Q&A/The Festival Sessions/Dance/Fringe World Festival

What’s in a selfie?

20 January 2021

Who amongst us hasn’t posted a #selfie on social media? The selfie is a ubiquitous part of contemporary pop culture, but are these snapshots preventing us from living in the moment? This is just one of the questions Tamsyn Heynes is asking in her new Fringe World work #selfie.

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Tamsyn Heynes is the founder and director of Iridescence Dance Company. Founded in 2012, IDC is a Perth-based independent dance company with a focus on contemporary ballet, and a commitment to creating multi-artform narrative-driven works.

Seesaw: Welcome to the Fringe Sessions Tamsyn! For those who don’t know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work with Iridescence Dance Company (IDC)?
I founded IDC in 2012, after training at the prestigious Marie Walton-Mahon Academy in NSW and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and dancing in South African Ballet Theatre, which is now Joburg Ballet.

Tamsyn Heynes. Photo: Brett Canét-Gibson

I have always been profoundly moved by music, art, the written and spoken word, and nature – and I love stories! IDC is the medium to bring these aspects together in poetic movement. My lifelong meditation and yoga practice informs artistic decisions and we try to be as mindful of choices and concepts as possible.

IDC presents dance artists of a high calibre with “that special something”. We offer works that are fresh, meaningful and visually appealing.

As dancer/choreographer/ director, I feel that my many years of teaching children and adults in various modalities allows for a more sensitive creation and rehearsal period, and I value this – we should have peace and happiness when we do what we love. I also make sure that we have least one emerging artist involved, providing opportunities for dancers to develop their craft at all stages.

S: Tell us about the work you are presenting at Fringe World, #selfie. What inspired you to make/perform in this work?
As the name implies, #selfie is about the ubiquitous and pretty much iconic “selfie”. It’s a fun and light-hearted piece, set to popular music from the last few decades – the kind often heard on the radio.

The plot line of a lovers’ tiff is easy to relate to, as are the selfies themselves! Is it modern-day record-keeping? Or a vapid diversion to living in the moment? Is the snapshot a true depiction or drastically out of context?

All of IDC’s work has meaning to it, in what I hope is a socially relevant way. Keeping it simple conceptually was a main consideration when creating the work. I often think of Einstein’s quote, that if you cannot say something simply, you do not really understand it.

I was inspired by the current social media culture that is so prevalent, making a gentle comment that sometimes what you get in your feed is heavily curated, or, completely out of context. This is proving to affect a percentage of users’ mental health, so it is mild “hey, don’t be fooled”.

I also found myself very inspired by old Hollywood musicals, which the IDC dancers have had a lot of fun with.

S: Take us behind the scenes of #selfie – what happens backstage?
Behind-the-scenes is a lot of hard work. The dance artists in the work have an attention to details that I have been enjoying (as I’m like that as well). There’s also a lot of talking!

My creative process involves weird hours, random scraps of paper with movement phrases (which eventually makes their way to my notebook) and staring endlessly into space while listening to music. It comes in the most disjointed fashion, but somehow pulls together.

I love input from dance artists – I choose artists based on their dancing and very much their personality. I love the way movement changes and evolves once it is taught to a dancer, and the way it is brand new each time it is performed. I prefer to call dancers collaborators for this reason.

I am also delighted to have an uber-talented 16 year old full-time student, Lincoln, from the Charlesworth Ballet Institute. Lincoln is understudying IDC dancer Alexander McKinnon as a professional development opportunity.

S: No interview is complete without reflecting on 2020. How has living through a global pandemic shaped or changed your practice?
2020 has been a strange year for IDC and for me personally (nothing unique there), but it actually allowed some time and space for clarity in many aspects; cloudy ideas and have had time to clarified or rejected entirely. Projects have been put on the backburner, and while this felt like missed opportunities in the beginning, it opened the way and space for connections and conversations that have led to opportunities that I would not have otherwise had.

I am a huge fan of slow-living, and that aspect of lockdown appealed to me hugely. I recognise that am privileged to have that perspective however, and my heart goes out to those that have had to continue despite risk and those who suffered through this time, and from this virus.

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
My favourite part of the playground is definitely the swing! I still go on swings now, I love putting myself into a position that would make me get dizzy.

#selfie plays DADAA in Fremantle, 6 & 7 February, as part of Fringe World 2021.

Pictured top is Meg-Honey Parry, one of the dancers in ‘#selfie’.

“The Fringe Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing at Fringe World. Stay tuned for more!

Seesaw offers Q&As as part of its suite of advertising and sponsored content options. For more information head to www.seesawmag.com.au/contact/advertise

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked for over a decade as an arts writer and critic. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. Nina was co-editor of Dance Australia magazine from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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