Artists clockwise from left: Pola Fanous, Emma Saunders, Feras Shaheen, Felicity Castagna and Gabriela Green Olea
FORMIDABLES EPISODE 4
EPISODE 4: ENCOUNTER
Tuesday 6 October and Wednesday 7 October 2020
In January 2020, in the heat and smoke of last summer’s devastating Australian bushfires, 16 dancers from Bega to Parramatta, joined by 48 young Western Sydney musicians, performed in Prince Alfred Square in Parramatta as part of the Sydney festival 2020. ENCOUNTER was a work of joy. In this episode, ENCOUNTER speaker and FORMidables host Pola Fanous shares the experience of making ENCOUNTER with its director, Emma Saunders. First joined by writer Felicity Castagna, they explore the nexus between dance, text and performance in the context of creating a site-specific work. Cast members Feras Shaheen and Gabriela Green Olea follow in describing their process of discovery and endurance through rehearsing outdoors, across sites from South to West, over the 18 months it took to create a work filled with emotional realities from which a new youth company, We Are Here, has emerged.
GUESTS PART A
GUESTS PART B
GABRIELA GREEN OLEA
Running Time: 63 Minutes
Pola Fanous is a young poet and performing artist from Western Sydney. An Egyptian-born immigrant, at age 21 Pola is a prominent figure in Sydney’s slam scene. In 2016, Pola competed in the Poetry Olympics and spoke at the City of Sydney’s Youth Leadership Conference. In 2017, Pola was published in ‘The Resurrection’ Anthology and performed at the Digital Writers’ Festival, The Plot Music Festival, and the Parliament House of Australia. His poem ‘Mr War (Palestine)’ incorporated into Warren Armstrong and Susannah Williams’ multi-sensory artwork ‘Listening Device VII: Felt Histories’, was awarded the 2017 Paramor Prize for Art & Innovation. In 2018, Pola began writing for Honi Soit, performed at the Sydney Writer’s Festival and made waves with his now-iconic ‘Westies’. Pola was the 2018 NSW Slam Champion in the Australian Poetry Slam National Final at the Sydney Opera House. In early 2019 he released his debut collection of poetry, STRONGSOFT. He was the Speaker in FORM Dance Projects’ 2020 Sydney Festival creation ENCOUNTER directed by Emma Saunders.
Emma Saunders ENCOUNTER DIRECTOR/WE ARE HERE ASSOCIATE ARTIST
Emma Saunders has been described as a “formidable” (Realtime, 2010) Australian dance artist who works as a dancer, choreographer, director, educator and curator. She is interested in the simplicity of dance and the complexity of choreography. Utilising a visceral, instinctive attack, her work is immediate, often working with humour, everyday movement, text, repetition, deconstruction, duration and abstraction. E mma is a co-founding member of the award-winning Sydney based trio, The Fondue Set, alongside Jane McKernan and Elizabeth Ryan, who have created 10 full length works including Green Room Award-winning No Success Like Failure presented at the Sydney Opera House (2008) and Dance Massive, Arts House (2009). The Fondue Set have also performed in the Melbourne International Arts Festival (The Bar, 2008) and Sydney Festival First Night (The Hoofer, 2010). The Fondue Set has toured nationally in Australia and internationally to the UK, Europe and Japan. Emma was the inaugural Dance Curator at Campbelltown Arts Centre (2008 – 2012). Emma has created two new large-scale outdoor site-specific dance works, The Bankstown Dancing Project, commissioned by Urban Theatre Projects for Sydney Festival 2015, and The Austinmer Dancing Project (2018), exploring where dance and community can intersect.
Felicity Castagna ENCOUNTER/WE ARE HERE WRITER
Felicity Castagna is the author of the multi award-winning novel The Incredible Here and Now, and its stage adaptation. Her collection of short stories Small Indiscretions was named an ABR book of the year. Her work has appeared on ABC Radio and TV as well as in national journals and newspapers. She has taught creative writing all around Australia and currently runs the storytelling series Studio Stories. Her latest novel No More Boats was a finalist of the Miles Franklin Award 2018. She is the Director of Finishing School, a project that aims to provide long-term mentoring for western Sydney women, writing their first books. She has always been interested in writing that has a focus on place.
Feras Shaheen ENCOUNTER ENSEMBLE DANCER/WE ARE HERE DIGITAL ARTIST
Feras Shaheen’s practice spans across performance, semiotics, street dance, readymade art and digital media. Shaheen was born in Dubai to Palestinian parents and moved to Sydney at the age of 11. Drawing from his Hip Hop dance background as well as Palestinian cultural dance traditions, Shaheen traverses different roles within the arts, working as a performer, teacher, choreographer and digital artist. He holds a Bachelor in Design from Western Sydney University (2014) and in addition to his artistic practice works as a freelance graphic designer, photographer and filmmaker. Feras is currently presenting a duet titled ‘Klapping’ with Ahilan Ratnamohan, a contemporary project that consists of choreographic research in football commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre. In September 2020, Feras exhibited a body of work titled ‘Cross Cultures’ at Pari Gallery in Parramatta. Feras will be presenting a performative video installation that draws from the postmodern concept of hyper-reality, exploring shifting states of personal perception titled ‘Plastic Bag’ in 2022. Feras is also a member of Buggy Bumpers Street Dance Crew, Groove Therapy Commercial Agency, Cultural Renegades Street Dance Show and Klappsquad.
Gabriela Green Olea ENCOUNTER FLING PHYSICAL THEATRE DANCER/WE ARE HERE DANCER
Gabriela is an activist and dance artist who works across many mediums, with all people and within inclusive environments. As a daughter and granddaughter of a refugee family, her work responds to the ideas of cross-cultural identity and the transitional space of belonging to community and place. Gabriela graduated from the VCA in 2014. Gabriela choreographed a social project CPAL for the This is Not Art Festival in 2018. In 2019 she choreographed WHO WE ARE with dancers in regional NSW, living with and without disability mentored by Vicky Malin (UK). In 2020 Gabriela had a residency at Campbelltown Arts Centre for the AusDance NSW DAIR program, and is a part of Dancehouse Emerging Choreographers Program. Gabriela was a successful DirtyFeet Choreographic Lab recipient in 2019 and is a lead artist in The Right Foot program 2020. In 2020 Gabriela danced and created with Ngioka Bunda-Heath, Ros Crisp, Oscar Poncell, Holly Craig, Imogen Yang, Riana Head-Toussaint, Feras Shaheen and Coti Cibils.