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Journey to a dance work

Ever wondered how a dance work gets put together? Dance artist Talitha Maslin and composer/collaborator Dane Yates will be giving you the chance to have a look at a showing of their work-in-progress, entitled Amity, as part of the MoveMe Festival this September. Nina Levy had a chat with Talitha Maslin to find out more about Amity’s journey so far.

Talitha Maslin and Dane Yates. Photo: Alexander Turner.

Tell us about Amity
Amity is a new work that Dane and I are currently developing, looking closely at the collaboration between composer and choreographer. We were lucky enough to be selected as artists in residence at Albany’s Vancouver Arts Centre this year and wanted to create the work in relation to our practice, with consideration of place and region. We looked at historical sites in Albany and came across the Brig Amity, the ship that brought the first settlers to Western Australia.

We quickly became interested in the meaning of “amity” – friendship or friendly relations. We then discovered that the relationship between the local Minang people and the settlers was, initially, one of co-operation and harmony. We didn’t want to get super political inside the work so decided to focus on sociological elements, like how to maintain positive rapport and how to keep working together even through moments of disagreement or confusion. Our creative relationship has a beautiful harmony; we are both interested in breaking the constraints of the titles “composer” and “choreographer” to generate a balance where we can direct each element of the work equally.

What is your role in the work?
What’s been interesting about this work is that I can’t really pinpoint my exact “role” in it, I guess the best thing to say is I’m the co-director. Dane and I feel we are simultaneously the composer and choreographer and, in some unplanned and completely unknown way, set and lighting designers. We spent a good portion of time developing a language where we could both have input in each field. In this way, I feel there is a deeper understanding of concept realisation and direction beyond what I have experienced in other choreographic works I’ve directed.

How did your collaboration with Dane come about?
I first met Dane at a STRUT workshop and I felt he had a natural intuition in reading dance and generating sound that is experimental but, at the same time, has a way of drawing the audience in. We’ve had a working relationship since 2016 and I am so happy that we can work together with equal voices in this work. He is an amazing dancer who has a natural understanding of rhythm, state and, to be honest, the legs of a ballet dancer. He has taught me about sound design techniques and laptop composition, and is a massive inspiration and joy to work with.

Poster image for ‘Amity’, featuring Dane Yates and Talitha Maslin. Photo: Talitha Maslin and Dane Yates.

Talk us through the creative process of making the work…
We began by discussing concepts. We set out simple things to start off the creative process – Dane would give me an improvisation task to work with, for example, and I would describe some sound, like tone and tempo, for him to work with. We gradually began teaching each other skills; I learnt how to use some music making software and Dane learnt how to set choreography and spatial design.

Due to our relative isolation in Albany and need to be in front of the heater, we worked in the rehearsal space, the car and the living room, blurting out ideas at any moment of the day. It was awesome to track when we would get spurts of creative energy and amazing to have the space to run with it.

We slowly built scenes and sections, then threaded the ideas together by finding something of a narrative within the larger meaning of our relationship in the work. We also spoke a lot about audience engagement and how we wanted to keep the work light, as we both naturally lean towards darker and more experimental work. We managed to work with a balance between the experimental, pop culture, consideration of communal dances and a blend of sound samples and songs.

What excites you about this work?
This work excites me because we are working towards a new interdisciplinary platform to redesign the dancer/musician relationship. Showing something at the beginning of its journey, when both performers are vulnerable and working outside their comfort zones to discover how and why they create performance work, is super exciting for us. We hope the audience will come on a journey of discovery with us as we invite them on a rollercoaster of human emotion through physical and audible immersion.

What appeals you about being involved in the MoveMe Festival?
I first performed in MoveMe Festival 2016 with Co3 Australia, in Raewyn Hill’s The Cry. The performance was an amazing experience as it was the first full length work Co3 ever presented and the first time I felt really established and valued as a performer in the Perth dance community. What’s special for me this year is that I get to feel what it’s like to present something I’ve created, in a big dance festival. So even though it’s a showing, it feels like a huge step in my career and I’m looking forward to that. Amity is definitely a work in progress, so I am also excited to put it in the public sphere in this moment, as audience response will be invaluable moving forward.

I am also working with Momentum Dance on their “SeeMe” performance, so this festival is really helping me to grow as a choreographer, and to find my independent voice within the community. We are also thrilled at the unique opportunity to represent young creative voices within the festival which celebrates WA’s dance community.

Talitha Maslin and Dane Yates will present a showing of “Amity” at the ShowMe program, Saturday 22 September at the Middar room, State Theatre Centre of WA. The showing is free but please register you interest at https://moveme.org.au/amity/

Pictured top: Talitha Maslin and Dane Yates performing at Outcome Unknown’s WAM Experimental Music showcase in 2017. Photo: Laura Strøbech.

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