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Q&A/What to SEE/Dance

What to SEE: From Here, Together

1 June 2022

Emma Fishwick’s work has been described as “dance to savour” by Seesaw Mag critic Rita Clarke. Now the choreographer is inviting audiences to peek at her new project-in-progress.

In 2021 local choreographer and artist Emma Fishwick presented her new work Slow Burn, Together at Perth Festival, to critical acclaim.

The season was a Festival commission but that kind of support for independent choreography is a rarity in Australia.

That’s why it’s exciting to see that the Wright Burt Foundation is supporting Co3 Contemporary Dance to provide time and space for local choreographers through the company’s IN.RESIDENCE program, giving Fishwick the opportunity to research and develop her new work, From Here, Together.

As those who saw Slow Burn, Together will recall, Fishwick’s work is thoughtful and layered, both in terms of medium – she works across movement, photography, film, scenography and scholarship – and meaning. In addition to Slow Burn, in recent years she’s made work for Revelation Film Festival and XR:WA’s FourbyFour project, and co-created a video series Feminism Has No Borders with Sally Richardson.

As part of the IN.RESIDENCE program, a showing of Fishwick’s current work-in-progress From Here, Together will be presented by Co3 Contemporary Dance and Performing Lines WA, at the State Theatre Centre of WA’s Rehearsal Studio 1, 9-11 June.

Ahead of the showing, Nina Levy caught up with Fishwick to find out more about From Here, Together, how she came to be a choreographer and artist, and why this residency is so important to her.

Nina Levy: Tell me about young Emma. What were you interested in as a kid? What drew you to dance?

Emma Fishwick

Emma Fishwick: My interests as a kid, when at home, were often related to observing, watching, listening, mainly to the TV and sound. That’s how I would get lost in other worlds or ideas.

I only came to dance because my mum wanted me to be active away from the TV and so I believe it was a choice between ballet or netball. I chose ballet because my sister was already involved which offered some familiarity.

Beyond that I think I gravitated towards art because it fit the way that I learnt and offered a malleable space to explore. I liked the process of making things, figuring out how to be creative from what you have, figuring out how this works etc, which is a common trait throughout my family, I think. Drawing, dressing up, dancing were all tools to kill boredom when on holidays camping, but that has also been the greatest gift for building confidence to make without pressure of an outcome.

NL: And at what point did you decide to pursue dance professionally?

EF: I don’t think there was a wholehearted decision to choose this profession, rather one of logistics and familiarity. When it came to going to university, I applied for both art school in Sydney and auditioned for the various dance courses around the country. I went with the dance course at the time as I thought that my body had finite time to pursue it professionally and would use the visual art route as plan B.

Also, my sister was doing the dance degree at QUT, so I had a sense of what that kind of experience would look like. Also, probably deep down I just wanted to be like her. In the end, I’m still with the dancing, increasingly folding in broader fields of art into my practice, so both plan A and plan B are at play.

NL: Tell me about the relationship between your new project, From Here, Together, and your 2021 Perth Festival work, Slow Burn, Together

From Here, Together will unpack and question how the discarded material from Slow Burn, Together can be redirected and expanded upon.

Slow Burn, Together had a strong focus on time and the temporal reframing of imagery from the Western canon of visual art. From Here, Together now looks at space and how it informs our view of things, especially gender, power and labour. How do these elements play into how we talk of future spaces? What do our discussions of the future mean for our current time?

As I write this, the work is shifting and responding to these prompts, finding lots of moments of opposition and repeats that speak to Slow Burn. In the end, I hope these two projects will form a holistic landscape that offers space and time to contemplate how we move through the world.

Three performers are in a dance studio. Two stand and one sits in a wheelchair. One wears a long blue shiny skirt and orange patterned sweater, one wears a pale coloured suit and one wears a brown t-shirt and green skirt. In the background we can see a sheet of lino and a crumpled length of some kind of foil like material.
L-R: ‘From Here, Together’ cast members Bobbi Henry, Crystal Nguyen and Francesca Fenton. Photo: Emma Fishwick

NL: Opportunities like IN.RESIDENCE, which offer time for the development of new work, are relatively rare. Why is this kind of opportunity so useful for you as a choreographer?

EF: These types of opportunities are incredibly important for independent artists, particularly those within the mid-career category. The resources, time and space are vital for allowing for artists to expand the scope of what’s been possible previously, to stay with ideas longer and challenge how you engage your own process.

It is not the status quo here in Perth to share your work when it is still in a state of flux to a broader audience than your peers. The journey to get a work from conception to performance is often a long one, many years usually, and whilst this showing is not a final product it does provide the chance for the work to reach out beyond the studio.

Sharing work can feel very exposing as an artist, putting you in the line of critique. However that is necessary as an artist to truly see your work, and understand how it fits within the fabric of the world, which then enables you to evolve the work in a meaningful way.

NL: The cast for From Here, Together includes a couple of performers from disciplines outside dance. How did you choose the cast for this work?

EF: I have invited performers that sit across a few disciplines, all having varied degrees of experience with dance or being at different stages of their performance career. Mainly, the choice comes from being curious about how people engage with movement, how they engage with performance and how this combination will expand/challenge my understanding of my practice.

I also wanted to try and bring in different elements that I haven’t done before and so bringing in artists who have that knowledge is key. Most of the performers on this, I haven’t worked with before or with at length; most I have admired from afar and so it felt like the right project thematically for having these artists in the room. I can already tell it’s cracking open my creative process to date, which is super exciting.

A showing of From Here, Together will be presented in the  9-11 June.

Pictured top are Zendra Giraudo and Genius, in ‘From Here, Together’. Photo: Emma Fishwick

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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