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Dance Massive 2013

February 2013

  • HannaH Bambra & Katherine Smyrk

This year’s Dance Massive will be the third addition of the bi-annual festival established by Arts House, Dancehouse and Malthouse Theatre to collaboratively showcase Australia’s contemporary dance community. 

“It’s a real opportunity for artists and audiences to emerge themselves in some of the best and most exciting, contemporary work happening in Australia,” says Angharad Wynne-Jones, creative producer of the Arts House initiative. 

The first Dance Massive came together in 2009 when it became evident that presenters and individuals creating work were not aware of each other in the way they are now. The festival not only provides participants with great exposure but also the chance to weave their work into a supportive network of contemporary dance artists and creatives. 

The strong collaborative relationships that have been formed through the festival do not stop at performance artists and choreographers, as the next generation in the contemporary dance community are beginning to move seamlessly across art forms. Through the fusion of hip-hop, street art, architecture, film, theatre and other niches, the strong visual and performance art scenes of Melbourne and the country are highlighted and brought together. The diverse background of the festival’s practitioners also helps to attract audiences of varying interests who encourage this hybrid approach.                                                    HB


Life support
Ashley Dyer

Life support begins with one performer, dressed as a nurse, having a cigarette at break time. And then smoke begins to fill the room.
As the dancing progresses, more smoke hisses out, morphing and contorting around the performer’s body. The space changes and evolves as the level of smoke increases and the audience slowly becomes more conscious of their breath, more aware of the air around them. 
As the air becomes even more clouded with smoke, the question of mortality can’t help but slip into people’s minds. Thoughts start to emerge about how we as individuals care for ourselves, what we do that might lengthen, prolong, or shorten our lives. And this is exactly what the piece wants to do.
“There’s a question about responsibility to myself, to others, to the greater world,” says lead artist Ashley Dyer.
In the face of climate change and the fatal repercussions that may stem from it, this work is a critical reflection on our inability to take any meaningful action to save ourselves. “The performance leaves people asking the question about their responsibilities to the world around them,” Dyer adds.


Larissa McGowan

Skeletons aren’t just inanimate bones lying underneath our skin. In skeletons, there is history, there is memory, there is past.
In the work Skeleton, the dancers are trying to convey just that. They started by looking at X-rays of bones, at the litany of marks and scars present there and thinking about the history in those breaks.
They also took inspiration from pieces by Australian sculptor Ricky Swallows that involved everyday items from his childhood such as BMX bikes, helmets and bean bags combined with skulls and bones.
“What I liked was the idea that he was using things from a period I was growing up in, the 80s and 90s, and the attachment we have with these objects,” says choreographer Larissa McGowan. “Obviously with these things there were accidents, interesting memories, traumas. The whole performance is an archaeological puzzle, and we’re tapping into this idea of history and our attachments to objects, clothing, the things we watched.”
And although these familiar objects aren’t actually present during the performance, expressive dancing and snippets of music from movies like The Karate Kid will ensure the audience is enthralled during this journey through memory and past.


Dance for the time being
Russell Dumas

Sydney, New York and Helsinki are just some of the cities where dance for the time being has alighted. Now in Melbourne for the Dance Massive festival, dance for the time being – Southern Exposure is the latest offering from the team of eight dancers.
Director Russell Dumas has written extensively about the relationship between ‘being’ and ‘doing’, the movement philosophy behind this production. The dance is compelled by the sense of touch, and investigates the movements of an ‘unstable body’; a running body, a falling body, a toppling body, a body in flight. The work is dramatically stripped back, with an open studio space in natural light and the performers wearing what would seem to be practice clothes. The only sounds the audience might hear are the thud and tumble of the dancers’ bodies, the occasional shuffle of people in seats, and maybe the distant rumble of a tram going past. 
“This is because Dumas is concerned with development of dance as a discrete art form, rather than by its relationship to other more established art forms such as theatre or music,” says Nicole Jenvey, one of the performers.
“The audience’s senses gradually settle and become attuned to the sensation of pure movement.”


The Recording
Sandra Parker

The art of performance is traditionally presented to audiences as a seamless package with no signs of the sweat and preparation that goes on behind the scenes. Choreographer Sandra Parker is fascinated by how actors and dancers move in the wings and during rehearsals when the attention is shifted and cameras are off.
Multiple televisions and two large screens are placed on the set of The Recording to juxtapose the physical presence of the performers with digitally manipulated close-up shots. The piece plays with live and pre-recorded footage, communicating with a public fascinated by screens.
Parker chose to bring two art forms together which run parallel in their production process. A rhythm is created through the repetition of learning moves or lines, rehearsing, setting up a space and offering it to an audience and starting again the next day. Parker’s choreography draws on the expressive, overly gestural body language performers use to convey emotion to a crowd. The work has been evolving over the past two years and now effortlessly manages to cross over two art forms. By borrowing from external, unpredictable places it also expands what contemporary dance, film and theatre can be.


Lee Serle

When Lee Serle wandered the streets of New York a few years ago he saw similarities between the big apple and Melbourne. P.O.V. places audience members in a grid to reference the structure of both cities and create an urban setting for dancers to move through and pick up the role of a busy pedestrian or colourful street performer. The audience are perched on swivel chairs and act as drop pins with the bustling cast moving from point A to point B.
The piece is structured so individuals are initially treated like architecture, stiff in the middle of an abstract dance routine moving with the pulse of an inner city. Slowly through eye contact, whispering and a breaking down of barriers the audience become part of the performance and a larger conversation. Serle’s message is that if we slow down, we can open ourselves up to more personal interactions with people and environments.
An abridged version of the piece was originally performed late 2011 in the foyer of the New York Public Library. Now in another shared, communal space P.O.V. has been developed and extended for Dance Massive and the flow of our city.


Future Perfect
Jo Lloyd

Jo Lloyd is not afraid of making a performance with equal parts of ugliness and beauty. Future Perfect taps into the daunting nature of having something ahead of you with the likelihood of flawlessness not outweighing the possibility of misfortune.
“Future and perfect are pretty huge, loaded words. That contradiction, the future and proposing that it will have happened in time, perplexed me,” says Lloyd.
In her piece, five people represent one. Lloyd has contrasted stark, raw moves with crafted and detailed performance to follow the emotional highs and lows that come with looking forward. Metallic sounds and set provide a platform for reflection and an alternate perspective. The recorded voice of one of the dancers is put on a loop, slowly shifting into a rhythm, to build tension and blur the distinction between beginning and end.
The piece explores the ambiguity of reflections as much as it does transitions. With time an ugly, traumatic experience can have beautiful and poetic elements to it. Lloyd wants to ask the audience when this changeover takes place and how we know when we’ve arrived at the future.


Conversation Piece
Lucy Guerin Inc & Belvoir

In Lucy Guerin’s Conversation Piece three actors and three dancers switch between verbal and physical communication and from spontaneous performance to calculated choreography. The piece begins with an eight minute dialogue between the dancers who have no script, only their own natural methods of communicating with each other.
“I think it’s refreshing to see something on stage that’s not really carefully wrought or considered,” says Guerin. “For that initial period you see people responding to each other in a more natural way, people find that interesting.”
The roles of the actors and dancers are subverted with the actors stepped back, observing the dancers as they converse. They half-listen while clutching an iPhone, as so many of us do. What they record on their devices is later repeated for the dancers to absorb and physicalise.
Conversation Piece launched in 2012 in correlation with Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre. The cast all had a chuckle together when they revisited the list of talking points they touched on which ranged from etiquette on airplanes to Facebook, food, body issues, things people can relate to and debate daily in their minds.

Dance Massive rolls out across Melbourne venues from March 12 to 24. For all information on events, companies and ticketing, please visit




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