Image: Game of Seven, Peter Plozza

It is a rare and lovely thing when a company opens its doors to an emerging artist. Even better when three organisations come together to provide a much needed opportunity for four such artists, no make that five, correction six.

I was invited to Carriageworks to witness  a studio sharing (“No applause please… unless you really can’t help yourself” – Kate Champion), organised by Force Majeure as part of their Cultivate lab and Performance Space, who I suspect chipped in as part of their successful  annual Indigilab program and Carriageworks. Featured artists were Victoria Hunt, Jason Pitt, Ghenoa Gela  and Kirk Page; all NSW based Indigenous performance makers and  Kristina Chan (a ring-in not part of the Cultivate team but as part of another initiative along with Timothy Ohl, not present) informally presenting her own findings after a residency in Bundanon.

Kristina Chan presented first. I noticed the difference in her movement vocabulary choices immediately. With the benefit of a dramaturg (Tahli Corin) Kristina’s offerings had developed a gravity and maturity that I had not witnessed before. I confess I have only seen her choreograph short pieces as part of the IOU seasons at UNSW. There were subtle shifts in both texture and sensibility, opening with a gentle curiosity consisting of fragile tessellated manoeuvring of the space around her, in minute increments, from many facets, and culminating in an arresting sequence that began with heavy heels dropping on paper underfoot. Thud/rustle (of the paper as it clung haphazardly to the underside of her foot at irregular intervals) and hard laboured exhalations, mounting in tension until falling to the floor as suddenly as she began. From here, body rolls and ripples were replaced by chest isolations that beat a desperate tattoo on the floor. This development will eventually culminate in a work titled Faint Existence, to be produced and presented by Force Majeure.

Next up was Victoria Hunt who scattered dancers in various supine poses dressed in floral frocks. The dancers’ movement was imperceptible and the score, which felt sparse, was loaded with images of a slowly shifting landscape, etched away over thousands of years, by the elements. It was the second movement, consisting of bent bodies and taut limbs, stretching and retracting like shoots bursting from the dirt viewed in time-lapse, which reminded me of Victoria’s training in photography. Like Linda Luke’s choreography  Some Other Body on dancer Angela French performed at Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music a couple of years back, as part of a collaborative youMove initiative Dance Meets Music, Victoria’s architectural (epic) response to the space and site specific use of the in-house work lights reminded me of Tess de Quincey’s lineage. It is interesting to observe a new generation of artists utilise the tools of their teachers with their own unique outcomes.

Jason Pitt spoke about using his time to stretch himself choreographically. He spoke of his tendency to create palpable tensions in the workplace and utilise this energy as a tool, as a part of his process. Jason shared his preference for working with smaller numbers and of finding the current crew of (approximately) ten challenging.

I am familiar with Jason’s uncanny ability to create vignettes of intimacy, exposing vulnerability, within works that have a film noir atmosphere. His sharing began with a cacophony of voices and a rising melee of action to a steady meter of amplified counting. Amongst this he was able to create clarity from the chaos (which did stir an uneasiness, like an outward manifestation of a headache, brought on by an ever increasing obsessive need to list all the pressing priorities/contingencies in life) with the emergence of a singular voice, calm, yet declarative stating, “there are no ducks…there are no parties….there is no vodka”, coupled with a sole body retreating from the foreground. This last action was powerful.

Ghenoa Gela revealed there was so much she covered in the past three weeks that she just wasn’t able to share, but what she did uncovered insight both intellectually and physically. The dancers vocally shared moments from childhood; their narratives orchestrated both chorally and individually. This fostered a sincerity of performance that emphasised a feeling of empathetic nostalgia, which prompted this viewer to reminisce about her own childhood mishaps in a series of momentary flashbacks.

Ghenoa’s next aim was to recreate a physicality based on her cultural heritage and eclectic training/ performance history. I used to share a mantra back in the day, when she was a performative collaborator on works with me, of WWD- World Dance Domination! This day G made inroads.

Last up, Kirk Page, he had spoken to me before the showing about his real desire to embed his movement with meaning and not just arbitrary action.  With the audience he extrapolated on this, saying that he used his experience as a performer on a long running musical as the topic to explore different modes of being. He shared his feelings of growing tedium of the actual performance on stage and his growing fascination with what was unfolding behind the scenes. Kirk placed chairs in a row downstage, dividing the space behind and in front. Action occurring as performance was directed to the back wall with real life directed to the audience. I found the juxtaposition of scripted movement sequences upstage against a more organic improvised score downstage, heightened both psychological states. The messy exchange of clothes from one dancer to another in duets and trios conjured poignancy.

Byron Perry and Kate Champion summed up the event by stating they didn’t provide too much by way of mentoring, because they wanted the emerging choreographers to have the freedom and flexibility to explore their own interests, as opposed to make works they as mentors, would wish them to make. I, as a fellow Indigenous choreographer, am curious to see how these seeds are supported to the next stage. They are deserving and this was a fruitful initiative.

Vicki Van Hout