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Talitha Maslin dives deep into the sea

2 February 2022

Using the Scarborough Beach sand as its stage, SIREN is a magical melting pot of sculpture, sound, and contemporary dance that invites audiences to contemplate their relationship with the planet.

In association with Gold Coast-based Gogi Dance Collective, Talitha Maslin and Ashleigh White present SIREN, a beachside, multidisciplinary dance performance with an environmental imperative.

Talitha Maslin is a dancer, teacher, and choreographer whose contemporary work transcends the lines between dance, film, visual arts, and sound. She has performed and collaborated with a myriad of major Australian dance companies, including Chunky Move, The Farm, Co3 Australia.

In her Festival Sessions interview, she takes Isabella Corbett behind the scenes of SIREN and talks about the art of presenting an ecological call to action that is both subtle, yet bold enough to incite change.

Isabella Corbett: Welcome to the Festival Sessions, Talitha. For Seesaw Mag readers who don’t know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work? 

Talitha Maslin: I am a dance artist based in Boorloo (Perth). My current work is a subtle, powerful commentary on environmental issues. I believe that small, performative actions force audiences to consider their relationship to pertinent issues, which makes a valuable contribution to the larger conversations surrounding issues facing society today.

An image of Talitha Maslin in costume for Siren. Pictured is a woman on the beach wearing a large headpiece that looks like coral and jellyfish.
Co-director of ‘SIREN’, Talitha Maslin. Photo: VM Photography.

IC: Tell us about SIREN, the work you are presenting at Fringe World 2022. 

TM: SIREN is a unique multidisciplinary seaside performance that explores our concern for the care of our oceans. We combine sand-based dance, wearable art, and an original sound composition to create a magical, fantasy performance. 

Audiences can expect to see five human-hybrid creatures inspired by the bright ultraviolet colours and shapes of deep-sea creatures. The wearable art elements are sculptural headdresses made from recycled plastics and skeletal-like crinoline skirts. These pieces are designed to be worn on the body or taken off and built into freestanding sculptures on the beach. 

The dancers’ crinoline skirts move proudly in the beachside wind. Video: Gogi Dance Collective

IC: In SIREN, you’re not only a performer but a choreographer and producer. What inspired you to create this work?

TM: The idea was seeded during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns; time outdoors became a refuge away from the house, so we wanted to make site-specific work. There was also a noticeable reduction in the use of reusable products due to COVID hygiene policies around takeaway food and drink, so we wanted to focus on the impact of plastic waste. The synergy between the ideas lead us to one of Perth’s most celebrated sites — the beach — and the idea snowballed from there.

IC: What makes your show different to all the others on offer at Fringe?

TM: SIREN offers a unique experience for passers-by, art lovers, the general public, and families to enjoy live art in a relaxed environment. Our stage is the sand, with the horizon for a backdrop, so the audience is free to roam in a socially distanced way or sit and have a picnic. You can even watch us while taking a twilight swim!

A promotional image from Talitha Muslin and Gogi Dance Collective show Siren. Pictured is three women in the background wearing large orange and blue headpieces overlook another dancer who lies down in the foreground.
The dancers in ‘SIREN’ wear colourful and elaborate headdresses made entirely of recycled plastics. Photo: YM Photography.

IC: What do you hope audiences will take away from SIREN?

TM: Our major goal is that people consider their relationship with the ocean and their use of plastics and other consumables that are impacting our planet. We feel that tackling these ecological issues in the current times can often feel overwhelming, so we want to offer a quiet space for people to meditate, breathe, and feel a supportive community around them. 

IC: SIREN is a unique show because it isn’t performed on a traditional stage. What happens behind the scenes?

TM: On the beach, there is no hiding. We are raw and exposed, and in this rawness, the humanity of the work really flourishes. The sand is ever-shifting beneath you and you fall over a lot, but allowing yourself to work with it generates unique qualities, shapes and trajectories that have the power to guide your intuitive body and imagination.

If you’re in Scarborough and are interested in seeing what happens behind the scenes at SIREN, keep an eye out at the Amphitheatre — you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of our rehearsal process.

IC: And tell us about that creative process.

TM: SIREN has been about 16 months in the making. We have undertaken two developments, and unfortunately, two performance seasons have been cancelled. It’s been quite a ride but I’m so excited for the premiere. 

I felt the work was ready the moment we brought the wearable art, movements, and sound elements together for the first time. We had limited time due to our sound rig hire, and the booking fell on one of the windiest afternoons, so we had no choice but to dance in the blistering wind. The battle between the dance and the elements was truly magical.

IC: What’s next for you after Fringe World 2022?

TM: I am heading down to Albany to work on a new show with Naomi Lake, as a mentor and director. It’s a brilliant dance theatre work about a magic storybook and I’m excited for the next chapter in the journey.

IC: What is your favourite part of the playground?
TM: Those big swings that you can lay down on and swing in circles, as well as back and forward.

SIREN plays the Scarborough Amphitheatre as part of Fringe World, 11 – 13 February 2022.

Pictured top: Dance meets sculpture in ‘SIREN’. Photo: VM Photography.

“The Festival Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing in Perth’s summer festivals. Stay tuned for more!

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A woman in a leopard print shirt rests her chin on her fist and smiles slightly

Author —
Isabella Corbett

Emerging writer Isabella Corbett is a postgraduate journalism student at Curtin University. After completing a Bachelor of Design (Fine Arts) at UWA, she quickly realised that she preferred tip-tapping away on a keyboard writing about other people’s art and hasn’t picked up a piece of charcoal since. At the playground, you’ll find her trying to fly higher than the person next to her on the swings.

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