In Conversation

Image: Anouk Van Dijk and Paul Selwyn Norton – Courtesy of Critical Path

I am not inclined to read the ins and outs of a program before watching a performance, preferring instead to let my imagination run rife, my synapses firing at mercurial speed, thoughts shifting as the action unfolds, I do like to gain insight into the mind of the maker.

I do appreciate gleaning as much as I can about the person whose imagination brought the spectacular to life.

What makes such a person tick? Do I too possess the magic ingredient, that certain je ne sais quoi? Will this artist be able to articulate what ‘it’ is?

I have to admit, that as an independent choreographer, my attendance at these events is initially predicated on ambitious curiosity. I want to know what drives others and if their motivations are in any way similar to mine, where and how this fits in amongst national and international movements/trends.

On all occasions I have found our dance makers more than generous, revealing many little known facts about themselves and their work, which make me want to watch the thing that they are currently presenting, all the more. I become personally invested in them because of the candour in which they share their lives and their art.

Critical Path recently facilitated such conversations titled Being Curious with Chunky Move’s Artistic Director Anouk van Dijk and Paul Selwyn Norton, recently appointed Director of Strut in Perth WA. This was followed by a similar event titled Everything has led to this the following week with Kate Champion, founder of Force Majeure and Garry Stewart, current Artistic Director of ADT.

Margie Medlin, Director of Critical Path dance research centre organised a live broadcast and has maintained uploaded links, in order to augment a growing virtual archive, which includes associated links to Jochen Roller’s website The Source Code, delving into Australasia’s historical modern dance link to the German expressionist movement, through the immigration of Gertrud Bodenweiser from Vienna to Sydney, to the first of these conversations held last year featuring local Sydney based artists Martin del Amo, Julie-Anne Long, Ghenoa Gela and Nick Power, who share their responsive residency outcomes.

Our sense of time and our correlating concentration spans, seem to be speeding and shortening exponentially, in relation to the amount of information available to us at any one time. The way in which we engage with art screams for context. This also represents a time where we, as audiences, want more than the pretty package served up to us after paying the required entry fee. Critical Path acknowledges that the present plays a vital part in the ongoing process of history, by making our connection to practicing artists  readily accessible in a setting not necessarily attached to one project in particular, but as a response to the need for a bigger picture.

In these talks, Garry Stewart revealed that he looks for dancers with that ‘can’t take your eyes off them’ charisma, while Kate Champion prefers a certain sensibility and an ability to make a work in his or her own right. They both agreed that their dancers must possess kick-ass technique. Garry started dancing at 20, while Kate signed up to be a secretary, adjusting insurance claims, before she realised she was headed in the wrong direction. Anouk van Dijk is interested in the psychology of space, be it personal or site-specific, initially daunted by the sheer size of this country and small population inhabiting it, in comparison to her own. Paul Selwyn Norton was qualifying as a doctor of medicine, before being spotted in a nightclub and being offered his first job. He refers to the ecology of the dance sector and his vision for growing it. Both Kate Champion and Garry Stewart were influenced by early Performance Space and its experimental ethic, pushing boundaries, in terms of sexual and gender politics. All of these artists have a courageous and curious inclination to delve into the unknown, are incredibly driven and have a common ability to articulate, and articulate well.

Dumb dancers these are not. They are compelling.

If you are thinking of starting your own company, want to be the next at the helm of an already established one, want to be working for someone who is currently running one, want insight into how you might achieve longevity, or want to know how well you might have to talk the talk (articulate yourself), then click on one of the links provided.

Even if you missed the initial live events, you can still catch them (see the links below). I highly recommend taking up an opportunity live though, to see and be able to be seen, to question in person, the secret of another’s success.

The Source Code

Being Curious – original footage from live broadcast (high resolution vimeo link available soon) –

In Conversation: Everything has led to this – Garry Stewart and Kate Champion, Sat 6 Sep 2014, 5pm at the Drill Hall –

In Conversation with Sydney Practitioners – facilitated by Martin del Amo, 12 Sep 2013, 630pm at the Drill Hall –

– by Vicki Van Hout