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Dance, Features, News, Performing arts, The MoveMe Files

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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Dance, Features, News, Performing arts, The MoveMe Files

The MoveMe Files: Yilin Kong

Yilin Kong first performed her self-devised solo Blushed at Strut Dance’s 2017 “Short Cuts” season, where it was described by Seesaw’s Nina Levy as “sculptural”, “dynamic” and “gloriously articulate”. So it’s no surprise that Blushed was selected to be further developed for performance in Strut Dance’s “Next” season. Nina Levy found out more about this solo, ahead of the presentation of “Next” at the upcoming MoveMe Festival.

Yilin Kong
Yilin Kong

Nina Levy: Tell me about Blushed.
Yilin Kong: Blushed is an extended version of a solo created for STRUT’s 2017 Short Cuts. The [original] solo was a self exploration of physicality and emotion around my own relationship to my femininity. Femininity exists everywhere and is a part of every person and there is always a particular stereotype and expectation with the understanding of the word. I am curious about the complexity and scale of femininity that can exist and be represented within history, nature, culture and atmosphere. I myself have an interesting relationship with my understanding of my own femininity and often find myself thinking things that are taboo or contradictory, or feeling the sense that the feminine voice isn’t loud or heard.

The work last year stood in two parts, looking at the idea of landscape and sculptural structures on the body and then at the feminine and the groundedness within the woman. This time round I have revisited both sections, and am adding a third, that will take us into another world, looking at the ethereal yet alien. So this work will be comprised of three episodes in three different worlds.

NL: What inspired you to make Blushed?
YK: I decided to create a solo as a challenge and an exploration of physical research, playing with and pushing my boundaries. This is the first time I have created on myself at a performance level and it has been an interesting experiment on understanding my perspective, expectations and trust in myself. There’s definitely a real test but also liberation in holding the majority of the responsibility.

Girl dancing in yellow playsuit
‘All the material for this solo came from states of improvisation.’ Yilin Kong in ‘Blushed’.

NL: Who else is involved in Blushed?
YK: Niharika Senapati is making one component of the music. Not only does she make sound but she is also my soundboard for ideas and provides general encouragement and positivity if I feel like I’m losing any sort of direction. I’ve also had other close artists come through to help keep my perspective while working away by myself. It’s very easy to lose track of yourself, being alone all day!

NL: Talk me through the creative process of making Blushed
YK: Another reason why I was interested in working solo was to try a different creative process to what I would usually play in. All the material for this solo came from states of improvisation. I found myself in a place/state/atmosphere and settled and played for a while and then re-learned the bits that I found interesting and relevant. There is so much intricate detail and idiosyncrasy in movement that is generated in the moment and I find it so much more integral and interesting to play and shape with. And working on myself, I can really push myself physically to find new pathways and ideas. I do think it’s quite a skill to be able to learn from idiosyncrasies, and have only just started to get the grasp of it, without taking hours on about 30 seconds!

I am also interested in the layers of performance and how much we can be with our audiences. Playing solo has been a useful way to consider building a relationship with my audience, as I don’t have other bodies in the space to interact with.

NL: What excites you about presenting Blushed at MoveMe?
YK: It’s a first work of mine to be performed at a festival to ticketed audiences and the first time I’m performing my own work. I feel incredibly exposed and vulnerable which is nerve-wracking but also exciting and so beautiful at the same time. I think I’m excited to share my choreographic voice with people outside of my immediate work community and family. When I was first making this solo last year, it was quite cathartic and a big part of my personal growth, so the work feels very special and considered. I hope that audiences can take something away from it, whether they connect to me as a performer or my journey, or just to the images or atmosphere present.

‘There is so much intricate detail and idiosyncrasy in movement that is generated in the moment.’ Yilin Kong in ‘Blushed’.

NL: Have you performed at the MoveMe Festival previously?
YK: Yes, I performed in the last MoveMe Festival [in 2016], in STRUT’s presentation of Ohad Naharin’s Decadance. That performance has definitely been a highlight of my performing career, not only because the work is so iconic and such a joy to perform and share with audiences, but because being a part of a festival creates such a buzz, in both the arts community and the community around Perth. On multiple occasions I enjoyed  going home on the bus and listening to strangers talk about the different shows they had had the opportunity to experience and how it allowed them the opportunity to see something different and local. I think it’s so important that festivals such as MoveMe are around, as there are so many local artists and makers who have a voice and work to share. I feel very passionate and privileged to be so involved in the festival.

NL: What are you looking forward to seeing at MoveMe?
YK: I am very curious about Dust on the Shortbread by Anything is Valid Dance Theatre (AIVDT). This work has been in progress for a little while and I’m very interested to see the outcome.

I also haven’t had much experience with intimate works especially in intimate and familiar site specific spaces so am curious to experience it. I am also intrigued by the two prominent performers, Elizabeth Cameron Dalman and George Shevtsov, as I am familiar with both but haven’t seen perform in a creative space like this and can imagine their presence and performance to be quite special and poignant. I think Serena and Quindell [of AIVDT] are incredibly interesting and intelligent creatives so I’m also excited to see their work again.

Yilin Kong’s “Blushed” will be presented as part of Strut Dance’s “Next”, alternating with Sally Richardson’s #thatwomanJulia, and plays the Studio Underground, together with Kynan Hughes’s Love/Less, 19-22 September.

Pictured top: Yilin Kong in ‘Blushed’ at ‘Short Cuts’ in 2017.

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Dance, Features, News, Performing arts, The MoveMe Files

Inside the WA Dance Makers Project

This September, Co3 Australia will launch the 2018 MoveMe Festival with a double dance bill celebrating four dynamic West Australian women, led by the legendary Chrissie Parrott. Nina Levy headed into the rehearsal studio to find out more.

It’s a chilly Thursday afternoon but inside Rehearsal Room 2 at the State Theatre Centre it feels summer-warm and a little sweaty, evidence that the black-clad dancers of Co3 Australia have been hard at work. They’re preparing for the company’s upcoming season, “WA Dance Makers Project”, which will be presented as part of the 2018 MoveMe Festival, and I’m lucky enough to be attending an exclusive studio showing of the works in progress. As the name suggests, this double bill is all about supporting WA choreographers, with the headline work created by State Living Treasure Chrissie Parrott, supported by a new piece from the delightfully quirky Unkempt Dance (Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis and Amy Wiseman), and a curtain-raiser choreographed by WA born-and-trained Richard Cilli, performed by WAAPA’s LINK Dance Company.

With over 90 dance works in her back catalogue, you’d think that Parrott might be running out of ideas, but the glimpse we get of her new work, In-Lore Act II, indicates that this veteran choreographer is still exploring new concepts. While the whimsical gestures and folky accompaniment of the opening trio (performed here as a duo by Katherine Gurr and Zoe Wozniak because the third performer is unwell) might, fleetingly, remind those in the know of 2009’s The Garden, the pace and precision demanded by this fast and furious number give it a very different look.

Chrissie Parrott and dancers
‘I won’t give away the narrative yet because I think when we get to the theatre it will give people the opportunity to write their own.’ Chrissie Parrott (centre) with Zoe Wozniak (left), Mitch Harvey (seated) and Katherine Gurr (right). Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

In the Q&A that follows the showing, Parrott talks about those folky touches. “I have this inkling towards Nordic folklore,” she explains. “The music that you heard is a Swedish folkloric song and there are ideas of some of the mystery and magic that continues to hold in the folklore of those cold, dark places, so that’s fed into this work. It’s got a richness to it that is universal, I think, even though it’s got that Nordic edge to it. That’s why the work is called In-Lore, because it has a folkloric aspect to it.”

In spite of that folklore element, the starting point for In-Lore Act II isn’t a narrative. “The work has never started with a narrative, except for my secret narrative without a story or story without a narrative,” says Parrott enigmatically. “So we’ve started with very simple abstract tasks that you give dancers and then we put them together, we mix and match dancers and develop them into work, until the narrative starts to reveal itself to me.”

Although Parrott says that the narrative has started to appear at the time of the showing (four weeks from opening), she’s not telling. “I won’t give away the narrative yet because I think when we get to the theatre it will give people the opportunity to write their own,” she explains. “You’ll see it and you’ll decide what the narrative is.”

three girls in black dresses
“We’re all for multiple selves.” Unkempt Dance: (L-R): Amy Wiseman, Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Our In-Lore Act II preview is followed by a peek at Unkempt Dance’s new work, You Do Ewe. Comprised of dance artists Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis and Amy Wiseman, Unkempt has been making dance theatre with a comical streak since 2010. True to form, the choreography thus far includes lip-syncing, a hot pink wig, and an acrobatic approach to storytelling.

Those who saw Unkempt’s work for Strut Dance’s 2017 “Short Cuts” season, I Have Health Insurance Now will recall that work’s light-hearted take on what it means to be 30. Listening to the trio talk, it’s clear that there’s a relationship between that work and You Do Ewe.

“Our work for Co3 started from discussions about the phase of life that we’re in,” remarks Lewis. “We’re suddenly very aware of having lots of different roles, different hats we’re all wearing.” Like many independent artists, all three members of Unkempt have multiple jobs on the go, covering a range of skill sets. And so the three got thinking about some advice they’ve heard often, ‘Just be yourself’. “We wanted to unpack that idea,” says Lewis. “’Just be yourself’ is such a loaded statement, really.”

“We weren’t interested in just one ‘authentic’ version of self,” Armstrong adds. “We wanted to discover and explore the different facets of each dancer, and push some of these to a heightened level.”

“We’re also interested in the opportunity to slip into or try on other versions of yourself that might not feel comfortable, but will actually push you in a direction that is exciting or different,” Wiseman concludes. “We’re all for multiple selves.”

You can catch “WA Dance Makers Project” at the Studio Underground, State Theatre of WA, 12-15 September.

Pictured top: Co3 Australia dancers rehearsing Chrissie Parrott’s ‘In-Lore Act II’. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

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The MoveMe Files: Kynan Hughes

Ahead of the 2018 MoveMe Festival, Perth’s biennial showcase of contemporary dance, Nina Levy is talking to the program’s choreographers to find out more about the works that will be staged this September.

Here she catches up with local independent choreographer Kynan Hughes, to talk about his new work Love/Less. Featuring dancers Marlo Benjamin, Rachel Arianne Ogle and Alexander Perrozzi, Love/Less delves into the making and breaking of human connections.

Kynan Hughes
Kynan Hughes

Nina Levy: What is Love/Less about?
Kynan Hughes: Love/Less explores the universal human experiences of intimacy and loss.

Intimacy is defined as being “very personal; private”, it can refer “to or [be] indicative of one’s deepest nature” and reflects “close acquaintance, association, or familiarity” across all forms of relationships: from family ties to sexual flings. I believe intimacy and the sharing of our deepest emotions and thoughts with others is one of the most fundamental and basic desires of being human: we seek the comfort and understanding of others, be it from friends, family members or lovers. It is inevitable that at some point in our lifetimes we will lose some of these connections through various circumstances: such as loss (from death or distance), change or time.

This work has been driven and spurred on by the death of my father after a long series of illnesses in 2010. While being part of a close and loving family, my father was a solitary man and, after his passing there is still a lingering feeling that I did not really know him at all. Love/Less examines how we can be close but simultaneously so far apart.

Man lying next to girl under a sheet
Marlo Benjamin & Alexander Perrozzi

NL: Talk us through the creative process of making Love/Less
KH: Choreographically the work is highly complex physically, with strong emotional and theatrical content. The material was created collaboratively with the entire creative team: it relies heavily on the interaction and trust between the cast members throughout the demanding partnering.

My goal, as a choreographer, is to make distinctive dance works that emotionally resonate with audiences, challenging them to examine and question the subject matter of the work in relation to their own lives.

NL: What excites you about sharing Love/Less with Perth audiences?
KH: Love/Less has been in development for around five years now, with two creative developments and many grant writing sessions! It’s incredibly exciting to get it to the stage and finally share it with people. Hopefully, it will offer an experience that moves people and gets them reflecting upon events in their own life around love, loss and grief in a way that is cathartic and beautiful.

NL: What appeals you about being involved in this festival?
KH: I’m excited about being a part of an event that showcases and celebrates West Australian dance – an industry that I’m really proud and honoured to be a part of. I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to present and share my work in such a platform.

NL: What are you looking forward to seeing at MoveMe?
KH: Everything! There’s so much that’s so intriguing and interesting. The intergenerational and site-specific aspect of the “SeeME” really excites me, especially because I co-curated a site-specific dance program, “In Situ”, with Emma Fishwick, in 2016 and 2017. Cockfight is explosive dance theatre performed by two incredible performers. Co:3 are presenting a double bill of four (!) unique and powerful female choreographers’ work, which I can’t wait to see – it will be fantastic to see their work on the company. Dust on the Shortbread tackles an illness that is affecting my family right now, and I feel it will offer quite a revelatory experience.

Love/Less plays the Studio Underground, together with Strut Dance’s “Next”, 19-22 September.

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WA Dance Makers Project
Calendar, Dance, Performing arts, September 18

Dance: WA Dance Makers Project

12-16 September @ Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by Co3 Australia ·

12 – 15 September, 730pm
14 September, 12pm
16 September, 5pm

Celebrating a powerhouse of female contemporary dance makers, Co3 Australia proudly present WA Dance Makers Project, a double-bill of new and exhilarating dance theatre works, featuring choreography by Australian dance legend, Chrissie Parrott, and the dynamic trio of Unkempt Dance (Amy Wiseman, Carly Armstrong, and Jessica Lewis).

Supporting the next generation of WA talent, ECU’s LINK Dance Company showcase a new work by Richard Cilli as curtain-raiser to WA Dance Makers Project.

More info
W: co3.org.au
E: info@co3.org.au

Image: Emma Fishwick

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