always afforded us) and complimented phrases that located our careers and claimed the extent of our knowledge like: ‘Over the past three decades’, ‘For the past forty years’. We discussed specifics of dance work where concrete labour is driven by the body of the dancer and exists in the ephemeral productivity of contemporary dance. Importantly, as senior female dance artists we shared stories of how our creative labour has limited capital and commercial value. We spoke about how to ascribe value to our accumulated dance knowledge and skills especially where the distinctiveness and individuality of our practices is outside the mainstream. Many of us work in the independent sector and perceive what we do to be alternative or oppositional to mainstream arts activities, where there is a greater emphasis on economic imperatives. For many independent dance artists, the

choice to work outside the major structures or ‘mainstream’ is a conscious one: it gives us greater freedom and autonomy with regard to how and where we work and ultimately what we produce, albeit within a less secure existence. Dance artist Nikki Heywood commented on her experience in collaborating and connecting with the different independent artists: I found much shared ground and similar concerns with the other artists in terms of the challenges in maintaining a sustainable and satisfying creative practice and career. I was re-affirmed in my belief that independent artists are some of the most resilient and inventive people around, who are constantly meeting the demand to re-invent themselves and to find ways to subsist on the most meagre of subsidies and/or resources. With an increasing number of dance artists continuing to work in their 50s, 60s and beyond, employing their bodies as both object and subject, it is timely that we address these issues and the lack of co-ordinated support for senior female artists across dance. In addition to conversations between the senior female dance artists we opened up creative work discussions and dance workshops to a broader public: to include women working across disciplines that included visual art, architecture, jewellery making, media and corporeal mime; and introducing a group of girls in their tweens (8 to 12 years old) to members of the dance artist group, sharing ideas about dance and the creative process. WOMEN’S WORK: COLLECTION OF WRITTEN VOICES Based on the themes of the Women’s Work discussions and workshop sessions, this collection provides a platform for a myriad of diverse perspectives and voices through personal reflection, creative responses and scholarly writing. Many of the artists involved have interdisciplinary practices and image-based responses are important contributions to the dialogue here. Whilst the dance artists involved in Women’s Work have a diversity of practices and trajectories (see About the Contributors) they also share many common experiences reflected in these texts. Part One includes descriptions of the Women’s Work activities and reflections on issues that arose for Kathy Cogill, Anca Frankenhaeuser and Lee Pemberton. Kathy expresses recognition of the value for coming together and exchanging experiences through this project. Anca’s poem

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is an immediate response to her experience of the day she attended, whilst Lee’s thoughts reflect on her history within a broader social cultural context. These writings go together with links to archival documentation of the project, which includes videos by Lux Eterna and Alia Ardon. The second part consists of writings around notions of invisibility for dance and the older female dance artist. Anca alludes to ‘the invisible mature artist’ and the challenges faced in dance as an occupation or career, suggesting that dance is a vocation and inescapably ‘in our blood’. Anca has also contributed a number of photographs, from an art practice she conducts alongside her dance. As ‘someone of the grey persuasion, perhaps’, Anny Mokotow grapples with her role as the schizophrenic invisible dramaturg, highlighting the need to be observant, to confront and challenge, and be responsive, all the while being as invisible as possible – a skill honed as one gets older. In contrast, the distinctly humorous voice of Kay Armstrong calls for us to laugh about the long ride and make the most of day to day challenges as we get older. Kay’s written reflection is accompanied by a striking photographic self-portrait suggestive of a devilish twister preparing to moving forwards. The work of dance, of choreography and shifts experienced in practice as an older female dance artist are explored in Part Three. Sue Healey provides a reflection on the tensions between employment, monetary gain and value, against the value (and privilege) of having the freedom, (courage and discipline), to follow your artistic vocation. Sue’s photographic essay extends this further and gives us an insight into her major international project

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‘On View’ (2013-present). Elisabeth Burke attended the public discussion and contributes a poetic call to arms for an acceptance of invisibility and ‘older bodies’ in dance and movement. These pieces are complemented with two Writing Dancing exercises: from me, a reflection of what the work of dance is for me now, in relation to what it was in the past and what I imagine it will be in the future; as well as an observation and a drawing from Nikki Heywood’s improvisation practice. Part Four provides three short essays which illustrate case studies of unique senior female artists within the diversity of dance practices in Australia and overseas. Clare Grant’s shifting body is opportune with extracts from the mid 1990s to current times. Sonia York-Pryce addresses the western dance world’s obsession with youth and beauty and reveals the dignity afforded older dance artists, in Australia and internationally. Rakini Devi writes of her own creative endeavours and ever-evolving visual practice, noting the influences of her dance training, grounded in a non-western approach to dance. There are no conclusions here, rather, indications that older female artists are working on where to next in their dance practices, exploring ways of engaging in a creative contribution that starts and continues with the body. Rakini Devi sums up the Women’s Work project: ‘I felt a sense that we have to, and continue to, reinvent ourselves and our practices to suit our changing bodies and lifestyles, but our passion and commitment to our art remains the same, and in my case, charged with a different energy.’ The work of older female dance artists could be summed up as, same same, but different.

PART ONE WOMEN’S WORK

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TO GROUND AND TO EXCHANGE KATHY COGILL

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‘Women’s Work’ was a treasured opportunity to connect with other female performers in the Sydney community; an invaluable time to reflect on our work and to look at how to adapt, to continue being actively involved in the arts and remain creative. The connection, the support and the warmth were inspiring. Our discussions have motivated me in preparing for rehearsals in a studio space opportunity I have coming up. In a climate where we are often disconnected and searching for unity, ‘Women’s Work’ was a breath of fresh air - stimulating and refreshing. I’m very grateful for this opportunity we had to come together, to ground and to exchange.

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WOMEN’S WORK WORKSHOPS PROCESS, PRACTICE AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF SENIOR FEMALE DANCE ARTISTS 19 JANUARY 2019 Part of Critical Path’s Talking Dance series, in association with Sydney Festival, this gathering was an open invitation to the public. The Gaden Community Centre and Cafe in Queen St, Woollahra provided an informal setting, ideal for connecting people from across Woollahra and beyond with an interest in the Creative Industries and dance. WOMEN’S WORK PARTICIPATING DANCE ARTISTS: Kay Armstrong, Shane Carroll, Kathy Cogill, Anca Frankenhauser, Sue Healey, Eileen Kramer, Julie-Anne Long and Charemaine Seet.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO SENIOR FEMALE ARTISTS FACE? 17 MARCH 2019 This conversation between dance artists and female artists from other disciplines celebrated older women working in the arts and acknowledged the process, practice and achievements of these artists, encouraging different ways of looking at the creative work they produce. Julie-Anne Long (artist-scholar and Senior Lecturer in Dance and Performance at Macquarie University) brought together a group of experienced women working in dance to share ideas, concerns and ways of working with other senior creatives and those interested in the artistic process. 10

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WOMEN’S WORK PARTICIPATING DANCE ARTISTS Kay Armstrong, Kathy Cogill, Tess de Quincy, Sue Healey, Nikki Heywood, Julie-Anne Long and Sonia York-Pryce LUX ETERNA VIDEO LINK https://vimeo.com/388165087

AN INVITATION FOR INTERGENERATIONAL EXCHANGE 28 APRIL 2019 This was a unique opportunity to participate in a Dance Workshop where young female dancers, (8 to 12 years old) worked with senior female dance artists – shared ideas about dance and the creative process ‘on the floor’ and talked about the work of these artists. Julie-Anne Long and Charemaine Seet (director and teacher at Seet Dance, Sydney’s innovative contemporary dance school) facilitated the afternoon. WOMEN’S WORK PARTICIPATING DANCE ARTISTS: Anandavalli, Kay Armstrong, Kathy Cogill, Rakini Devi, Anca Frankenhauser, Sue Healey, Nikki Heywood, JulieAnne Long, Lee Pemberton and Charemaine Seet. ALIA ARDON VIDEO LINK https://vimeo.com/336258584


TALKING DANCE ANCA FRANKENHAEUSER

To talk of dance and age, to vent our thoughts what should we call ourselves, what tag to use mature or older, ancient dance folk? Nought can well explain us, it might just confuse Those were some thoughts discussed with other themes like self and recognition, funding too turned inside out and upside down in reams and how we many different angles woo As well as hats of many kinds we wear then feed it all into our knowledge bank and even then, we sometimes rant and swear because it’s hard to just accept our rank What is our work, what value does it get? re challenges, rewards, what have we met?

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OBSERVATIONS & THOUGHTS LEE PEMBERTON I participated in a one-day workshop at Critical Path with eight senior dance artists. These diverse women of ‘a certain age’, in their prime, impressed and encouraged me. Their diverse practices and individual interpretation of the art form was wide-ranging and each expresses a unique perspective on dance through their creative output, which is as individual as their personalities. Here are some of my thoughts about the day.

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As fifty-plus artists, we have all been steady walkers in the dance landscape and we each have reached peaks, summits and travelled through troughs. We have also weathered the changing culture of the artform some of us have moved from company dancer to independent artistic pursuits or teaching. Having commenced within some form of a classical foundation where aesthetic and athletic attributes are held in the highest esteem, we have found divergent interests and a collection of complementary skills to enhance and deepen our work. Through a sustained practice in the moving arts, we have amassed at least forty years of professional dance experience and knowledge. As children who grew up post-1950 we are the generation breaking new ground, who have redefined 60 as the new 50. We no longer accept post-menopause as the end of a productive life for women. Within this experience, our bodies are changing, slowing and ageing. As dancers we continue to explore our curiosity of the moving body, and to expand our knowledge and creative expertise within the artform. We are the generation of dancers who have seen the

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ideologies of modernism change almost everything about dance. By continuing to participate in dance into older age we are learning to appreciate a new way of looking at the body and are finding, and losing, some new personal boundaries. As we enter this new expression of the feminine body, the mature dancer is pushing aside ancient aesthetic youthful imagery and embracing the less supple, vulnerable and wrinkled body. We are adapting to our bodily changes and new cultural benchmarks as Dance mutates into a new diversity of practices. As an older dancer, I can look back over my experience with greater objectivity as to the practicalities of creating dance work. I know that the embodiment of my conceptual ideas and meanderings are fundamental to the work of dance and I have, to some degree, accepted that my practical survival requires many more skills than just being able to move. The work of dance requires a great deal of organising – bodies; space; schedules; administration; thinking about the logistics of the work; and we have to be able to advocate, encourage and involve others as support. Being

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highly organised is essential to survival but puts a huge demand on my time and takes me away from the primary ‘work’ of dance, the practice of dancing. People comment on the lack of funding, difficulties, social status and support received in dance. When I think about the small group, which this project collected, I have to say that despite this we have survived these difficulties having all had various opportunities to pursue a career in the field. Today the opportunities, mentored support and guidance for dance students and emerging artists are growing, and even though positions for full-time company dancers have diminished young people enter the industry as independent artists and creatives in their own right. The work of dance has also expanded to include minority and disenfranchised groups, ethnic and regional artists – dance work that wasn’t recognised forty years ago. As dancers, our achievements do not stand in the limelight often and the subtleties and nuances of the moving arts are lost in a fast commercial and needy world. In our society, it is a challenge to validate a career in the art-form compared to social, educational, medical, sport or scientific work.

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The work of a dancer is admired but not necessarily understood. As dancers we know what movement practice is capable of doing for our minds and bodies and that in the future our work must become better understood and appreciated. We are a generation that has connected more deeply to our bodies than our maternal ancestors. As older dancers our lives will have an impact on the culture of the feminine, our research in higher education institutions is a testimony to the fact that the art-form has more to offer at an intellectual level. There is a very genuine chance that the women involved in the Women’s Work and the wealth of experience, in-depth knowledge they have gained through a sustained participation Dance, will have an impact on the future of female dancers. Our personal histories are important but the collection of the group probably more important than all of our parts. We all know it takes a lifetime to gather, process and deliver a succinct, creative, artistic output with an evolved philosophy and aesthetic. As we look toward a finale encore let us say that our work in Dance has never been a waste of our time and give a cheer for the elders who have survived before us.

PART TWO INVISIBILITY

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SOME THOUGHTS ON INVISIBILITY ANCA FRANKENHAEUSER

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INVISIBILITY is not necessarily something that happens to dancers because they are older, mature, have been around for a while. I think rather that it is connected to dance itself, and independent practice in particular. Looking at the invisible mature artist, there is perhaps the added problem that dance might, in a broader sense, be considered ‘beautiful’ by the general public. And of course, young bodies are usually considered more beautiful than older, mature ones. But why is it that those who see your work so often are full of praise and declare how excited and/or moved they were? Why does that not translate into more recognition, more opportunities, bigger audiences? Are we so exclusive? Can we, and do we, only cater to the wonderful few? Why does Independent Dance Practice seem to cater to a limited audience? It costs to use a publicist and it can be very hard to promote yourself. You need the contacts and you need to be outgoing to be able to say that you are the best thing since sliced bread. The general public is often ‘scared’ of ‘art’ dance because it is unfamiliar and often they have not been exposed to it. They think that they have to ‘understand’ it, so they worry about it rather than just letting themselves watch, feel and enjoy it. Or not. People tend to go to ‘known’, often larger venues, places they are familiar with or where everyone else goes. People tend to often engage with art dance and the performing arts in an individual way rather than with something like sport, where you are egged on and influenced by the masses around you. With sport, you become one of ‘them’, you feel a connection with the rest of the audience instead of possibly reacting personally and being on your own. Even when you try hard to promote yourself, make a promo and send it to people you think should be interested, it often falls flat in the end. The initial response is mostly great enthusiasm. But when it comes to the practicalities and actually being invited to do something, then for some reason or another, it just won’t happen. Disappointment! So why do we still keep working so hard to create things and to perform them wherever and whenever possible? It is in our blood, it is what makes us tick more than any of the other things we also do. And we do

‘do other things.’ In my experience life becomes more interesting as it goes along, if you are lucky enough to go along with it, rather than fading into beige. You become more alert and see things in different ways, enjoying all the detail that surrounds you. I suppose you can either become more set in your ways, or you can become more open to suggestions and variations on any theme. I don’t have any solutions. Are there solutions? Solutions or not, there is certainly now more interest in creative ageing, perhaps because the average age is steadily rising. But I suspect that it is not so much about us ageing creatives as it is about people who have retired from work, any work. To keep these older people active through creative pursuits. I’m not sure that will really help us. Meanwhile I, and so many others will certainly keep on doing. Simply because we just have to, want to and need to.

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LAUGH ABOUT IT KAY ARMSTRONG

Crickets chirping; stoking poetics, listening out for fun as the knees creak, cut splice, cross-dissolve, wav dot file it, delete, copy, send, submit, orientate this new flesh, GIF it, cajole it through space, schedule it, wedge it into an excel spreadsheet, hissing and spitting, but always with your dodgy calf muscle in mind. Show up, call back, (auditions, ha! remember them) you have voice mail, inbox my fused spine, paste my ropey arms, tick a box then laugh about it. Consider your super, then laugh about it. Look back but not for too long, realize that it’s all so much better and brighter and bigger in your memory than what it ever was, you have footage to prove it. Don’t look at footage, endure, and book physio appointment instead. Consider dentures, remember your parent’s teeth in a glass jar on the bedside table, reconsider dentures. Browse available funding, then laugh; consider calling yourself a ‘professional periphalist’, then laugh, labels schmabels. Sell two photos, cheer yourself, then do the maths, laugh about it. Put your paintbrush down, step away from the easel, easy now, Miranda warning, just step into an ample empty space, maybe a studio, that’s the girl, woman, dancer, dancer woman, older dancer woman, female dance artist, senior female dance artist, experienced female dance artist, wisened/wizened, weighted (you consider Jenny Craig, then laugh). White knuckling it. Whatever your name is, label is. Whatever your beef. Whatever your jive, your thing is. Intermultihybridpolypotentialite? Scratch that, start again, then laugh about it. Realize you have passed this way before, you’ve gone in a giant circle, only took 30 years, laugh about it. Back up so you can get a better view, put on your glasses so you can actually see the better view; but you don’t know where you put them down last, so it’s all a bit of a blur, but you still say ‘wow! Look at that’ (consummate performer). Do I have to? Take the next left, or right, or go straight ahead; surreptitiously make a grab for your comfy shoes and soft cushion; this is going to be a long ride. Proceed to route. Apparently, you have arrived. That went quickly. Huh. So here I am.

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CONVERSATION WITH A DRAMATURG OR, A CONVERSATION WITH A LADY ANNY MOKOTOW The title of my new book is: … well, I’m not really writing a book, because no one needs one, but if I were to find enough gumption or sticky stuff, I might write this book. Possible title: The invisible dramaturg: female and older, enables Invisible Dramaturgy: new and exciting. It would ask a number of questions. Well, probably only two really important questions, with some other questions that spring out from the sides of these questions. The intellectual question: What is invisible dramaturgy? Dramaturgy that hides in the folds of the performance, that holds up the scaffolding of the structure and that is hidden in the layers of the action. n Is all dramaturgy invisible? In a sense, we could say that the best dramaturgy is the dramaturgy that you don’t see. It is the dramaturgy that makes things happen to you and that might be invisible; the things that you are yet to discern. n Could we call it the inner logic of what is presented but not always seen? At times evident – in the choices for particular combinations of events, 22

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themes, concepts, actions and materials. But we could also say that it’s the fragments that don’t always fit together, the fragments in which you can read or see, or feel the whole work. ******** SO, WHAT DO YOU DO, HOW DO YOU DO IT AND WHY DO YOU DO IT? CAN I SEE IT, DESCRIBE IT, WRITE IT, DANCE IT, ARTICULATE IT? n Can you say that what is not seen is not known? Yes, it is, but you can never be sure of it. n The invisibility of the visible. What is that? The parts of a performance that we feel but don’t see, don’t hear, aren’t aware of. What we know intrinsically,

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superficially, internally, overtly, covertly, inherently, embodied, consciously, subconsciously, implicitly? Is dramaturgy then what we don’t know that we know? Perhaps, we might never know. n What remains of the dramaturgy? It remains inside the bones of the performance, the marrow, the DNA and the genealogy. It remains in the memory of those exposed to its effect. I want to describe the dramaturgy. But which one? There are so many dramaturgies that go into the life of a performance. You can call out the macro dramaturgy if you like – call it like you see it, like you can explain it. You can call out the meta dramaturgy if you like, the dramaturgy that calls attention to itself, allows us to follow and wind with it. Then the anthropological question: From where and how do you, as dramaturg speak? From anything you can wrap your hands on. WHAT OR WHO IS AN INVISIBLE DRAMATURG? Someone small in stature, relatively unremarkable in appearance, perhaps. Someone of the grey persuasion, perhaps. Someone of the female type more likely. Someone accustomed to speaking up, staying silent, to calling it

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out, and letting it lie. Someone on call and call and call. Someone who might not be asked. Someone who can piece together disparate pieces. Who connects dots that are not even close by. Who remembers things long forgotten. Who makes piles of notes and gives them out into the abyss of information that participants are coping with – but gives them out anyway. Someone who can fade into the background when things are going tough, when there is a struggle happening that they can’t solve; who can fade into the background but still be there. Someone who can navigate the scene from the outside – or at least pretend that they can: the situation is schizophrenic. But I hear that ‘you need specialist knowledge’. Sure, maybe – the speciality comes from curiosity – questioning begets knowledge. If anyone needs to be curious, it’s the dramaturg. The choreographer is creative, the dancers are magnificent, the designer is gifted, the musician is a magician, but you are curious. Curious about your own seeing and feeling and knowledge. Oh, and …

PART THREE THE WORK OF DANCE

HOW DO YOU WORK DRAMATURGICALLY? As invisibly as possible.

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THE WORK OF CHOREOGRAPHY (PART 1) SUE HEALEY A very wise artist friend recently said to me, “Most work worth doing is without payment or glory”. (I had been bemoaning the fact that dance just doesn’t pay.) A day later he slightly corrected himself and added, “Not all paid work is without value, but very little unpaid work lacks value. The great advantage of unpaid work is freedom.” This reminded me that I have always favoured freedom over monetary gain. I decided early in my life that I would never work a meaningless job that was only about earning money or producing unnecessary things, or as described by the American anthropologist David Graeber, ‘a bullshit’ job, where people “spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed.” (https://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/) I knew I never wanted a job that would tie me to a desk (that did not quite work out) or make me work for someone or something I didn’t believe in. I have never thought of my work as work, it is more vocation than career, and as an artist, I am sure I am not alone in this thinking. The work in dance for me has always been about pursuing autonomy and creativity – and is strongly connected to the pursuit of the potential in being alive and in this body. I realise I am highly privileged to be able to say this. I have always lived my life in whatever way my art has determined. It must be said that my partner, who is a scientist, has greatly assisted this process. He thinks of his work as I do mine, that is, he is utterly devoted to science as a way of being, but in the grand scheme of things, the fact is, that science recompenses its workers better than the arts. So, I have always had a house over my head and hence the ability to pursue my dance-making. I am extremely grateful for this fact and without him, my ‘body of work’ would have been considerably less. 26

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I have spent the last 40 years being employed as a dancer, a choreographer, a teacher and as a filmmaker. Of course, in my early years as a dancer in New York, I experienced a diversity of ‘bullshit’ jobs—I was a dog walker (dreadful! I lasted about a week); a cookie maker (I am the world’s worst baker – so this was the biggest jokejob of my life); a cleaner, which I was ok at, but it was the shirt ironing that undid me. I was eventually fired because I would always leave an arm or a side panel un-ironed. I tried my hand at being a salesperson, selling clothes in a ritzy uptown store, but this ended in an unceremonial sacking for running out of the store in pursuit of a thug, who had grabbed a rack of leather jackets and skedaddled down Broadway. I admit it was not the most brilliant decision I have ever made—I was a fast runner and I can remember getting very close to apprehending the criminal, overladen with heavy jackets, before realising the folly of my chase. Nevertheless, I returned to Australia where I have worked in many dance contexts; as a performer in a full-time company, as an independent artist, a company director, a hired choreographer, and as a lecturer and teacher. Although I have mostly been self-employed, finding freedom and agency in the freelance world, I still remember the incredible benefit of a full-time salary and the value placed on my work in this situation. The actual ‘work’ of dance art is multi-layered and complex. It demands versatility, adaptability and a rich

tapestry of skills to work in this field. I teach, mentor, choreograph, design, edit and try to keep moving. Behind the scenes, I am a producer, a grant writer, an administrator, a book-keeper, publicist, networker, diplomat, arts advocate. In fact, making the work—the actual dancing in the studio— has sadly, become the smallest part of the work. The ability to sustain a career in any field is increasingly precarious. The ‘gig’ economy, short term contracts, corporate restructuring, automation, the threat to the environment by the way we work…all make for changing circumstances in how we think about work in our lives. What is the purpose of work? Is work only about productivity? If so, what do we consider important to produce, in order to live our lives? How do we value a dance artist’s labour where productivity deals with the ephemeral and the often immeasurable? Work controls our world. It governs the way we live, educate ourselves and how we interact with others. Work pervades our sense of self, our belief systems and our values. To be ‘hard-working’ is idealised, to be ‘out of work’ is a state to be rectified. Artists have often radically redefined the meaning of work. Working at art gives you a completely different perspective on the meaning of the word. Ask any artist about how their (art) work compares to their (moneymaking) work and there is no comparison between the two states of being. The brutal fact is that it is becoming more and more difficult to make a living from dance and dance-making. This is difficult to swallow. I believe the work of an artist makes a profound contribution to our culture. Artists deserve to be remunerated for their labour. Dance work produces experiences, emotional and physical inventions that have tangible value in ameliorating our increasingly disembodied reality. To choreograph is to work at being curious and to do so collaboratively. Importantly, these qualities have driven all human achievement. The work of dance is its strength—its rigour, discipline and vitality.

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ENFLESHMENT: A PRACTICE ON THE EDGE ELISABETH BURKE

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The following is a modified extract from an application for an artist residency that called for critical thought and research-oriented projects from primary creators in the category of choreographer/ theatre director/ and performance artist. I propose to develop a dramaturgical framework (not a script) for performance, that acknowledges and ‘honours’ older bodies. I know the effects of age on strength, balance and flexibility – attributes commonly, mistakenly, associated exclusively with youth. I also know the strength of artistic enquiry applied to cultural practices. For example, in yoga or Pilates when asked to move one part of the body the movement artist will focus on the still part, or ask is the action active or passive, or find balance by placing oneself within an imaginary geodesic dome – elementary interrogations of the body they carry through life. Performing artists possess a corporeal knowledge that can bring fresh insights into both the burgeoning arts-health sector as much as to the stage…. Many dance and movement artists have understood the body as a landscape. The concept removes discourse from the personal to the universal: thought patterns are manifest in the body like a river through the landscape. I come from an island continent with a very old landscape, wherein many places the ocean or the desert meets the sky. The thin shimmering horizon-line captures our attention. First Nations Australians are at a point in our sorry colonial history of generously sharing their wisdom on how to find meaning by viewing the landscape differently. For them, the liminal zone between red earth and starry sky is huge and redolent with meaning, memory and knowledge. Their song-lines link constellations to rocks here on earth. I am keen to reflect on these poetics as I reflect on corporeal arts. The body’s landscape maps the vagaries of ageing. Though the older body wanes, the spirit can often keep blossoming. Yet in movement-based performing arts it is rare to see an older body on stage. Like an aged landscape, older bodies sometimes have slower rhythms and restricted ease of movement that can belie active minds. On cultural exchange in a village near Ubud (Bali), we shared an evening performance with two elderly (one acutely arthritic) women who had not danced in decades. Back then they were three Balinese dancers who had also trained in America and, on return, made a pact they would

only ever dance as a threesome. When one died the others stopped dancing. That night they did not break their pact: they, we, could feel the third woman dancing. They took a risk. Their touch was light and deep. The poetics of that performance involved dialectics between time past and present, art and culture, wellness and infirmity, life and after-life. In the Australian context, older performance artists are rarely visible in live performance. I would want this project to add strength to a growing climate of resistance to this invisibility. I am ready to take a risk in the manner and form of the writing. I am inspired by two Australians who demonstrated creative strength without ego. Architect Paul Pholeros countered the dominant trend of his profession when he constructed housing for health for remote Aboriginal communities. These culturally sensitive, transportable buildings “touched the ground lightly”: they would, in short time, leave no trace. Lightness with inner strength! Composer Ross Edwards scored a melody concept to a libretto Yindjamarra, with the different voice-parts and instruments shaped by the current performing ensemble – and to date there have been many interpretations of it. Given in trust it constantly, radically, morphs. Both men remained true to their profession whilst challenging expectations. These creatives did not lamely wish for rain to turn the desert into an oasis. They responded to a cultural need. Their example invites us to accept our position on the edge of our profession and focus instead on a cultural relationship that matters – for the other. This perhaps sounds as interesting to performance artists as does ‘a building that leaves no trace’ to a young architect! What, though, are the thoughts of older movement and performance artists? What is currently being attempted? I hear a cry for a new dramaturgical concept that could be a stream of encouragement in what, for older performance artists, has been an arid cultural landscape. I am interested to hear of processes, ideas, attempts by older performance artists to maintain a (physical or conceptual) practice.

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WRITING DANCING: NOW/IN THE PAST/ IN THE FUTURE JULIE-ANNE LONG

Writing Dancing is a collective of artists, academics, students and writers who have met once a month on a Thursday evening since 2010. Each session revolves around writing exercises mostly devised by group members, or sometimes brought to the group from elsewhere ‘that encourage writing towards, about, around and alongside dance.’ (Critical Dialogues Issue 5 Writing Dancing p. 6 August 2015). In the middle of 2019 I facilitated a task for the Writing Dancing group where we wrote for 5 minutes continuously on each of three provocations: What is your experience of ‘the work of dance’ now? What was your experience of ‘the work of dance’ in the past? What do you anticipate your experience of ‘the work of dance’ will be in the future? These were my immediate responses.

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WRITING DANCING: AN EXPERIMENT NIKKI HEYWOOD

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In late 2018, Tess de Quincey and Peter Fraser invited participants from Sydney’s Writing Dancing group into a 3-day (Body Weather informed) group improvisation lab, Impro Exchange. This was an experiment for all of us, with the three writers in the room responding directly to the same stimulus and input as the moving bodies. I have been practising improvised performance for decades, and often use writing either to record or to expand that experience. Mostly this writing remains private. However, in the context of Impro Exchange the challenge (as I saw it) was to extend attention beyond the body and somatic perception into an instantaneous linguistic frame, and to allow composition and performativity to emerge. The task called for the impulse to move to be transmuted into writing, somehow allowing the hand on the page and the mind and word forming sense to move together. Blindfolding was generated with eyes closed in such a way. I am very interested in this potential for embodied writing and am currently working on a kind of libretto for a spoken word opera about nothing and everything.

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THE WORK OF CHOREOGRAPHY (PART 2)

I conspire with others to capture movement, play with it and see it through a different lens. It involves discussion about making the intangible slightly more tangible, and offering these ideas to a larger audience, who might not speak the same language.

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SUE HEALEY

The work aims to test and prove concepts, always in collaboration with others.

It is then about making decisions—from how the body moves, to what it wears,

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to how it fits into spaces and makes itself seen.

You have to be prepared to do anything for the sake of the work and put your body on the line.

The work requires touch, listening and accuracy.

The work rallies together different forces in the hope of creating magic together.

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Never forget: Women are the mothers of modern, contemporary and postmodern dance.

PART FOUR ARTISTS SPEAK OUT

Martha Graham’s Lamentation (1930) Lego Recreation by Charemaine Seet

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THE SHIFTING BODY: NEW CONSTRUCTIONS OF A SELF CLARE GRANT

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A HYPOTHESIS FOR A NEW SOLO PERFORMANCE Its first voice – maybe my own? In a recent rehearsal process we were asked to remember a garment from childhood: I recalled the yellow voile dress with ribbons of satin and a satin ribbon tied around the waist that I was always dressed in to go to dinner at the seaside hotel on family holidays. The memory seemed to be driven by a kind of paralysis which became a strong shaping force for that particular movement segment in the show. It seemed to construct a moment of being made ready for something that could not be understood – although that moment was, presumably, simply going downstairs to a meal in a hotel dining room: The moment had a sense of being prepared for some ‘life-move’ into the unknown; of impending entry while standing, for the moment, fixed and suspended. In rehearsal, a memory was seemingly salvaged. It was retraced by an older body that recalled a state it couldn’t name. It was then: n lengthened to move through space, expand the sense of time and change the frenetic and violent mood of the piece to a mode of reflection and transition n sounds were added n another performer began to follow the movements, mimicking them, shifting the implications of the moment again, drawing attention from the remembered body back to the older present body. But the memory itself? I’m not sure how much of it was actually real. The dress itself existed, and the holiday, the dinners in the hotel. But as for the memory of the state of mind - I seem to remember that feeling of being made ready for something much bigger than going down to dinner, but I suspect that that’s something made up by some part of my older self – as if in a dream, maybe, the processor of memories; a trickster space where everything is shifting – a place of transformation. But it was my body that was there in the hotel as a child. I remember that… I think. Another voice: Fernand Schirren1: Nothing’s changed in the thing that’s me. When I say ‘me’ now, it’s the same ‘me’ as when I was a small child. There’s no difference between an older ‘me’, an experienced ‘me’, and a ‘me’ who had no experience. A voice aside: I watched a dress rehearsal in which another performer took over that role for a performance tour I could not do. From the first moment the performers went to their

starting positions I had to literally hold myself to my chair to restrain my body from reacting to the signals it was receiving from their physical positions and their actions. But after the so-called yellow dress scene, I settled into watching from within my own body – and from that point in the show onwards, my consciousness of the performance tilted and some kind of identification with the other performer took place. I had the sense that I could even have been performing. Perhaps it was because this segment contained the strongest connection to something the body knew. And, the memory, if it was one, produced a crisp theatrical moment. It has a life of its own now. It sits in a new context where its only connection to me now is that I sometimes perform it. What would a new solo show be for me? What would be generated from within my current self to produce a new solo performance? TWO VOICES2: I’ll look back at Woman in the Wall - so far my only solo work. Well, hardly solo. There were four of us who made it: in 1990: Nigel Kellaway, director, Mickey Furuya, writer, and Sarah de Jong, composer and Clare Grant, performer. It was called Woman in the Wall – after the novel Women in the Wall by Julia O’Faolin which partly inspired it. I just performed it solo. Virginia Baxter’s voice enters. Virginia is a performer, writer and member of the Australian performance company Open City, which also published the national Australian arts news journal RealTime. V Collectively written solo performance…

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SHE SUGGESTS, in Talking Back - A Performed Conversation’, commissioned by PLAYWORKS, the national network for women writers for performance, first staged in Adelaide at the 1994 International Women Playwrights Conference. V Clare, how did you begin to do... what it is that you do? C Oh, all right. V OK. C Warwick Broadhead’s “Events” in the 1970’s in New Zealand. Very grand theatrical visions. If I close my eyes, I can still see them. SHE CLOSES HER EYES. V Clare? SILENCE C I’ve stopped speaking. I have not ceased to exist. SHE POINTS TO THE AUDIENCE. C They are reading me. V Go on. V How do you write visions? C Could be a set of instructions or diagrams for physical moves - usually written after the event. V Go on ... V Let’s move to your solo work V Let’s talk about that. C Too many words. SHE SPEAKS INTO THE MICROPHONE C

(significant) Roma is Amor. Amor is Roma

BLACKOUT. CLARE TAKES OUT A TORCH AND MOVES INTO THE AUDITORIUM. SHE SHINES THE TORCH ON SECTIONS OF THE ARCHITECTURE, SOMETIMES ON PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE, SOMETIMES ON PARTS OF HER OWN BODY. THE MUSIC IS Sweetest Lady. Composer: Sarah De Jong. EXCERPT: Woman in the Wall V In 1985 I created a performance called What Time Is This House 3. Like Woman in the Wall it was written in collaboration. But the voice of the solo performer 44

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C V C

was my own. I addressed the audience intimately as Myself. You played yourself? Mm. Mm.

CLARE MOVES HER CHAIR AWAY FROM VIRGINIA C There we would disagree. V Why? C For me the theatre has a different reality. V Not real real life ... C In performance, I can do exuberant, outrageous things but it’s not me. V Who is it then? C I am the person who can let myself do certain things in performance. V I’d say we’re probably closer than you think. VIRGINIA MOVES HER CHAIR A BIT CLOSER C

But you speak as yourself.

CLARE MOVES HER CHAIR AWAY V A version of myself. A “what if” self. More-or-less myself. Like that American comedian Steve Wright says, “I got home last night, all my furniture had been stolen and replaced with exact replicas.” A persona. C We could possibly agree on persona. V OK C Well, do you blame me? When I took Woman in the Wall to my home town in New Zealand, some people thought I was telling them the story of my life! V Most writing starts with the self. C But a series of theatrical events had been layered over it. V When the form is open, there are lots of ways to read it. C I felt like I’d left a skin behind in that city and there it was waiting for me to slip back in. V But you didn’t. C Theatre is fiction with its own logic. Nothing to do

with me. V Nothing? C It was constructed by four people. V So other people had constructed your identity? C With my collusion this time. I held on to my ideas but at the same time, gave them up completely, if that makes sense. V Perfect sense. And in the performance, the audience moved around the space? C There were no seats. V You let the audience construct your identity? C Not my identity! V Sorry! The performer’s identity. What do we call her, “She”? The Woman? C Call her “I.” V “She who is I but Not I.” C She who moves from one “I” to another so she can’t be held down. V And who are you? C In this case, the performer who moves through the performance to its conclusion in approximately 50 minutes, always with her eye on the audience. V So to put it simply VERY FAST: You start with a nun but, unlike a playwright you don’t write a play with a persona based on a nun or the nun-in-you (or the nun-in-us-all if you’re going for the human condition) who presents herself as a woman in conflict with the world who by some cathartic means manages to break free of her chains (or wall in this case) and is changed. C Correct. V Instead, you start with an image of confinement, you open yourself to the possibility that others may swamp your vision of its meanings, you collaborate with them at the same time holding on to your own strong personal vision and together you create a work about a solo performer who each night, in real time, embodies both the ease and anxiety of the state of moving through personifications of the “self” while the moving audience write their own versions of her. C In a word... was all I could manage in reply.

Here’s a narrative voice for a moment. There was a night during that first season of Woman in the Wall, when two people saw the show with very different eyes – with very different bodies in fact. The day after that performance, I was talking on a radio program with a woman a bit older than myself. She had been at the performance. She said, in our interview, I just wanted to touch you. I stood as close to you as I could and all the time I wanted to touch you. I don’t know why I didn’t. I can guess why she didn’t, but that’s not the point at the moment. The same day I heard from a friend how HIS friend, a young man, told him that, at the same performance, he had spent the whole night creeping around against the walls of the theatre, keeping as far away from the action as possible. All the while, in his head he heard a voice saying: there is something wrong here. There’s something very wrong here. All the way home, the voice continued: there is something very wrong here. Then he got home and, he said, I realised it was in myself. What exactly was ‘wrong’ in himself I have never been interested to discover. And now a voice of exploration and meditation on what might come next: A self of the very recent past decides to create a hypothetical new solo performance. In the process, the dislocation and struggle of travel – specifically, the longing for an armchair - begins to frame a new work. It’s shaped by the disruption of constant movement, the sense of the earth vanishing under the wheels of the trains in which it was conceived, as many a show carries the traces for instance of the shape of the room in which it was made. A current/recurrent voice: How to evoke that multiplicity of perspectives now, after nearly 11 years? What is the next solo show? I’m caught now in the image of a single performer standing in front of a fixed audience. It came to me after the last solo show and hasn’t budged in the 10 years since. I haven’t found a way around it. Woman in the Wall depended for its life on physical movement, wide spaces, many momentarily-defined points and a myriad of audience viewing-positions, new physical moments, settings, and also voices, which changed whenever an image seemed to settle. I’m still driven to construct a boundary-less world with many constantly shifting registers and spaces. Not, this

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time, from the need to escape definition myself, but to encompass a whole lot of new things - the more conscious but still-forming theoretical positions that are shaping the formation of the show; the huge technological shifts that have taken place since then, and new ideas about time and space which might in the end become more important than the body after all. Then again there has been the World Trade Centre and an election. Perhaps the immediacy and vulnerability of the live body is now more important than ever. Above all, perhaps, it is important to resist definition of the audience itself. How, now, does a single performing figure convey multiple voices that speak from multiple positions – to reflect a shimmering of opinion, create a multi-layered physical and imaginative space where many realities can be engaged; to give a multifaceted audience a full range of options in reception while shaping a specific and particular experience; to reflect a whole world of subjectivities in spite of the incontrovertible defining edges of the body of a single performer. How can this body do Madonna? Jerome Bel would simply say it was Madonna. Could the Cindy Sherman who created the Untitled image no. 222, with its large pendulous breasts and solid body, if she had started there, could she do Marilyn? What voice(s) can sustain the broken subjective state and multiple identities that we are now capable of producing, for instance, on the web? In a nightclub? The new relationships to technology that even in a technophobe such as me produces impulses in the chest, neck and arms that insist that I check the emails before any of the day can begin – even the morning cup of tea? What is this body that might performing it in, let’s say, 2002? What can it do now? What does it want to do? What can it not do? I take my tooth out of my mouth (connected to a dental plate since ‘the incident’). Long smile. Smile with seduction and pleasure – an active smile and extend it. I allow my face to drop to serious. Once upon a time in performance I ran repeatedly up and down a steep flight of stairs in high-heeled shoes. How does a physical performer continue to make physical performance as the body changes form? These eyes can’t be trusted any more even to judge the 46

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number of steps still to go when I’m walking down the stairs in my own home. The legs that I once declared in a public situation to be my best and most reliable feature have had tendons broken, meniscuses operated on; they have grown lumps of flesh behind the knee and my ankles have turned into my mother’s immobile wide tree-stumps. I have to be careful not to bend my back into too big an arch because I have hypertrophy of the facet joints in the lower back and my eyes mustn’t be allowed to take on too much pressure or I may suffer a retinal detachment. I put my tooth back in place in my mouth. As this body became less reliable it became clear that I would probably have to rely on my voice. Then just 6 days before I left Australia for 5 months in Europe in January my front tooth had to be removed. The large lump of plastic behind my front teeth make it difficult to refine sounds at the moment. I am learning to learn to speak differently. Perhaps as some suggest, we are moving past the era of obsession with the body. But I don’t want to not use my body. It is a major source of imagery for me. I touch my hands to my cheeks. I always refer to it in creating new work. It contains a world at least as big to me as the internet. It has given me my performance language. I use its curves and gaps, its slowness and speed, its strengths and broken bits, its extraneous bits. I once had a bump on my head which was used as an impetus and subject matter for a whole scene. One of my fellow ex-members of the company was rendered speechless a little while ago to discover I don’t have it anymore. I worried: Has my cleaned-up body become less interesting or productive as potential creative material? And where is the body speaking from when notions of space and edges are so irrevocably shifted by technology? By genetics and animal-feeding practices? And the movements of refugees? How to reflect a shifting idea of internal and external space? In his dance work Some Problems of Space Perception, Belgian choreographer and dancer Marc Vanrunxt dissolves the edges of the performing subject but also even of the space itself. His use of lights makes the stage space edgeless; the long reaching arm movements, focus of the

eyes and the lines of the three performing bodies on the floor imply a space that opens through the floor and walls. His focus – and his nose incongruously poised in the ropes of the wings - and his rolls to the edge of the taped Tarkett dissolve the edges of the stage. Three bodies in the space slowly show themselves to be in separate spaces in the same place. But how to do that with one body? With this body? I stand poised if not paralysed in front of the audience like the girl – the self – in the yellow dress. About to go through something and for the time being not yet capable of action. The hypothetical performance is becoming real. Who is the audience? Did the girl in the yellow dress exist at all? And that armchair itself will probably never appear in the show.

ENDNOTES 1 Rhythm teacher from 1970 to 1989 at Maurice Bejart’s Mudra School; From interview with Marianne Van Kerkhoven in Brussels on 14 and 21 May, and 1 June, 1993. 2 Virginia Baxter and Clare Grant; Talking Back: A Conversation; originally performed at the Third International Women Playwrights’ Conference in Adelaide, 1994; then at Performance Space Sydney in 1995; subsequently published in Australian Feminist Studies; Number 21; Autumn 1995; pp153-169. 3 Virginia Baxter; What Time is This House?; ed Peta Tait (Australasian Drama Studies Association; c/- English Department, University of Queensland); Brisbane; 1992.

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MUSINGS ON THE OLDER PROFESSIONAL FEMALE DANCER SONIA YORK-PRYCE

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The current Western dance world perpetuates the idea that it is an artform for only the “young and beautiful.”1 Dancers who wish to continue performing after a certain age have to fight for the opportunity to remain visible, particularly female dancers. Why is society challenged by the image of a female dancer of a certain age, whose form was once regarded and admired?2 For the older woman or dancer, the association of supposed lessening sensuality and closeness of mortality may seem inevitable. Invisibility and disregard of life experience shriek disenfranchisement, and new questions need to be asked as to how this wealth of embodied dance experience can be acknowledged, with audiences looking beyond ageing. The dance-by-date so adhered to in Western dance requires debate from within in order to bring about change, to broaden these aesthetic boundaries, and to recognise the creativity these female dancers embody. The older female professional dancer identifies as a body of knowledge, a living dance archive, or as described by Edward and Newell, “as a phenomenological breathing curriculum vitae.”3 Performing is what she does, and a dancer is who she is. Martha Graham’s infamous quote, “A dancer more than any other human being, dies two deaths: the first, the physical when the powerfully trained body will no longer respond as you would wish ... without dancing, I wished to die.” This statement rings true to many, for to cease performing is likened to a death sentence 4. This statement may sound rather radical, but for many this is how they feel—this is their identity. As Wainwright and Turner declare, “being a dancer is not something that you do, it is something that you are.” 5 Remove them altogether, their individuality is lost, and invisibility supervenes. As a doctoral researcher, I have spent the past four years investigating the role of older professional dancers, nationally and internationally. I have gathered many voices, predominantly more women than men, and this is of particular interest when discussing ageing and invisibility. These factors similarly occur within Western society and are mirrored within Western dance culture. Older female dancers have to contend with the mandated aesthetics and the stringent requirements within classical ballet—and to a degree within contemporary dance. The boundaries of retaining fitness start to tighten as dancers hit their mid-30s, which is when many choose to retire, transition to teaching, or start a family. As stated by Edward and Bannon, “they are ripe for retirement.” 6 Immediately, a wealth of embodied knowledge and dance experience is squandered. It is no wonder that Jiri Kylián created NDT 3 in 1991 for

dancers over 40. Kylián recognised the ridiculous waste of dancers, seeing a wealth of lived dance experience and individual dance history that should be utilised and, above all, valued.7 THE DANCERS SPEAK OUT For my doctoral research, I invited 37 dancers aged over 40, based nationally and internationally, to respond to a survey to find out how each of them circumnavigated their performance and ageing. The majority were female dancers, which was purely co-incidental. Many stated that being a dancer is intricately wrapped up in their identity—being and performing are one—and if dancing roles for them become obsolete, they question their place in the world and their identity. Some stated in the survey that they have realised that due to being disenfranchised and surplus to the industry, they need to create their own opportunities to continue performing, or they will simply vanish. British dancer Wendy Houstoun (50s) was nominated for outstanding female performer by the National Dance Awards (UK) in 2013 as well as winning the TMA award for achievement in dance. In her response to my survey, she stated that the awards are one thing, but keeping herself in the limelight is not without challenges: I think some audiences are a bit frightened. I also think the appearance thing is most destructive when still, and when moving starts, something changes in the looking that unravels pre-conceptions and stereotyped judgements. 8 Former Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet soloist Susie Crow (57), who has collaborated and performed with fellow Royal Ballet soloist Jennifer Jackson (60) in their project

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Dancing the Invisible (DTI), stated that the industry does not know where to place older professional dancers9. Despite this dilemma, the two have created their own platform and through their DTI performances have both noticed a deeper connection with their audiences, who respond positively to seeing ageing dancers. Jackson reported the deeper connection she feels to the audience, who can see themselves represented through these two older dancers. Crow finds audiences respond well to seeing a dancer who is visibly older, grey haired, with an imperfect body that has experienced life. Crow has had two children. She feels there is an appreciation of experiencing a performance that is punctuated with nuances of maturity, and life experience, there are no expectations, but a relationship is forged between the viewer and the performer. Some dancers I have interviewed have pointed out that the dance industry itself does not go out of its way to provide room or simply does not know where or even want to program older dancers. British performer Liz Aggiss, (61) has proven that there is a place for an older female dance artist and has been gathering audiences globally with her unique style of performance. She has spent decades creating her own niche, having reinvented herself after many years in live performance in the 1980s, to then moving to dance films long before it became a genre 10. She now situates herself on the forefront of older female performers bursting through predetermined boundaries. Her performances reach audiences from all cultures and generations, and she is relishing the newfound interest in her work, particularly from younger audiences. Nevertheless, she is aware that “the audience needs time to understand this body is a different kind of body, and this is a solo female body who is inhabiting work in a very different way!” 11 Swedish physical theatre dancer Charlotta Öfverholm (54) has had to fight hard to be acknowledged in her own country, yet overseas she has been well known for decades, having performed with DV8 Physical Theatre, Bill T. Jones, Complexions (NYC), and many more. Öfverholm created a movement with her recent Age on Stage festivals and conferences, which commenced in 2015, opening a muchneeded dialogue regarding older professional dancers, highlighting the issues of discrimination and retirement, demanding these issues be addressed 12. Performing during these festivals, Öfverholm has noted that press reviews do make mention that she is older, which is a new concept for 50

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her to accept, but she made the point that, “I think maybe with me because I am still so highly physical ... that’s why they talk about my age.” 13 After many years of Öfverholm seeking to gather publicity and general interest in the plight of older professional dancers, the conversation is finally becoming more mainstream in Stockholm. Her latest iteration of Age on Stage premiered at Dramaten, The Royal Dramatic Theater Stockholm, in September 2019. This is an indictment of how hard she has campaigned for this ageing subject to be centre stage. The prominent setting of these performances stresses the importance from within the Swedish performing arts sector and elevates the relevance of older professional dancers.14 She is finally being seen and heard. Canadian dancer Louise Lecavalier (55), formerly of La La La Human Steps, Fou Glorieux, continues to perform internationally, maintaining her visibility. Her recent dance films have also garnered a new audience who may not have seen her perform during her peak in the 1980s.15 When I interviewed her in 2013 at the Adelaide Festival, she was adamant there was no need to cease performing, as she was still trying to find ‘her dance’. She saw no signs of retirement happening, even after having both hips replaced. She stressed that her need to keep performing was still her pinnacle, while creating dance was not so evident yet.16 She acknowledged her awareness that an artform that places beauty at the forefront is always challenging, “the number one standard as in the cinema”, and is conscious that ageing is not so problematic for men as it is for women 17. She is adamant that maturity has embellished her process, mindful that “the dance is inside, not outside me, what is clearer now is what I do not want to do.” 18 Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, the mother of Australian modern dance (84), feels age is immaterial and that it is what you are expressing as a dancer that is tantamount. Dalman has enjoyed a long association with Taiwan, where she is revered and respected. She feels “very responsible for our artform, that we don’t just lock it in a youth culture.” 19 She is mindful that she is more noticeable now as an ageing female performer, but that her audiences see beyond the physicality, recognising artistry, and through her presence, value being represented on stage. She is resolute “that younger dancers realise they too can have a whole lifetime in dance, that it doesn’t have to be a certain time of age, that it can be a long journey.” 20

Of course, the example of Australia’s Eileen Kramer (104) contends that dancing and ageing can go together and is living proof of what can be produced, citing reverence and a fascination of what the centurion body can still do. Although Kramer came late to dance at 24, she is the example that one should never stop dancing at any age. Her embodied knowledge of her Bodenwieser training has become of great interest globally. During an interview with Kramer in 2015, she told me: we knew what she [Gertrud Bodenwieser] wanted, because she had trained us. So, it was very easy, with her choreography, and that idea stayed with me too, it wasn’t a learned thing, it was being expressive, it was all of the chaste and the art. 21 Never one to acknowledge her ageing as of any great significance, Kramer does not concentrate on the negatives of ageing, merely seeing how she can keep performing the technique she embodies, bringing her corporeal knowledge directly to the fore. She is the poster girl for ageing dancers and pops up constantly in the media and conference circles internationally. Witnessing a body that has lived over one hundred years perform with such sensuality and spirituality is an extraordinary experience, and we can only hope this will become normal and more acceptable in generations to come. Swedish artist and professor of choreography Evfa Lilja contends that in the West, society struggles with how to view the older body, because within the media “that body” is invisible 22. Lilja states it is imperative that as performers, programmers and educators, we give our audiences diversity, and opportunities to see our dance elders perform is beneficial to all. Lilja has an interesting observation, almost no one questions how old people feel seeing only younger people on stage. What would happen if we altered the perspective? 23 AGEING AND ACCEPTANCE With an older artist comes life experience and artistry that has taken a lifetime to refine. If comparison were made from an Eastern context, Japanese butoh performers garner enormous respect because their technique takes decades to perfect, reaching the point where their craft is of an exemplary level. Such performers as Eiko Otake, notable as creative partner to Tomashi Koma Otake, and the 80-yearold odori dancer Toshinami Hanayagi are considered

significant cultural icons. Japanese dance researcher Nanako Nakajima contends that within Japanese culture, ageing is seen as an asset and that the West needs to accede with reverence that “dancing beauty can be old.” 24 For this opinion to become more mainstream, programmers need to make ageing dancers visible, thereby allowing audiences to appreciate and acknowledge their artistry. Continuing older female dancers’ invisibility denies audiences of a richness of life experience that is acknowledged in the theatre but has yet to be conventional in the dance world. Norwegian choreographer Hege Haagenrud created Use my Body while it is still young (2015) specifically to highlight her concern regarding the invisibility of older professional dancers. Haagenrud wanted to question the aversion to showing ageing, in particular sensuality in the older body. She discusses why she came up with the concept: it is a work with four dancers, Siv Anders, Gérard Lemaitre, Brian Toney and Aase With, they used to be some of the bigger dancers in Nederlands Dans Theater, here in the Opera, in the contemporary dance field in Norway, and from Cullberg Ballet, in Sweden. It’s some really remarkable dancers and I wanted to make a piece, because there is a lack of older dancers. We don’t see them. 25 Haargenrud’s work is provocative, challenging society’s aversion to the ageing body, let alone the mature female form. In a section of Haagenrud’s choreography, she forces the viewer to swallow their prejudice as Siv Anders strides forward, semi-naked to address the audience. This reveal demonstrates that Anders’ late-70s’ body is a substantially more provocative action than uncovering the form of a 20-year-old 26. This was first performed at the Coda Festival (2015) and later featured in Dance Umbrella, London (2016). Interestingly, the latter was quite controversial with some older dancers criticising the choreography, feeling it could have been more daring, with more movement and less stillness. Were there more performances of that calibre, making older dancers more mainstream, the stigma of seeing ageing bodies could be eradicated or more acceptable. There is a preconceived idea of what we are going to see at a dance performance, but should this be so? As in the image of Siv Anders, we see a body that has lived and a corporeality that is fascinating but could also be construed as grotesque because these images are not conventional. How do we change this stigma and show more respect

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for a body that has lived dance experience? In recent years, performance opportunities have improved for some, many of whom are independent dance artists, assisted by festivals underscoring ageing and dance, such as the Elixir Festivals (2014, 2017, 2019) and Age on Stage (2015, 2017, 2018, 2019) in Europe, and the Mature Moves (2016) and the Bold Festivals (2017, 2019) in Australia. But it is still female older professional dancers needing recognition. BIBLIOGRAPHY Berman, Janice. “Director of Kirov Ballet Jettisons Old for Young: Dance: Oleg Vinogradov Bridles at Criticism for Casting Off Older Dancers.” Los Angeles Times, 3 July 1992. http://articles.latimes.com/1992-07-03/entertainment/ca1220_1_kirov-ballet. Edward, Mark, and Fiona Bannon. “Being in Pieces: Integrating Dance, Identity, and Mental Health.” Chap. 18 In The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Wellbeing, edited by Vicky Karkou, Sue Oliver and Sophia Lycouris, 329-48. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Edward, Mark, and Helen Newell. “Temporality of the Dancing Body: Tears, Fears and Ageing Dears.” Paper presented at Making sense of Pain, 2nd Global Conference, Warsaw, Poland, 2011. Graham, Martha. Blood Memory, an Autobiography. New York: Doubleday, 1991. “Hege Haagenrud - Use My Body While It’s Still Young - London.” 2016, http://dancetabs.com/2016/10/hegehaagenrud-use-my-body-while-its-still-young-london/. Levy, Nina. “Dancing at Any Age.” Seesaw, 2017. https:// www.seesawmag.com.au/news/dancing-at-any-age/. Lilja, Efva. Movement as the Memory of the Body: New Choreographic Work for the Stage. Translated by Frank Perry. Edited by Erna Grönlund, Gunnel Gustafsson and Aana Karen Ståhle. Stockholm: University of Dance, Committee for Artistic Research and Development 2006. Markson, Elizabeth W. “The Female Aging Body through Film.” Chap. 3 In Aging Bodies: Images and Everyday Experience, edited by Christopher A Faircloth, 77-102. Walnut Creek, Lanham, New York, Oxford: Altamira Press, 2003. Nakajima, Nanako, and Gabriele Brandstetter, eds. The Aging Body in Dance: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. London and New York: Routledge, 2017. “Age on Stage - International Meeting Point.” 2017, http://start.jusdelavie.org/ 52

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age-on-stage-international-meeting-point/ (Mature dance festival). Ritter, Madeline, Roman, Christoper. Dance on 1 Edition. Translated by Lisa M Bowler, Woods, Nickolas. Berlin: Diehl & Ritter, 2018. Roberts, Gersten June. “Writing Body Stories.” Chap. 19 In The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Wellbeing, edited by Vicky Karkou, Sue Oliver and Sophia Lycouris, 349-66. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Sulcas, Roslyn. “Bodies of Knowledge.” Dance Magazine Inc, 9 May 1998, 58-61. Wainwright, Steven P., and Bryan S. Turner. “Ageing and the Dancing Body.” Chap. 9 In Aging Bodies: Images and Everyday Experience, edited by Christopher A Faircloth, 25992. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2003. ENDNOTES 1 Janice Berman, “Director of Kirov Ballet Jettisons Old for Young: Dance: Oleg Vinogradov Bridles at Criticism for Casting off Older Dancers,” Los Angeles Times, 3 July 1992, http://articles.latimes.com/1992-07-03/entertainment/ca1220_1_kirov-ballet. 2 Elizabeth W. Markson, “The Female Aging Body Through Film,” in Aging Bodies: Images and Everyday Experience, ed. Christopher A Faircloth (Walnut Creek, Lanham, New York, Oxford: Altamira Press, 2003), 99. 3 Mark Edward and Helen Newell, “Temporality of the Dancing Body: Tears, Fears and Ageing Dears,” paper presented at Making sense of Pain, 2nd Global Conference, Warsaw, Poland, 2011. 4 Martha Graham, Blood Memory, an Autobiography (New York: Doubleday, 1991). 5 Steven P. Wainwright and Bryan S. Turner, “Ageing and the Dancing body,” in Aging Bodies: Images and Everyday Experience, 270. 6 Mark Edward and Fiona Bannon, “Being in Pieces: Integrating Dance, Identity, and Mental Health,” in The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Wellbeing, ed. Vicky Karkou, Sue Oliver, and Sophia Lycouris (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). 7 Roslyn Sulcas, “Bodies of Knowledge,” Dance Magazine Inc, 9 May 1998. 8 Response to survey Wendy Houstoun, author’s notes, 2015. 9 Response to survey Susie Crow, author’s notes, 2015.

10 Interview with Liz Aggiss at the Brighton Festival UK, author’s notes, 2016. 11 Ibid. 12 “Age on Stage - International Meeting Point,” 2017, http://start.jusdelavie.org/age-on-stage-internationalmeeting-point/ (Mature dance festival). 13 Charlotta Öfverholm, interview with the author, Stockholm, 2015. 14 https://www.dramaten.se/Repertoar-arkiv/age-onstage-prosthesis/ 15 See Louise Lecavalier: In Motion, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DJcN6O2z9g 16 Louise Lecavalier, interview with the author, 2014 Adelaide Festival. 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid. 19 Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, interview with the author, Sydney, 2017. 20 Ibid. 21 Eileen Kramer, interview with the author, Sydney, 2015. 22 Efva Lilja, Movement as The Memory of the Body: New Choreographic Work for the Stage, trans. Frank Perry, ed. Erna Grönlund, Gunnel Gustafsson, and Aana Karen Ståhle (Stockholm: University of Dance, Committee for Artistic Research and Development 2006). 23 Efva Lilja, interview with the author, Copenhagen, 2018. 24 Nanako Nakajima and Gabriele Brandstetter, eds., The Aging Body in Dance: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (London and New York: Routledge, 2017). 25 See https://vimeo.com/151040531

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FEAR OF ERASURE: DANCE AND THE AGEING BODY RAKINI DEVI

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INTRODUCTION: THE QUESTION OF AGE This body, sublimated in every sense, participated in the infinite strength of the divine, which had become indestructible, luminous, perfumed and swift like light. Piero Camporesi, The Incorruptible flesh (1983). The early years of my contemporary dance works centred on identity and cultural stereotyping, while the last decade has been focused on developing a live art practice, academic study, analysing and situating my body of work. I’m always a little surprised (though not offended) when I am labeled as a “senior” dancer. One of the most ageist comments or questions I have been asked as long as twenty years ago to the present is, “Do you still dance”? The emphasis is on “still”. These questions are rarely addressed to musicians or visual artists, because it is assumed they don’t need to be young or able-bodied to continue their practice. Unlike Western attitudes to age, in Indian classical dance culture, including Japanese and Spanish dance traditions, maturity is respected, and celebrated. I speak from my own experiences and the experiences of colleagues, and through research. For example, during my 2001 Asialink artist residency in Tokyo, the majority of the dance performances I attended were by artists in their fifties and older, particularly in the genre of Butoh, traditional Japanese dance, and Noh theatre. My hosts at Keiko Takaya Dance Company, Tokyo, encouraged me to see specific shows and often described the shows as: “This contemporary company is good, but young.” Their tone was often apologetic, while mature established artists were judged by the authenticity of their work. Often I would be impressed with a performance by a “legendary” artist, only to be told, “I did not like it, it was not pure”. The self-managed company itself consisted of dancers ranging in age from 23 to 46, working harmoniously and supportively towards one another. Age was acknowledged within the company, evident by utmost respect given to the senior members of the troupe. In the West, age is patronised and tolerated. This attitude extends to society, where the elderly are often spoken to in insensitive patronising terms. As an older performer, a dancer is more marginalised, particularly more so when one is competing with far more urgent (politically correct, and trending) issues that funding bodies prefer to be associated with, often in order to prove how diverse and groundbreaking their policies are. My response to the question asked by many as to why or if older dancers “still “ dance or not is the subject of a work I have been trying to launch for over five years, titled “I

Used to Be a Dancer”, with three (ex) dancers as invited guests. Hopefully the work will be made before I am not “still dancing”! It is also hoped that attitudes can change, as they have been changing in Europe for decades. Many perceptions on age are discussed in a recent article that describes the resilience of French dancers performing into their eighth and ninth decade. Five years ago France had barely half a dozen professional dancers over 60; now they’re increasingly common…these performers don’t believe in a best-before date. They dismiss the notion of dance as the preserve of youthful, technically impressive virtuosos. This is a “very western” view, according to Carlson, who is influenced by Buddhism and eastern spirituality and cites the “national treasures” of live performance in Japan and South Korea. Rosita Boisseau, The Guardian, 2016. In Australia, dancing for “seniors” is a growing activity for health and encouraging the elderly to exercise, as both mental and physical therapy. Funding bodies are eager to support these initiatives seen as community arts and so they should. These are all valid practices that require equally experienced practitioners to lead or facilitate them. But what about the independent, professional, mature, solo performer, specifically in dance who is still choreographing, practicing and performing? What of older dancers/performers with no other objective other than

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to continue in their long careers not only as mentors and choreographers, but instead as performers still creating work? Someone asked the ninety-year-old cellist Pablo Casalas why he carried on working. ‘Because I think I’m making progress,’ he answered. Many dancers/movement artists globally share this attitude or philosophy. One of the advantages I mistakenly imagined, was that it was no longer necessary for a mature performer to prove or validate their work, especially in comparison to young artists at the beginning of their careers, for whom these justifications are often more pressing. For the artist, and speaking for myself, there is no established end to process and progress, unless by personal choice or for reasons of health. My ever-evolving and changing practice is driven by a sense of added urgency, brought about by the inevitable passage of time. The intensity of purpose brings clarity and direction even more to projects I am involved with, including an awareness of a limited time frame, and no interest in dwelling on the repercussions of my ageing body. This is not an act of denial, but a matter of priority. That said, the opportunity to archive and look retrospectively at my body of work was made possible through Critical Path and Sydney University Performance Studies Dr. Amanda Card’s Dancing Sydney project (2018), offering selected senior dancers a two-week residency to archive their work. This project led to a Responsive Research residency at Critical Path (2019), titled The Body as Archive with my collaborator, sound and video artist Karl Ockelford. The outcome of the residency was the beginning of performance concepts that were driven by a fresh approach to my retrospective performance history. During the process of archiving my works from the early nineties, I realised that within this archive that is my body, I carry that history, and those memories of loss and recovery, of lessons taught by gurus and loved ones, and from that realisation came the desire to make new work, to explore fresh approaches, and look forward rather than search for inspiration from the past. For this publication, I would like to share some aspects of my dance history, drawn from my recent doctoral thesis, Urban Kali, From Sacred Dance to Secular Performance that describes my current and past motivation for making work. My exegesis centred on a non-western approach to dance, exemplified by my own dance gurus, many who 56

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danced into their sixties and seventies1. In this article I share aspects of my journey from Indian classical dancer to contemporary performer, the motivation and aesthetic of my performance history, and the women who inspired me to believe that reaching a certain age is a privilege, not a tragedy. One of the primary examples in my exegesis is the legendary activist, dancer, and choreographer Chandralekha (1928-2006), who challenged Indian traditions of the female in dance and society. She defied Indian dance traditionalists to redefine the feminine in Indian classical dance that was rooted in a predominantly patriarchal tradition. She used the structures and grammar of Bharatanatyam to explore, challenge and transgress the attitudes and traditions of the form, by focusing on the female form, female sexuality, and by divesting her dance repertoire from religious or sacred themes. Rustom Bharucha’s Chandralekha: Woman Dance Resistance (1995) explains how Chandralekha angered purists by abandoning the religiosity of Bharatanatyam dance traditions, which she felt was shaped by national, patriarchal rules, and instead celebrated the human body, in particular the power of the female (Shakti), by drawing on erotic, explicit temple sculptures. Dancing well into her sixties and beyond, performing dynamic and often sensual dance routines, characterized by her flowing white hair and heavily khol-lined eyes, she defied traditional female imagery through her ground-breaking choreography, thereby challenging the stereotype of the Indian classical dance heroine. My continuous reinvention and redefinition of my practice is driven by the ephemerality of the very nature of dance, where the tensions of form and shape offer a myriad of possibilities. Mentors and teachers also inspired me throughout my early career in dance. For example, Indian classical dancers/women revivalists, and reformers include Rukmini Devi and Sanjukta Panigrahi, who have been influential in my own development, explorations, and transgressions of the dance tradition, through the teachings and lineage of my teachers. Rukmini Devi (1904-1986) was one of the first women who, as founder of the legendary Kalakshetra Dance Academy, Chennai, elevated the form of sadir, or Indian classical dance as it was known then, from the devadasi (temple dancer) tradition by removing the erotic

or court elements to a more purist style, reviving the complexities of Bharatanatyam to the style it practices today. My first Bharatanatyam teacher, Jayalaxmi Raman, was a student of Rukmini Devi, who continues the lineage and legacy of her teaching methodology and dance repertoire. Later, I was fortunate to be Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s student in 1991-1993, and through him, met one of his greatest female disciples, the late Odissi dancer Sanjukta Panigrahi (b. 1944-1997), with whom I was also fortunate to study in Perth and Melbourne in the early nineties. She was one of the first Odissi exponents who transformed the stereotypical female dance heroine from that of the patriarchy-prescribed maternal, sensual or coquettish consorts depicted in most Indian classical dance repertoire. Through her performance of powerful and dynamic dance repertoire depicting the goddesses Kali and Durga, she exuded Shakti or female energy, and performed right until her passing in 1997, at the age of 53. The hybridity of my own Indian and Burmese heritage also shaped my identity and inevitably, my past and current performance aesthetics. Growing up in Kolkata, amidst diverse religious and cultural practices and traditions, including my Catholic convent education, created a complexity that I embraced. My interest and interaction with multi-religious rituals extended to my own family of a Buddhist mother and Brahmin Hindu Uncle. My hybrid identity, which, when transported to an Australian context, when my family immigrated to Perth in the seventies, added more layers and complexity to my intercultural repertoire of dance practice. Today, I define my art as a visual practice, where my body is the canvas and source of my performance methodology. The British writer Tracy Warr suggests in The Artist’s Body (2000) that the artist’s body functions as a “resistance to power”, and that the body is the site for articulating protest and socially aware performance. Embracing the hybridity of my personal life experiences, my methodology for developing socially aware work developed through the creation of iconic female personas, imagined or drawn from historic or religious female iconography. Most predominantly, the Goddess Kali has been a consistent influence throughout my nearly three decades of performance history. Examples included in my solo repertoire - Calcutta

Manga (Perth, Tokyo, Toronto, and New York 20012003) was a persona based on my experiences in Japan and inspired by Super-heroines, Japanese anime and graphic novels. The Bandit Queen (2004) was based on the infamous outlaw/bandit Phoolan Devi, The Virtual Goddess (1998-2003), a self-mythologised “oracle” that satirised New Age religious and cultural appropriation of Tantric Hinduism, The Widow (2006-2010), based on my experiences in Spain and the Spanish Catholic cult of “The Widows of Christ” and The Female Pope (2010 ongoing), Kali Madonna (2014 ongoing), and Kali the Black Madonna (2014 ongoing). My doctoral presentation Urban Kali (2017) distilled these previous personas into the Bengali iconography of Kali. In creating diverse performance personas, including, for example The Female Pope, I identify the predominantly patriarchal Christian ritual persona of the Pope, and subvert this image with that of a culturally hybrid female pope, a concept drawn from the myth of Pope Joan, and a synthesis of Kali and the Black Madonna. The concept of patriarchal religious roles are parallel to Hindu traditions that relocated women from positions of religious and mythical power to that of mere consorts or “wives” to heroes and male deities. Most of my solo performances were in protest to the female stereotypes imposed on many dance traditions, reflected in social attitudes that persist today. As an interactive durational work, An Audience with The Female Pope was also performed in Helsinki (2010), (Sydney 2013), and New York (2014). These durational works lasted approximately three hours each, interacting with audiences one on one or three at a time, and in each case, long queues of people were disappointed when the time was limited, and they were unable to participate. Many found the encounter unnerving, particularly the silence of the interaction. Some were moved to tears, and a Polish artist remarked that he had never looked into anyone’s eyes with such intensity. A few fled after barely a minute, apologising later that they found it too confronting. In New York 2014, a strict one on one encounter as part of my Audience with the Female Pope durational work was ignored as a well-known performance artist brought someone to share the experience, saying she was too afraid! From feedback after my performance, I discovered from some audience members that the

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intimate silent interaction was alien to their culture or personal experience. I was completely unaware of Marina Abromovic’s The Artist is Present, with a similar “encounter”, that premiered in MOMA, also in 2010. My own inspiration came from my personal experiences over many years of travelling and living in India, through encounters with yogis, holy men and women whose presence alone was considered healing or spiritually moving. My current investigation is titled Portraits of Female Alchemy that emerged from my recent Critical Path Responsive Residency with Karl Ockelford, experimenting with my visual art as projections, photography, choreography and text, instigating new concepts for a multidisciplinary work that incorporates all of the above. Inspired from a concept of mine in the nineties based on the Tarot (that never eventuated), Female Portraits has the potential to develop in many directions, which we hope to explore further. In conclusion, while I acknowledge the difficulties faced by older dance artists in this country, I still consider myself fortunate to have been working consistently since the late eighties to the present, in spite of the bleak terrain of funding woes to the rewarding sense of achievement when a vision for a work becomes a reality. My greatest experiences in developing new work have been during the intense periods of international artist residencies, when the experience of travel and the reception of foreign audiences and interactions with diverse artists impact on perceptions of my own everevolving practice.

At any age, and in any country, dancers have always faced a struggle to maintain their practice. The added pressure of an unspoken but very present attitude of ageism in dance increases the stress and feeling of irrelevance and rejection felt by many dancers of my generation. The frequently used terminology relating to senior artists is “legacy”, yet the fear of a systematic erasure of one’s lifelong work is a fear that many harbor. Invisibility, open discrimination, for example age-restricted invitations to apply for opportunities, and lack of funding support for established mature artists are constant valid fears. My approach to combating this fear is to continue to create work, be it on paper, empty studios, site -specific locations, or the stage. By presenting my “evolving” body as the site for my art, through dance or as artifact, it becomes a site of protest in itself. I believe strongly that the flame of creative vitality burns brighter than ever as one grows older, and though the flesh is vulnerable to the ravages of time, it is in our power to extinguish that flame or allow ourselves to be consumed by it. ENDNOTE 1 In Australia, I have been and continue to admire the strength and beauty of “still dancing” mature artists like Rosalind Crisp, Kathy Cogill, Narelle Benjamin, Vicki Van Hout, and many more who continue to refine their practice.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS ALIA ARDON is a burgeoning video maker. Her video work

Gundagai Dreaming was shown at the MCA in 2019 as part of GENEXT. Alia produced a short video for the Women’s Work session with young dancers (see April Workshop) and has dance experience with Charemaine Seet (Seet Dance).

KAY ARMSTRONG is a Western Sydney interdisciplinary

artist who has a passion for both education and community arts and has over the last 26 years amassed a diverse and prolific performance career alongside various management, directorial and lead artist roles. Trained originally in dance, Kay has been a finalist in numerous video and photographic awards. Her growing photographic practice includes a body of interdisciplinary work called ‘Half’, which looks at the female experience of ageing through engagement with the local community and a self-directed studio exploration.

ELISABETH BURKE was co-founder and co-artistic

director of Entr’acte Theatre Ltd (1979-99). She is an arts-management professional with extensive experience directing teams, technical personnel, and line management staff in the professional arts, tertiary education and community sectors. In recent years she has been re-cataloguing Entr’acte’s archives and conducting independent research and writing.

KATHY COGILL is a dancer, actor, performance maker and

teacher. Kathy has danced with companies such as Force Majeure, Australian Dance Theatre, Dance Exchange, The One Extra Company and in Europe with Les Ballets C de la B, Compania Vicente Saez and prominent director Robert Wilson. Along with her solo performance-making practice Kathy has an extensive yoga teaching practice in Sydney. 58

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RAKINI DEVI is a dance artist whose work can be described as hybrid theatre/performance art. She often includes text, her own visual art, film, and original music. She has collaborated with artists from diverse practices, who share her interest in creating art that challenges our notions of race, culture, social issues and new technologies. Rakini was awarded a Doctorate of Creative Arts in practice-based research 2018, thesis title: ‘Urban Kali, from sacred dance to secular performance’, University of Wollongong.

LUX ETERNA is a multidisciplinary artist working at

the intersections of digital photography, video, sound, dance, long durational performance and meditation. Lux’s performance and meditation practices positioned her as a facilitator for Marina Abramovic in residence, Sydney 2015. Her associated work has been featured in the Tasmanian International Video Art Festival, (TIVAF) alongside work from Bill Viola, The Beams Festival, Chippendale New World Art Prize (Vivid Sydney) DLUX Media Arts’ event; ‘Is This Art?’ which was included in the Spectrum Now Festival.

ANCA FRANKENHAEUSER performed with London

Contemporary Dance Theatre for fifteen years touring extensively throughout Europe, USA, Canada and Asia. Since moving to Australia in 1990 she has taught contemporary dance extensively in dance schools, colleges and tertiary institutions, worked with Opera Australia, as well as co-creating and performing independent work with like-minded dancers, actors, singers, musicians and visual artists (Open House, Independent Dance Collection, Bodies, Canberra Dance Theatre). She now works as a director/ choreographer/performer, notably with Australian Dance Artists and is a lecturer/tutor of movement for actors, contemporary dance & choreography.

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CLARE GRANT has been involved in the creation of new

works for theatre, radio and film for many years. She worked for two years with KISS Theatre Group in Europe. She was a founding member of The Sydney Front. Clare took up the position of Lecturer in Performance at UNSW in 1998. In 2012 she published an 8-pack collection of DVDs and archival documents on the work of The Sydney Front. Clare is currently a freelance theatre maker, dramaturg, performer and continues her connection with the University of NSW as Honorary Lecturer.

SUE HEALEY is a Sydney-based choreographer, filmmaker

and installation artist. With extensive experience in choreographic practice and cross-artform investigation, Sue moves seamlessly between dance, film and installation. Her work investigates the potential that lies at the shifting boundaries between disciplines, and the revelations that are sparked at those intersections. Critically, movement is at the heart of each of the works. Her work is witnessed in a diversity of contexts and spaces; galleries, public spaces, television, cinema screen and theatres. It aims to innovate in both content and form.

NIKKI HEYWOOD is a Sydney-based interdisciplinary

artist working across dance, performance, writing and live art. Nikki’s practice includes devising, direction and choreography as a solo performer, in collective creation and collaboratively generated projects. She runs skillsbased workshops for students and emerging practitioners, assisting the creative process of others as a mentor and dramaturg. Nikki was awarded a Doctorate of Creative Arts in practice-based research 2016, thesis title: ‘Undoing Discomfort: being real/becoming other in an embodied performance practice’, University of Wollongong.

JULIE-ANNE LONG works in a variety of dance contexts

as dancer, choreographer, director, producer, mentor, dramaturg, curator and teacher. Julie-Anne has a significant solo practice, as well as a more communal, collaborative way of working with other like-minded artists, within the diversity of Australian contemporary performance. Julie-Anne has a PhD from University New South Wales: ‘Walking in Sydney Looking for Dancing: An Auto-ethnographic Mapping of The Place of Independent Dance’, 2010. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Dance 60

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and Performance in the Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University.

ANNY MOKOTOW is a dramaturge, tutor and lecturer in

modern and contemporary dance and theatre. Her research interests include dance, dramaturgy, live-art, film and interdisciplinary histories. Anny has a PhD from the University of Melbourne in dance and dramaturgy and a Master of Creative Arts in interdisciplinary practice as well as a postgraduate degree in film from the VCA. She studied dance at the Theatre School of Amsterdam and worked as a dancer, performer and theatre-maker in the Netherlands.

LEE PEMBERTON is a regional artist based in The Bega

Valley since 1999, where she founded fLiNG Physical Theatre and remained as Artistic Director from 2001 until 2015. In 2016 Lee was awarded an Arts NSW Regional Artists Fellowship. Her research and development are following a trail of inquiry to support the growth of her choreographic and movement practice. Lee identifies strongly with community practice and identity of place and collaborates with an eclectic group of people who have a strong relationship with the area in which she lives.

CHAREMAINE SEET is a dancer, choreographer and

movement educator with a career spanning four continents. Now residing in Sydney, she continues her contemporary dance practice which draws on a diversity of movement languages. Charemaine is director and teacher at Seet Dance, and teaches contemporary dance and ballet with an innovative approach developed during her professional career in London and New York.

SONIA YORK-PRYCE trained extensively in classical ballet

and contemporary dance in the UK. Her close relationship with Ballet & Contemporary Dance has drifted into her arts practice, featuring in her photography, short films, printmaking, silver-smithing and Bronze. Sonia is currently a PhD Candidate, Ageism and the Mature Dancer, at Qld College of Art, Griffith University. The research examines the role of dancers who extend beyond the paradigm of age and their contribution to current dialogues in the field of dance.

ABOUT THE IMAGES COVER:

PART FOUR: ARTISTS SPEAK OUT

Julie-Anne Long, ‘Val, The Invisible’, photo by Heidrun Löhr

Clare Grant, ‘Woman in the Wall’, photo by Stephen Cummins

PART ONE: WOMEN’S WORK Kathy Cogill, ‘Levitation’, photo by Manu Low

Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, ‘Lake George’, photo by Andreas Dalman

Kay Armstrong and Kathy Cogill with participants of Women’s Work inter-generational workshop. Photo by Alia Ardon

‘Women’s Work’, drawing by Rakini Devi (and all title pages)

Women’s Work Workshop, video stills by Lux Eterna and Alia Ardon

Rakini Devi, Mexico City, photo by Nina Yhared

BACK COVER

Anca Frankenhaeuser and Sue Healey at Women’s Work Workshop, photo by Freya Ludowici

PART TWO: INVISIBILITY ‘The Living Swan’, photo by Anca Frankenhaeuser ‘Self Portrait’, photo by Kay Armstrong ‘I am Disappearing’, photo by Anny Mokotow

PART THREE: THE WORK OF DANCE ‘Duets’, photo by Anca Frankenhaeuser Writing Exercise, by Julie-Anne Long (3 images) Drawing by Nikki Heywood The making of ‘On View: Japan’, Sue Healey, Aichi Arts Centre, Nagoya, September 2018, photos by Pippa Samaya and Naoshi Hatori (9 images) Martha Graham’s Lamentation (1930) Lego Recreation by Charemaine Seet

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WOMEN’S WORK CRITICAL PATH

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Reinvention and redefinition an ever-evolving practice –Rakini Devi

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WOMEN’S WORK CRITICAL PATH

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Women's Work Digital Publication  

Launched on International Women’s Day 2020, the Women's Work Digital Publication incorporates the processes, practices and achievements of 1...

Women's Work Digital Publication  

Launched on International Women’s Day 2020, the Women's Work Digital Publication incorporates the processes, practices and achievements of 1...