Big Dance in Small Chunks

Big Dance In Small Chunks premiered to decent sized responsive audiences last week by Dance Makers Collective, comprised of 9 fledgling choreographers as part of a large mixed program, each contributing as performers for other works. The cast has a very impressive cumulative performer/collaborator history, working with some of today’s most notable companies and directors including; Chunky Move, Marrugeku, Force Majeure, Shaun Parker, Martin del Amo and Tanja Liedtke, which was evident. The physical range and virtuosity on display was superb for a maiden event.

Only last week I was talking to a fellow dance practitioner, arguing about my fear of losing dance specificity as an art form (even though I must confess to preferring to work across disciplines as a creator), beginning with the demise of the UWS dedicated dance degree. NSW no longer offers a stand alone tertiary fine arts performance course like WA’s WAAPA, or Queensland’s QUT and Victoria’s VCA dance degree programs.

After seeing this evening of performances I came away thinking that this could be a good thing. That maybe a whole new approach to dance is in order, not necessarily via the well trodden demonstrative dictatorship of sharing specific steps.

There was a lot to offer in this big mix with dance expressed in a variety of ways from the sculptural, as seen in Katina Olsen’s Instar; utilising a big expandable globe manipulated and lit from within, to the integration of interactive digital technologies witnessed in Carl Sciberras’ Mobius  and Anya McKee’s Fit to Shift and the sharing of performative space with live musicians in Rosslyn Wythes’ Pas Pro Toto.

That these choreographers show promise is undeniable. What should come into focus is the ongoing frameworks to support these choreographers beyond these initial forays, while still promoting the diversity and innovative risk taking this state and this city is renowned for.

UNSW has terminated its dance in education degree in favour of a dance major as part of an arts or sciences degree (not sure exactly). There is no audition process and students from a variety of other fields are encouraged to apply. Critical Path and Ausdance offer workshops and master classes that focus on elements of hands on, experientially focused practice. This initiative (Dance Makers Collective) facilitated by FORM Dance Projects along with Australia Council for the Arts’ Artstart and Jump mentorship programs add to the current list of opportunities.

The leap from a 10 minute idea to a 20, 30 or 50 minute product is huge. Without ongoing access to bodies or resources how does one make that leap? Like an everyday practice to fine tune the body, a choreographer only really comes into their own through practice and constant development, evaluation and redevelopment. For that reason I hope that this initiative has tangible support into the future.

I would love to see a possible context for Dancing With, Matt Cornell’s meditative yet strangely adversarial duet, moving continuously, covering the stage in large circular patterns, with suspended lifts hovering inches from the floor, grown from tight grips. Or a deeper exploration into Marnie Palomares’ work, 23, 24, 30 about the absurdity of the performers plight, which might include even more of the vulnerabilities and power shifts at play; performer v’s creator v’s possible audience and surrounding obligations.

I would love to see more of the idiosyncratic percussive vocabulary featured in Jenni Large’s piece The Ultimate Human Seduction and see her challenge the breadth of application, perhaps see a darker intent told via the quirky upbeat stamps, jogs and shuffles.

On the whole I came away satisfied in the fiercely patriotic knowledge that NSW has a bright choreographic future.

By Vicki Van Hout

Image Credit: Matt CornellDancers: Rosslyn Wythes & Carl Sciberras