Edward Pope and Asja Petrovski in Jack Whiter's Moonlight (1)
Calendar, Dance, June 18, Performing arts

Dance: West Australian Ballet’s Genesis

26 – 30 JUNE, West Australian Ballet Centre, 134 Whatley Crescent, Maylands·
Presented by West Australian Ballet ·

Pure imagination and raw talent comes to full fruition as our dancers release their creative flair and exceptional skill in our invigorating mini-season of short works. Be evoked. Be delighted. Be truly entertained during this rare opportunity to be up close and personal with the dancers in the intimate setting of the West Australian Ballet Centre.

More info: https://waballet.com.au/whats-on/genesis2018/

Pictured: Edward Pope and Asja Petrovski in Jack Whiter’s ‘Moonlight’.

Momentum Dance
Calendar, Dance, July 18, Performing arts

Dance: Momentum Dance – UNBREAKABLE

28 & 29 July, 3.00pm @ Redmond Theatre, Prendiville College Ocean Reef ·
Presented by Momentum Dance ·

Momentum Dance presents ‘Unbreakable’ – new dance works on old bodies. The momentum continues with two world premieres highlighting the unbreakable spirit of people who just want to dance. The program features live music by duo Four on Six.

Richard Cilli’s ‘PRELUDIUM’ shows the game before the game, the work before the work.

Daryl Brandwood’s ‘JOURNEYING’ follows the dancers on a journey through life distilling moments of joy and reflection interwoven with violin and guitar by Gillian Catlow and Charles Hoernemann.

More info: Facebook: Momentumdanceperth
Email: julieanddamiandoyle@gmail.com

Pictured: Momentum Dancers in rehearsal for ‘Unbreakable’ Photograph by Damian Doyle.

Calendar, Dance, July 18, Performing arts

Dance: Project NEXT 2018

6 July, 7.30pm, Saturday 7 July, 2pm & 7.30pm @ Centre for Performing Arts, All Saints’ College ·
Presented by Act-Belong-Commit Co:Youth Ensemble ·

See a new generation of young dancers take to the stage in Project NEXT, an impressive contemporary dance performance jam-packed with youthful energy, creativity and local talent.

Project NEXT is an annual program for Co3’s Act-Belong-Commit Co:Youth Ensemble, where the young dancers reimagine existing Co3 repertoire, creating an important artistic dialogue between generations, and producing fresh and original dance works.

For 2018, the Co:Youth Ensemble have crafted three new works in response to THE ZONE, the critically acclaimed performance created by Co3 Artistic Director Raewyn Hill in 2017. Three central themes from THE ZONE (community, natural disasters, and surrealist art) form the thread for the trio of new works.

Join us for this unique performance and celebrate a new generation of contemporary dancers and creatives thinkers in Project NEXT.

More info: https://co3.org.au/project-next-2018/
Email: info@co3.org.au

Dust on the Shortbread
Calendar, Dance, Performing arts, September 18

Dance: Dust on the Shortbread at MoveMe Festival

11-15, 18-22 September @ North Perth (details provided at time of booking)  ·
Presented by Anything Is Valid Dance Theatre  ·

Imagine your life unsaved, unhappened. How do we go on when we begin to lose touch with the moments that have shaped our lives? How do we define ourselves when the memories we build together start to crumble?

Award-winning company Anything Is Valid Dance Theatre returns to the MoveMe Festival in 2018 with Dust on the Shortbread. Performed inside a suburban house for an intimate audience of just 15, Dust on the Shortbread offers a window into how Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease impacts our sense of identity and intimate relationships.

You are invited to experience two of Australia’s most celebrated performers, together for the first time – Dr Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM, founder of Australian Dance Theatre and beloved WA actor George Shevtsov. From the creative team that brought you Life in Miniature, this captivating new work takes you into the heart of the home to grapple with what may be a future reality for many of us.

Tender, funny and poignant, this intimate dance theatre performance peers behind a facade presented to friends and family even as the things we hold on to begin to slip through our fingers.

More info: www.stickytickets.com/aivdt
Email: contact@aivdt.com

three dancers
Calendar, Dance, June 18, Performing arts

Dance: Short Cuts

14-16 June @ Studio 3, King Street Arts Centre, 365 Murray Street, Perth WA 6000 ·
Presented by STRUT Dance ·

Explore the ecosystem of independent dance in WA.

STRUT Dance is excited to present its SHORT CUTS season of diverse new short contemporary dance works from Thursday 14 – Saturday 16 June in Studio 3 at the King Street Arts Centre.

4 performances across 3 nights and 2 programs – presenting 14 new works from across STRUT’s membership.

Program A: Performances: Thurs 14 @ 7pm, Sat 16 @ 5pm

Bernadette Lewis with Laura Boynes, Natalie Allen & Yilin Kong
Camille Spencer (music composed by Azariah Felton)
Ellen-Hope Thomson (music composed by Annika Moses)
Emma Fishwick (music composed Niharika Senapati)
Joshua Pether
Samuel Harnett-Welk
Storm Helmore

Program B: Performances: Fri 15 @ 7pm, Sat 16 @ 7pm

Anneliese Kirk & Azariah Felton (music composed by Azariah Felton)
Dean Ryan Lincoln
Marnie Hungerford
Noah Jimmy (music composed by Louis Frere-Harvey)
Sally Richardson with Natalie Allen (sound and lighting by Joe Lui)
Sarah Chaffey (music composed by Matthew Lyall Cole)
Tahlia Russell

All performances in Studio 3, King Street Arts Centre

Tickets $20/$15 at www.trybooking.com/TJFE

More info: http://strutdance.org.au/opportunities/performances/short-cuts-june-14-16
Email: communications@strutdance.org.au

Image by Simon Pynt.

'Burrbgaja Yalirra - Three Short Works' - Marrugeku Production 2018 - PICA - 6th June 2018 / Photography © Jon Green 2018 - All Rights Reserved
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Not damnation but hope

Review: Marrugeku, “Burrbgaja Yalirra” (Dancing Forwards) ·
PICA Performance Space, 9 June ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

How can we look to the past to change the future?

That’s a question that Marrugeku’s triple bill, “Burrbgaja Yalirra” (Dancing Forwards) seems to be asking. All three of the short, solo dance theatre works programmed refer to stories of the past; stories of contact between humans and spirits, between Aboriginal people and invaders. As the title suggests, however, the gaze of the program is firmly forwards, learning from what has been and looking at what is to come.

Broome/Sydney based dance theatre company Marrugeku has a tradition of collaboration on numerous levels, bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, contemporary and traditional dance, urban and remote dance communities, and various artistic disciplines. “Burrbgaja Yalirra” is no exception and the program includes an intricate web of creative co-credits, headed up by the company’s co-directors Dalisa Pigram (seen in the critically-acclaimed Gudirr Gudirr at the Studio Underground back in 2015) and Rachael Swain.

All three works share one set, a series of three concrete flats, designed by Stephen Curtis. Simple but effective, the industrial-looking slabs are softened by cracks that bring to mind meandering creek beds. Those flats leap into life, seething with colour, in the first work on the program, Ngarlimbah. Conceived, written and performed by Kimberley-based Aboriginal dancer, poet and painter Edwin Lee Mulligan and co-directed by Pigram and Swain, the work is a rich tapestry of dance, paintings, text and music. Mulligan’s paintings, animated by Sohan Ariel Hayes, depict traditional stories and Mulligan’s own dreams. In combination with his poetic narration and deft movement, and layers of music by Sam Serruys and Dazastah, the images plunge us into a Dreamtime and dream-like world.

miranda wheen
Intense, charismatic and precise: Miranda Wheen in ‘Miranda’. Photo: © Jon Green.

Like Ngarlimbah, Miranda, conceived and performed by Miranda Wheen and co-choreographed by Wheen and Belgian-based dancer/choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly, draws on both personal and shared stories, including that of Wheen’s namesake character in Picnic at Hanging Rock. It then takes a somewhat tangential turn (although the logic is explained in the notes) to explore the challenge that white Australia faces in moving forward from its past.

While Miranda feels somewhat disjointed because of the tenuous links between its key concepts, Wheen’s performance is highly engaging; intense, charismatic and precise. Now she struggles, arms and legs akimbo, like a rock climber. Now she moves robotically, popping and locking her way across the stage. Now she bourees, a balletic ghost. Now she shouts at us with increasing hysteria, to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land. Now she gestures obscenely, her face comically grotesque. Throughout, Matthew Cox’s lighting casts appropriately spooky beams and shadows, while Sam Serruys’s composition builds and diminishes tension.

Eric Avery jumping
A joy to watch: Eric Avery in ‘Dancing with Strangers’. Photo: Jon Green.

The final work on the bill, Dancing with Strangers, was also the longest, and my favourite. Conceived, written and performed by Aboriginal dancer and musician Eric Avery, directed and co-choreographed by Avery with Belgian choreographer Koen Augustijnen and co-composed by Avery with Serruys, Dancing with Strangers has at its centre the story of Avery’s great, great, great, great grandfather seeing the first fleet as it sailed past Yuin country on the south coast of NSW. Avery’s description of the “whales ridden by white ghosts”, initially mistaken as “returned ancestors” is gut-wrenching.

Like the previous works, Dancing with Strangers deftly weaves together dance, theatre and music, with the added layer of Avery’s live violin. There is something dancerly in the movement of any musician playing an instrument, but Avery transforms the violin and bow into instruments of dance in their own right; the bow whipping, the violin twisting. A swift and powerful mover, Avery is a joy to watch.

While Dancing with Strangers explores the impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal people, its final message is not one of damnation but of hope; its spoken word finish talks about what could have been but also what might still be.

“Burrbgaja Yalirra” is a moving and uplifting triple bill. Catch it at the PICA Performance Space until June 16.

Pictured top: Edwin Lee Mulligan in ‘Ngarlimbah’ Photo: Jon Green.

contemporary dancer in green leotard
Calendar, Curtin Theatre, Dance, Festival of Dance, June 18, May 18, Performing arts, Royal Academy of Dance

Dance: Festival of Dance 2018

31 May – 4 June @ Curtin Theatre, Fremantle ·
Presented by Royal Academy of Dance ·

Join us in Fremantle for the 2018 Festival of Dance. A thrilling highlight of the Western Australia dance calendar, this event sees students compete over 5 days for a number of coveted awards. Culminating in a Gala evening on Monday 4 June, this is one long weekend you will not want to miss! Special guests West Australian Ballet and more.

More info: www.rad.org.au/events/festival-of-dance-2018
Email: syacopetti@rad.org.au

Photo: David Mueller Photography

3.3 is about an emerging young Indigenous dancer, on the brink of an international career, thrown into a holding cell because of his skin colour and torn between two cultures. Ian Wilkes dances the young man. His mentor and choreographer Indigenous dance legend Michael Leslie Challenges him in this new adaptation of a new work by Michael. Ultimately, he just wants to dance. The young man is caught in the middle. The terrible legacy of this dilemma is that the young black fella believes gaol is also a rite of passage for young men in his community. Aboriginal people represent 3.3% of the total population, yet more than 28% of Australiaís prison population. Don't miss this dynamic and powerful dance conversation between this dance mentor and the next generation dance legend As a commitment by Ochre to the support of West Australian dancers and choreographers, we will be presenting ëBeyondí the work of internationally acclaimed choreographer Chrissie Parrot and dancer Floeur Alder. Chrissie has been commissioned by original Ochre member Floeur Alder to make a solo to commemorate the dancerís 40th birthday and a professional relationship spanning almost 30 of those years. A transformative solo that is mesmeric enigmatic and virtuosic taking dancer and audience on a transformative journey traversing an imaginary landscape.
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Extraordinary dance from Ochre

Review: Ochre Contemporary Dance Company, 3.3 and Beyond ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 29 May ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

Shadows on shadows, a body slowly makes its way onto a dark stage. Is it male or female? Does it matter? In the cramped confines off the mainstage of Subiaco Arts Centre, the audience is confronted with questions, most of which remain unanswered. Opening this triple bill by Ochre Contemporary Dance Company, Chrissie Parrott’s latest work is, in many ways, the antithesis of her more famous choreographies. Beyond is unadorned minimalism – a single performer (the extraordinary Floeur Alder); no props; none of the detailed staging that characterises many of Parrott’s works. Here, we’re presented with the human form – as canvas and tool – and the end result is as compelling as it is opaque.

For more than a decade Parrott has been creating works that make effective use of multimedia technologies. With each successive work, her skills in this brave new world are finessed. For Beyond, Alder’s body is used as a screen onto which animations are projected. Colourfully obscure, it’s never entirely clear what the images are or what they signify but visually, the effect is stunning. In other phrases, Alder whips through the air, a frenzy of muscular movement.

Floeur Alder in Beyond
A frenzy of muscular movement: Floeur Alder in ‘Beyond’. Photo: Maree Laffan.

Alder’s years of training are evident in her control of her vessel – her limbs a perfect embodiment of the taut rhythms of the music providing the sonic backdrop to the work. Music is always upfront in a Parrott production (although interestingly here, her musician partner Jonathan Mustard is responsible only for animation) and Beyond is no exception. The soundscape is dense, driving, a cloud of sound that at times reminded me of This Mortal Coil, though it turned out to be something more obscure. As a visual spectacle, Beyond exceeds expectations – just don’t ask me what it was about.

Following this was a sensory feast of another kind – this time on film. Kwongkan (Sand) is directed by Ochre Contemporary Dance Company’s artistic director, Mark Howett. The film opens with four dancers emerging from calm, palm-fringed waters; their bodies conducting the rivulets dripping from their bodies…is it Arnhem Land, far North Queensland? Wrong – Trivandrum, India. Shifting from sea to land, from water to earth to fire, Kwongkan is a meditation on the natural elements. The team created the film while working on a dance work to be included in next year’s Perth Festival…a sequel of sorts to the wonderful Kaya, performed in 2016 by Ochre Contemporary Dance Company. Evocative, sensual, sumptuous…assuming this film is a sort of teaser for the full work, we’re in for a treat next year.

The main event of the evening was Michael Leslie’s 3.3, also directed by Howett. Tackling Indigenous incarceration – one of the most significant moral questions of contemporary Australia – is no small feat, but somehow Leslie and co. manage to present a work that is as fearless as it is necessary.

From the opening moments, we are slammed with reality. Ian Wilkes is exceptional as a man, an artist, incarcerated. I’m not sure how he’s going to last the season – he is unflinchingly physical for almost every minute he’s onstage. Whether crushing his body against the bars of his cell, scaling the walls or smashing his face into the Perspex window, Wilkes’ onslaught sweats with tension, bristles with fury. But then, just as you’re overwhelmed, there’s a sudden tonal shift – a gorgeous wash of classical music replaces the industrial soundscape and Wilkes is dancing, released within.

The ferocity returns, another wave of injustice served and Wilkes is back to slamming his body against his constraints. Leslie comes to visit the prisoner. The two engage in a sparring match that pits pragmatism against emotion. Wilkes is enraged – at his situation, at the persecution of his people, at the rank violence of his nation’s history. Leslie acknowledges the injustices with a kind of acceptance that is deeply sad but also grimly realistic. He wants Wilkes to move forward, to seek his own victories in odds so steeply stacked against him. Leslie’s not excusing the system or the history – one gets the sense he’s just over it. On one level, it’s deeply depressing to witness; on another, strangely hopeful. Wilkes agrees to rehearse the steps for a dance – they go through the routine together, one man outside instructing, the other still in his cell. It’s uplifting and fierce and devastating all at once.

3.3 is based on Leslie’s Master’s thesis – a work investigating black history, neo-colonialism and incarceration. Transforming it into dance that is this transfixing is nothing less than extraordinary, cementing Leslie’s place as one of Australia’s foremost dance artists.

3.3 and Beyond” plays Subiaco Arts Centre until 3 June.

Read Seesaw’s interview with Michael Leslie and Mark Howett.

Pictured top: Unflinchingly physical: Ian Wilkes in ‘3.3’. Photo: Martine Perret.

Link dancers performing in Ori Flomin's Mangoes, earrings and a glimpse of hope.
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Welcome to the breeding ground

Review: Link Dance Company, “Differently Equal” ·
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, 23 May ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

I’m always excited to see LINK Dance Company’s May season because it’s the first opportunity to check out the latest crop of dancers selected to be part of the WAAPA Dance Department’s one-year pre-professional program. As the name suggests, LINK is designed to bridge the gap between tertiary training and the world of professional dance. A glance through LINK’s archives  reveals that it’s been a springboard for many of WA’s current dancers and choreographers, including Co3’s Tanya Brown, Talitha Maslin, Antonio Rinaldi, Ella-Rose Trew and Zoe Wozniak, and independent dance artists Laura Boynes, Bernadette Lewis, Emma Fishwick and Isabella Stone, as well as the three members of Unkempt Dance (Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis, Amy Wiseman), just to name a handful.

Welcome to the breeding ground.

This year’s cohort of 15 emerging dance artists includes graduates from Adelaide College of the Arts (AC Arts), Queensland University of Technology and WAAPA, so it’s fitting that the first item on the “Differently Equal” programme, The Wedding, is a new work by 2009 AC Arts graduate Tobiah Booth-Remmers. A somewhat surreal experience, the work opens with a wedding scene that quickly morphs into chaos, as the guests collapse like dominoes, rolling across the stage as though caught in an invisible tsunami. Against Azariah Felton’s beat driven soundscape, pairs of dancers rail against one another.

Link dance company performing Tobiah Booth-Remmer's The Wedding
As layers of costume are peeled off one by one, the dancers’ movements become increasingly unrestrained, as though the layers of polite behaviour are being removed: Link Dance Company performing Tobiah Booth-Remmer’s ‘The Wedding’. Photo: Christophe Canato.

As layers of costume are peeled off one by one – under long sombre-coloured coats are feather embellished black garments, and under those, black underwear – the dancers’ movements become increasingly unrestrained, as though the veneer of social niceties is being removed. The work was performed with wild abandon by the company members.

After interval came The Wall – Several Illusions of the Wall by Chinese choreographer Xiao Xiang Rong, performed by 12 visiting students (unusually, with seven men to five women) from Beijing Normal University (BNU). The “Wall” in this work takes various formats. An actual wall houses a dancer, lodged amongst foam bricks. The dancers make walls of their bodies, their curved arms and legs mimicking the spaces of the now-collapsed foam brick wall. Dancers standing shoulder to shoulder become a human barricade against a powerless individual.

BNU students performing The Wall
In muted blues and greens, the 12 young performers from BNU were lithe and athletic, frequently moving as a well-rehearsed whole. Photo: Christophe Canato.

In muted blues and greens, the 12 young performers were lithe and athletic, frequently moving as a well-rehearsed whole through turns with arms held as if in surrender, or deep hinges with legs akimbo. The final scene has a strange and mournful beauty as dancers’ hands emerge, plant-like, through the crevices of the foam bricks, to contemporary, almost ghostly, strings and vocals.

The LINK dancers returned to the stage for the final work, Mangos, earrings and a glimpse of hope, by New York-based, Israeli choreographer Ori Flomin. Created for this season, it’s whimsical piece with an eye-catching opening. A carefully placed strip of light adds both drama and humour to the first scene as the supine dancers’ body parts poke, often comically, into the luminous light-shaft.

Flomin ups the silliness factor in the next scenes. With the dancers changed from cream coloured onesies into street clothes with a zany edge (think outsize sunglasses, shiny fabrics, pops of colour), the next section sees ballet, tap, jazz, character crammed together what seems like a playful montage/homage to the suburban dance school (if you see the show, keep an eye out for the flamboyant Jessie Camilleri Seeber here). Finally, it’s every dancer for themselves, in a kind of fruit-themed therapy session.

“Differently Equal” provides an engaging introduction to the new LINKers, and their guests from BNU. Kudos, too, to composer Azariah Felton, lighting designer Matthew Marshall and set and costume designer Rozina Suliman, whose creations for the two LINK works mark them as emerging talents in their respective fields.

“Differently Equal” plays the Geoff Gibbs Theatre until 25 May.

Pictured top: A playful montage/homage to the suburban dance school: LINK Dance Company performing Ori Flomin’s “Mangos, earrings and a glimpse of hope”. Photo: Christophe Canato.

Ian Wilkes and Michael Leslie in 3.3
Dance, Features, News, Performing arts

Reclaiming language through dance

It’s been decades since Michael Leslie has taken to the stage but the legendary Aboriginal dancer and choreographer is about to perform in his new work, 3.3. The piece will be presented by Ochre Dance Contemporary Dance Company alongside Beyond, by another Australian dance legend, Chrissie Parrott.

Why is 3.3 so close Michael Leslie’s heart? Nina Levy caught up with him to find out.

Michael Leslie
Michael Leslie. Photo: Mark Howett.

Talking to dancer and choreographer Michael Leslie about the upcoming season of his work 3.3, the first thing that strikes me is that this man is all about movement. It’s another (globally warmed) balmy May day and we’re sitting at a picnic table at the edge of the Subiaco Arts Centre’s lush gardens… at least Ochre Contemporary Dance Company artistic director Mark Howett and I are sitting. Leslie occasionally sits, but mostly he’s on his feet. It’s as though some thoughts and ideas are too vital to be discussed in a sedentary manner.

It’s not difficult to understand why Leslie is speaking with such passion. The title 3.3 is a reference to the fact that Aboriginal people represent 3.3% of the population of Australia, but more than 28% of its prison population. A Gamilaraay man, Leslie made 3.3 in 2017, as part of his master’s degree. The work focuses on a successful young Indigenous dancer (played by Noongar dancer Ian Wilkes), who has been arrested and thrown into a holding cell, persecuted on account of his skin colour and torn between two cultures. Blurring the line between fiction and reality, Leslie plays himself, the young dancer’s mentor, who deliberately gets himself arrested so that he can speak to the boy and encourage him to stay on the right track to succeed in the “white fella world”.

While the scene in the cell isn’t autobiographical, Leslie’s own story also involves navigating two different worlds as a young dancer. Born in north-west New South Wales, times were tough growing up, he says, subject to the racist government policies of the era. “Dance would have been the furtherest thing from my mind,” he recalls, but by chance, a television advertisement, featuring dancers, ignited his passion for the artform, at age 19. “I was hooked,” he remembers. “Taking the initiative, I commenced dance classes at the Bodenwieser Dance Centre on Broadway in Chippendale, Sydney, a school founded by Mrs Margaret Chapple, a pioneer of Australian Contemporary Dance.”

At Bodenweiser Dance Centre Leslie met Carole Johnston, an African-American dancer who founded the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA). One of five founding students at NAISDA, Leslie became part of a growing Aboriginal dance scene, performing with the newly formed Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre (AIDT) around Australia and internationally through the 1970s. In 1980 Leslie won a Churchill Fellowship, which enabled him to train at the famed Alvin Ailey American Dance Centre in New York.

Leslie returned to Australia seven years later. A co-founder of both Black Swan State Theatre Company and Broome-based dance theatre company Marrugeku, he also began to work extensively with young Aboriginal people, establishing the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts at WAAPA in 1996 and the Michael Leslie Pilbara Performing Arts program in 2006. He has received numerous awards and accolades for his work as an artist, educator and mentor.

“There was a law called linguicide, where it was forbidden for my people to speak their language and if they did they’d be thrown in gaol. That added to the demise of people speaking language. So when I did my master’s, I looked at creating 100 dance steps from the Gamilaraay language.”

Now 60, Leslie speaks with great anxiety about the future of young Aboriginal people, and one of his primary areas of concern is racial discrimination within the judicial system. An important part of 3.3, therefore, is highlighting the horrific miscarriages of justice that have been and continue to be inflicted on Aboriginal people since white invasion. As Leslie notes, the breadth of these is “mind-boggling” and so, for practicality, he has chosen to focus on massacres and violent incidents that have affected his people, the Gamilaraay. The first of these is the infamous Myall Creek massacre in in 1838. “The fact that [the settlers] didn’t shoot [the Aboriginal people], that they killed them up-close with swords? That’s hatred,” comments Leslie. “Then the second massacre was the Waterloo Creek massacre,” he continues, “when [white people] killed 300 of my people, on 26 January 1938 – that’s why a lot of black people don’t like Australia Day – and all [the perpetrators] got was a slap on the wrist for killing 300 people. Then in 1982 there was the murder of Ronald “Cheeky” McIntosh in Moree, and they shot Stephanie Duke, Warren Tighe, Michael Foote. When they pronounced Cheeky dead, my people came riding across the bridge and you know who’s waiting for them there? The Tactical Response Group. They’ve got sirens going, they’re holding hand guns, holding shot guns, mustering my people back to the fucking mission. This is 1982!

“So the story here is, where is the justice? There’s no justice for my people. What about Elijah [Doughty]? What about Miss Dhu? You tell us we’re citizens, we need to take responsibility. Well you need to wear that too. What they did to Miss Dhu was terribly, terribly wrong. And all they got was…” Leslie mimes a slap on the wrist. “And that’s what this piece is all about. It’s speaking for my people.”

But the work is about more than simply making people aware of these acts of murder and subsequent lack of justice, adds Howett. “It’s also about healing. Even though we ask hard questions, we’re trying to open up a topic enough so that people can discuss it and the can recover from it. There’s a chance for healing by showing the hardest part of one’s life.”

Ian Wilkes
Reclaiming language through movement: Ian Wilkes rehearsing ‘3.3’. Photo: Mark Howett.

Part of that healing is about reclaiming language through movement. “There was a law called linguicide, where it was forbidden for my people to speak their language and if they did they’d be thrown in gaol,” says Leslie. “That added to the demise of people speaking language. So when I did my master’s, I looked at creating 100 dance steps from the Gamilaraay language. This was not only an artistic reclamation of language but a political act against linguicide.”

Those 100 dance steps, based on the rhythms and meanings of words from Gamilaraay language, form the basis of the choreography for 3.3. “I did a reclamation of my language, of my culture, to create what I’ve created in the cell there,” explains Leslie. “So every word that I chose, there had to be something where I could create a step. Like the word “Muti”, which means lightning, that’s a tour (a jump that turns in the air)… quick, like lightning. Or “barurra”, the word for a red kangaroo, the anatomical characteristics of the kangaroo have inspired this contemporary movement: staunch and powerful with muscular shoulders and elongated torso… very intimidating when threatened.  Even being sick, there’s this impulse, we say ‘wiibi-li’, so I used that rhythm, those three beats, and did a movement like this” – Leslie’s torso ripples as though something is propelling upwards and out. “So it’s all very contemporary. They’re not cultural steps because I haven’t been trained in cultural dance. My style comes from the athleticism of the training I’ve had in African-American contemporary dance. So I’ve drawn from the rhythm and meaning of Gamilaraay language to create these steps. For me it’s saying to Ian and other young people, ‘Look into your culture.’ And we’ve also drawn from Ian’s Noongar dance knowledge and technique. He and I have collaborated in making another vocabulary for this production.”

The concept of reclaiming language has extended beyond the creation of this work, adds Howett. “Daily dance class is all in Noongar,” he notes. “What I find interesting is seeing Michael’s way of bringing his dance background and cultural background together to say, ‘This is who I am, and this is what I think about things.’”

3.3 and Beyond, a solo by Chrissie Parrott for Floeur Alder, will be presented alongside a screening of Snake Dance, a short film my Mark Howett, at Subiaco Arts Centre, 26 May – 2 June.

Top photo: Ian Wilkes and Michael Leslie in ‘3.3’. Photo: Mark Howett.