Movement Movement

Split into four segments over the day and organised by Campbelltown Arts Centre, the theme for this year’s Movement Movement Dance Forum was space. More specifically making space, making a conscious effort to generate opportunities for the artists posited in the margins.

The first discussion was led by artists Sue Jo Wright and Jeremy Lowrencev and was titled ‘How do we create inclusive spaces?’

Both Wright and Lowrencev are Deaf and imparted insight into the conditions which are needed to be met in order to operate. This was an eye opener for me as some of the things conventional bodied dancers take for granted, including the quick paced communication whereby conversations shoot back and forth, inadvertently ostracise the Deaf community. The need to be able to see the faces of each speaker, or alternatively to wait for an interpreter’s signed communiqué, creates an information lag time.

We were also informed that sign language doesn’t operate like English and that sometimes information can be distorted and lost in translation. Years ago I had been a part of a show titled Simple Infinity with Urban Theatre Projects where I remember we spent weeks deciding how to sign a certain song, making sure the full implications of the lyrics were reflected in the chosen signing characters. Director Rosie Dennis had consulted several members of the Deaf community to ensure that we were representing the language adequately. I recall initially thinking that her preparation was a tad excessive but in hindsight I realise how crucial her efforts had been.

As part of the interactive ‘soapbox’ afterwards I shared an Indigenous perspective which I felt was equally applicable, in the dilemma of being confined to performing essentialist depictions of ourselves, in the fight for adequate representation. As an Indigenous artist I don’t always want to be cast in the Indigenous dedicated role. I want my presence to be as multidimensional as the rest of a cast within a work and not just represent a box ticked to demonstrate diversity to boost the possibility of funding or to meet some other equally shallow criteria.

Within this first discussion it was confirmed for me that by affording meaningful opportunities for otherwise marginalised demographics, not just to be seen, other possibilities for innovation open up. Sue Jo Wright cited a work in development whereby a device called shadow signing was developed to address the often inadequate experience when placing a signer on stage. The signer is often relegated to a static corner of the floor and disassociated from the action, so distanced from it that the Deaf audience member has to choose whether to watch the show or the interpretation. With shadow signing, whereby a designated signer is assigned to each character, the benefit is extended to the hearing audience as well, in the enhanced aesthetics the device provides.

This first discussion also reaffirmed that the engagement of consultants needs to be factored into budgets when working in situations that include diverse arts practices. This first discussion also highlighted the need to reevaluate temporal terms and conditions. These change when engaging with artists and arts practices of difference to the western hegemonic norm.

Choreographers Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal and Shyamla were up next with their topic titled ‘How do we create a space for all voices?’ This duo was well placed in the program as much of the content in the first discussion was equally applicable to them.

Jade took us through her practice, drawing on somatic awareness informed by her embodied history, including her traumatic experience related to the birth of her child. Jade spoke of the state of conception as the earliest experience of movement and subsequently took us through a meditation whereby we took an internal inventory of our bodies. Jade also illustrated how her dance practice became a vehicle for cultural research into her Indonesian heritage which included an ongoing collaborative partnership with Aboriginal interdisciplinary performance artist Kirk Page, titled SMOKE.

Shyamla spoke of her intercultural Indian company Bindi Bosses, whereby dance is used as a vehicle to highlight and accommodate other expressive skills including but not exclusive to henna painting, dress design, photography, videography and poetry. Shyamla also spoke of using her dance as a tool for cross cultural collaboration and for cultural awareness purposes by conducting community engaged workshops and performances.

Like the first group the artists identified the challenge of representing diversity. Shyamla spoke of falling through the cracks and resorting to self funding her life’s work, often by maxing out her credit card. Shyamla iterated that the one upside to self funding was the creative freedom it entitled her in not having to tick the boxes that would ensure financial assistance but could also compromise her artistic integrity.

After lunch Feras Shaheen’s ‘How do we create a shared space?’ spoke about the egalitarian nature of guerrilla street dance practices and how various councils have facilitated street community expression.

Shaheen’s talk highlighted the benevolence that exists amongst the dance networks he operates within and which extends globally. I couldn’t help but feel both hopeful and uplifted by his sharing.

Lastly Martin del Amo and Miranda Wheen got down to the nitty-gritty with their assigned topic, ‘How do we create a space for independents within organisations?’.  From their discussion we addressed the need for more ongoing professional training and maintenance opportunities. There is also a dire need for more producing, presenting and representative networks.

Through the soapbox interaction afterwards we also reclarified what it means to be independent, as an arts practice and the associated financial/operational ramifications. Various companies and initiatives were named including FORM Dance Projects, Dance Makers Collective, PACT, Ausdance and Critical Path and from this how and who we might approach to ask for more targeted assistance.

In hindsight the only downside to the event could be identified in the number of attendees. While it was so good to see, hear and participate in this discussion I missed so many of the voices and faces of other integral artists to the dance community. Maybe next year this event could be simultaneously live streamed to catch the people who were unable to make the trek to Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Big thanks to Anthea Doropoulos and CAC for making space for artists’ voices to be heard without being distorted by the agenda of the usual middlemen (whom we also need in other capacities).

Look on the CAC website for details regarding follow up events and forums in response to the Movement Movement initiative.

Vicki Van Hout
FORM Blogger in Residence