Interview with Tahlia Klugman, choreographer for our 2018 Triplicity season - "I have been so privileged to work with some very talented and creative people. I am constantly inspired by so many creatives who live around me in Melbourne. I am most inspired by the people who just keep making dance works and turning up. Persistence is key in this industry and it’s really inspiring to watch people grow through experience."
SEPTEMBER 8 2017
We interviewed 17 year old Finn Bentley, our Lighting Designer for 2017, to find out why he loves lighting and theatre and what it’s like to design shows!
What introduced you to lighting design and the theatre?
I began lighting at the New Peninsula Centre when their lighting tech left. I was given the opportunity to give the lights a go, so I taught myself how to use the console and how to use lighting to create different effects.
What do you find most interesting about designing lighting for a show?
I think that what you can do with lights is the most interesting. The lighting can make or break a show, it can give the show different effects and different moods. Along with lighting comes other aspects that are under your control such as special effects and projection and I find that very interesting as well.
Who have you worked with?
I have worked for the New Peninsula centre for two years and also have worked with Frankston Arts Centre for my school’s productions. However, the biggest influence on my lighting skills came from when I worked with BAAC Light; they have taught me a lot about the industry and different ways to use light.
Do you have any other hobbies?
I also find enjoyment in sport; I am a 2x state kayaker, and have also won state titles in lifesaving.
What’s your process for designing lighting?
First I like to read a description of the show if it is a new piece, or look at previous shows if it is already a functioning show. Then, after the choreographer has finished the dances, I attend some of the rehearsals and begin to learn the show and get a feel for the mood and environment of the dance. I separate each scene and design them one at a time, making sure to take into account the requests of the other artists. When the base of the lights is complete I look for specific areas where I can add some other lighting effects to add to the design. Once I have all these written down and into a cue list, I program them into them into the lighting console and for the first time get to see my ideas on the stage.
For this years production with Spark I am focussing on enhancing the show using different types of lighting and effects that may not normally be used for a dance company. I hope for the people watching to not only be amazed by the dance but also be impressed with the lighting.
In the future, do you want to pursue a career in lighting?
Although my main aim for the future is to join the British Army, I would love to still continue lighting and other theatre/tech areas. A show that I have always wanted to work on is Lion King. I have seen it twice, once in London and once in Melbourne, and I think that it is the most technically demanding show not just in lighting and effects but in costuming and stage effects. It would be an awesome show to work on.
You can see Finn’s work onstage as part of our ‘Shatter’ season at Frankston Arts Centre from October 5-6. Book tickets below!
By Sadie Russo – Artist of SYDC
AUGUST 11 2017
“My eyelids flickered open and there were people everywhere, flowing in and out like a wave.”
Sadie writes about her experience of an improvisation we had during rehearsals.
The unmistakable click of light switches echoed around the theatre, until the room only had one source of light.
Thin lines of pure white dangled off the ceiling, giving the room a mere dulled twinkle.
We spread out to the edges of the room and I made my way to the back corner to lower myself to the floor. I relaxed every single muscle in my body as my bones turned to jelly. I closed my eyes and immediately felt warmth flood my body, it was trickling through every nook and cranny, making my whole body unwind completely to the ground, the tension reducing into absolute insignificance.
The music played and every beat echoed frequently throughout my body, melting it like sunshine would do to ice. My eyelids flickered open and there were people everywhere, flowing in and out like a wave. Everyone telling their own story with every movement they made.
The curtain swished gently and stroked my waist. I gently moved to one side, improvising the hard times of the day, the easy bits, my daydreams, my thoughts, my worries, my joys. I swayed from right to left until I found myself leaping around the room, explaining things in a language hardly anyone understands, a language that doesn’t use your mouth at all.
It was as though everything in my way had cleared, so I could do full movements, full jumps, maybe they knew I wasn’t conscious of the things around me, or maybe it was luck. Whatever it was, I let my feet move me, my arms lead me with the rest of my body following behind.
I leapt up, my whole body suspended in mid-air for a split second before I landed back down and melted back to the floor. Twenty minutes felt like five seconds.
What I would give to have those twenty minutes last forever.
By Alex Dellaportas – Choreographer ‘Shatter’ 2017
AUGUST 9 2017
“What a wonderful thing to be able to combine some incredible contemporary dance with historical storytelling.”
Choreographer of our new work ‘Shatter’, and Artistic Director of SYDC, Alex Dellaportas, writes about her inspirations for the piece and why she chose to tell the story of the Suffragettes.
I consider myself a feminist.
And while that scares some people, let me reassure you that it means I believe in equality for everyone.
Don’t worry, I’m not a “man-hating feminazi” as some people love to label feminists (which, by the way, is ridiculous because how do you compare Hitler to a person who believes in equality?)
As someone who loves to be passionate about things, I’m often involving myself in conversations with people about equality and all the little things that still stereotype and separate us by the construct of “gender”. Like birthday cards – why must all the cards for ‘her’ be covered in pink sparkles and rainbows while the ‘him’ cards are full of blue, drinking, cars and sports? I don’t believe it is fair to assume that either sex automatically loves these things because of their biology.
And yep, sometimes I’m that person who changes the T-Shirts around in Kmart so that the boys have some shirts with the words “beautiful” and “sparkle” on them, too. Why can’t boys be sparkly?
Anyway, it’s this stuff that really interests me, and when I had to decide on the production for 2017, my heart set on a story about the original feminists. A story that would bring a discussion about equality, history and the performing arts together for one huge work.
In a world where everything was gendered and people had to fit into two boxes, there were a group of women who were brave enough to question the system and break down those boxes. And in groups across the world, they changed female lives forever. They won women the right to be voters and lawmakers in a world where they literally make up half the population. And it’s ridiculous to think that this only happened less than 100 years ago for some countries.
The word “Suffragette” was actually a word coined by newspapers to demean the women who were becoming violent as a result of their protesting. But the word was somewhat reclaimed and these women fought on regardless.
After deciding on this part of history to focus on, I began to write out a storyline. Something a little different. Something that might let people know about their incredible stories. Our story focuses on one woman’s journey to becoming a Suffragette. But in a small twist, we learn that her mother is already passionately involved in women’s rights and that Rosie, our main character, was forced out of that life by the judgements from society.
She was shamed into silence by those around her – something that is so relatable for people today.
Being told you can’t be something when everything inside of you tells you that you can and that you must.
Rosie must navigate through a world that doesn’t believe women can or should do the same things as men. She has to find her “people” and also make some huge sacrifices so that she can become part of the fight. And a strong part of that fight, too.
There’s a lot one can learn from Rosie’s story, and I’ve made it my mission to teach the 80 or so people involved with our company all about these courageous women and the gaps in equality we still face today.
What a wonderful thing to be able to combine some incredible contemporary dance with historical storytelling. Dance can be so powerful and moving and challenging – and we aim to present all three things in our October premiere.
I can’t wait to share it with you.
‘Shatter’ premieres October 5-6 at Frankston Arts Centre.
By Sadie Russo – Artist of SYDC
JUNE 16 2017
“This made a ‘wall of heads’, recreating the huge amount of Suffragettes at the Hyde Park rally.”
Running through the theatre door again was now a habit – dumping my bag as close to the door as possible could have almost been written onto my hand.
The parliament scene was on first so we gathered into the centre and sat down in front of a very excited Alex. She had a very big smile on her face and a humongous secret at the tip of her tongue, which she then told us. (Though it’s still a secret so we can’t tell you!)
We got into our spots and cut and paste our choreography and put it together once more. It looked amazing! Then we got up and separated ourselves into Senior and Intermediate/Junior. The Seniors knelt down on the floor, Intermediates went on top of them, and then the Juniors went on top of that. This made a ‘wall of heads’, recreating the huge amount of Suffragettes at the Hyde Park rally. We experimented with going down in a wave, and it looked fantastic.
The laundry scene was next. We all gathered in a circle and discussed the basis of the laundry scene. We looked back up at the clock and there was only five minutes to go! We quickly rehearsed Emma (Rosie), and Zoe (Ellen)’s conversation at the laundry about whether Rosie should go to the Hyde Park rally or not – which she does in the end. Then we learnt a new set of choreography in which we implied getting some clothes, drenching them in water, squeezing the water out, hanging them up on the line and finally folding them. We did this dance multiple times with music and without. Then it was time to say goodbye to my fellow laundry workers and left the spark studio for one more week.
By Sadie Russo – Artist of SYDC
June 8 2017
“Pippa told me that it was the ‘compliment wall’ and that we complimented people in Spark we really enjoyed being around.”
I slung my bag over my shoulder and hurriedly pulled the door open… oh wait, you’re supposed to push the door… so I hurriedly pushed the door open and fell into dad’s car.
I closed the door and pushed the volume button up so I couldn’t hear anything else. I crossed my fingers that I had achieved well in the scholarships session I’d just completed, but most of my mind was pondering what we would do in Spark this week.
I then hopped back out of the car and looked both ways, one red car on the right and nothing on the left. I waited for the red car (which was pretty slow in my opinion) to pass and then headed straight for the Bunnings sausages. I asked for 4 sausages, 1 with onion and 3 without. I ran back to the car and handed out the snacks to my patient family. Then it was quick drive from Bunnings to Rosebud Secondary College.
As soon as we parked I saw 2 people in the building. One had a cast on their arm and a robot from star wars drawn onto their cast.
I ran inside the building and walked carefully through the door – the seniors were practising a scene. I rushed over to the wall were everyone was huddled and found that multiple notes had been stuck onto the walls. Pippa told me that it was the ‘compliment wall’ and that we complimented people in Spark we really enjoyed being around. I complimented Molly F.’s attitude to learning and Tess’s sense of humour. I then chatted with my friends until Alex called us up to practice the parliament scene.
The Suffragettes stayed with Alex and the ministers went outside and practised their choreography. I was a Suffragette so I practised the choreography with Alex. Once we had gone over our dance several times and we all had it in our heads, we learnt a new walking phrase in which on counts three and four I had a refined upwards arm movement. Then we learnt a quick running thing where I swapped places with Zoe and Tahlia. Then we swapped so that the ministers were with Alex and the suffragettes were left to practice their choreography. We went over the bits we didn’t understand and when we were all over it and the ministers still weren’t ready we decided to update the Instagram story. We got called back in and we put all the dancing together – it was fantastic!
Then it was time for the Hyde park scene. We gathered into our square-shaped mass and learned a new phrase of choreography. Once we were done most people left and the ones remaining started on the laundry scene. I was given a pose and a phrase to remember and then went home to dinner and bed.
‘Time may not have wings, but it certainly flies.’
By Spark Youth Dance Company Inc.
MAY 28 2017
“Deeds, not words was to be our permanent motto.” – Emmeline Pankhurst
Windows breaking. Glass shattering. Women chanting.
The Suffragette movement of the early 20th century is an event that often goes overlooked in world history. All over the world, women began to campaign for the right to vote and have a say in government – mothers, daughters, sisters and friends stood together in passionate solidarity, pushing for women to exist as more than just wives, mothers and beautiful objects.
In 2017 this story of feminism could not be more relevant as the world still faces gender inequalities across all countries and cultures.
We are therefore proud to announce that this year, the artists of Spark Youth Dance Company are creating a new full-length contemporary dance work called ‘Shatter’, based around the lives of the British Suffragettes, to be performed with a live orchestra at Frankston Arts Centre on the 5th and 6th of October 2017.
Our story follows Rosie and her best friend Ellen from 1908 to 1913 as they navigate their rapidly changing world full of passionate and rebellious women. Rosie’s mother has always been an advocate for women’s rights, but as Rosie grows older she realises that to keep a respectable appearance and have a husband and a family; she can never become a Suffragette. The events of the Suffragette movement unfold and Rosie is pulled into the movement, forcing her to make the biggest sacrifice of all.
We are excited to have already started the creative process for this new work and can’t wait to present it to you in October of this year. In anticipation of this new work we will be taking you behind the scenes of our rehearsals and choreographic processes across our blog, YouTube channel, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook platforms, and will delve deep into the history of feminism and the Suffragettes.
We can’t wait to have you along for the journey.
If you would like to donate to our new production, please head to: https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/spark-youth-dance-company-main-work/
Stay tuned for details of tickets – on sale soon.
By Sadie Russo – Artist of SYDC
MAY 6 2017
“All I could think about was the film; I could picture it in my head almost perfectly.”
Join Sadie this week as she describes her company experiences in a new rehearsal location. Huge thank you to Peninsula School of Dance for providing the rehearsal space for this week!
With my heavy bag slung over my shoulder, I pushed the door wide open and squashed my bag into a pigeon hole under a bright pink country road bag. I hung around the door until some more people walked through and then I ran upstairs, careful to land softly on the last step as it creaks loudly when you step on it. More and more clumping feet banged on the last step and soon it was time to start. Spread out well, we ran knees up, circled our arms widely and did a bit of improv to key words Alex called. We stood back up; we were slightly out of breath. We split into height-similar pairs and watched others improvise with different body parts leading them around the room.
Now we had to focus on our film. Everyone except the solos and duos left the room, treading loudly on the last step again. Studio 2 was now ours. Hayden (our cameraman) asked us to re-form our positions for the group shots and we bustled into our lines. We performed the dance multiple times, making changes every now and then to sync us better. Then we went for a short break.
I brushed my hands on my jumper after our break, and then headed upstairs to watch the solos and duos. When they froze in their ending position most people were wondering what they were up to. The school improvisers (a group who would be dancing at a school on filming day) were then asked to the front and indulged in what looked like some serious improvisation. Once everyone had had a go, we settled down in front of Alex and her assistant, Molly. They talked through some protocols and then dismissed us.
The last step banged as loudly as it had all day, cancelling out the parents chatter almost completely. We rushed down and collected stray items, and soon enough, most people were already gone. I walked out the door, accidentally pushing it again instead of pulling it.
All I could think about was the film; I could picture it in my head almost perfectly.
“Next Sunday…” I thought.
By Sadie Russo – Artist of SYDC
APRIL 30 2017
Welcome to our new weekly column written by company artist Sadie Russo! Each week, Sadie will share her thoughts on our rehearsals and give you insight into our creative process from the eyes of a dancer.
The chattering of friends grew louder and louder as more people bustled their way once again to the stage floor, forming groups of talking friends or practising the splits or twists.
Hurriedly, Alex swept into the room and gestured for us to sit down in front of her; we swarmed into a group and lowered ourselves down to a partially comfy position. Alex told us briefly what our plan was and we brainstormed more deeply into our topic for the film ‘shelter’. Then we stood up from our circle and spread out around the room; we learnt a dance about the path to happiness, everyone had to be completely and utterly focused on the choreography and synchronisation – we had to be aware of everyone around us and their timing and be completely in time with them.
After refreshing drinks of water, a few pizza shapes, and some fruit, we sat back down as Alex announced the soloists and the duos and they set off to the stage as the curtains drew in once more.
As head of costumes for that day I conducted a conversation on the costumes of the soloists and their partners, concluding at a decision for bright clothes for the “happier” people and casual, darker clothes for the “sadder” people. Then we met again and the solos and duos showed their pieces after which we announced the rest of our roles. I am doing the group improvisation under the bridge. Then we had another break for a bit of water and vlogging. We came back and talked about the film, the schedule, the emergency plan, and the later dates for spark.
We said our goodbyes and went along to get our bags and head for the door, I didn’t want to leave, but the excitement of next rehearsal made me want time to keep going as fast as it had been, and if it is Sunday already, it probably has.
Follow us on Instagram @sparkyouthdance for live rehearsal updates every Sunday!
By Alex Dellaportas – Artistic Director of SYDC
APRIL 28 2017
“Human connection is the reason most of us live. We desire to create, converse, challenge and live with other human beings at all stages of our lives. Life is an experience in learning to connect with others.”
You know those days where you feel like everything is going wrong?
We all experience these days, though some experience these feelings more than others.
It’s hard to describe these complex feelings to other people – we all experience mental health issues differently and not everyone always understands how we feel.
That’s why it’s so wonderful when someone smiles at you and asks if you’re okay on those days that are difficult. Someone understood. Someone found a way to understand you.
Human connection is the reason most of us live. We desire to create, converse, challenge and live with other human beings at all stages of our lives. Life is an experience in learning to connect with others.
So, for Spark’s second project of the year, we’ve chosen to partner with an organisation that helps to make these connections happen: Headspace. In our rehearsals, we have been busily working with the idea of connection as a form of “shelter” from issues that arise from poor mental health. Our end goal is to create a short film encompassing these ideas in movement.
We have aimed for our film to be something that all our dancers can relate to – from the ones that have experienced more intense forms of these feelings through things like depression or anxiety to the ones that can relate it to less intense everyday life experiences.
As dancers, we often find connection and empathy through physical contact and use our art to empathise with others. I, myself, certainly empathise more with a person’s movement rather than with their language. It allows me to understand their feelings and how I could then go about connecting with them on other levels.
Our film follows this idea of connection through three different life stories. One at a bus shelter, one under the shelter of a bridge and one at a school playground. Each story goes through three stages; the first referencing loneliness and disconnectedness, the second referring to the changes that occur when a first connection is made between two humans and the third encapsulating how we can ask for help and use other people to bring us out of sad/lonely situations and ultimately, to feel free.
To show these sections we have been exploring how contemporary dance can be used to create ideas as well as feelings.
We have been looking at small movements in small spaces to help convey the idea of isolation. We have also been experimenting with a great deal of improvisation to better understand how we can relate to one another through spontaneous movement and also to help expand our knowledge of movement. To help us with choreography, we have been incorporating various ‘scores’ that have allowed us to move differently and think of the overall concept of our sections rather than the immediate feelings attached to them. It has been a huge learning experience for many dancers as they have learnt to separate emotion from movement – something that today is hard to do due to social media and television influences on the idea of ‘contemporary dance’.
Our focus on the idea of ‘connection’ has extended to the areas of costume design as well, our dancers settling on the idea that those in the video who are more closed off to the world at the beginning will be wearing long, covering clothing with the others in the piece wearing a more “summery” outfit. This has helped us get our heads around the abstract way we are aiming to present our ideas.
Connection in our world today is more important than ever. As our lives get busier and more rushed, humans tend to value these relationships or brief connections more, and with a more genuine intent to connect and empathise.
We believe that the idea that people are willing to listen and that it is so important to reach out and ask for help is something that more people need to understand – especially young people.
Living alone in the dark corners of your mind is something that people don’t have to suffer through forever.
Headspace is a place for this and we hope that this film can open up important conversations about what it really means to ask for help and make a genuine human connection that can change your entire outlook on life.
Keep up with us on social media to watch the film when it is released.
If you are experiencing any of the feelings discussed above, please contact Headspace on 1800 650 890.
By Sadie Russo – Artist of Spark Youth Dance Company Inc.
APRIL 19 2017
“Our trust had already built so much over only forty-five minutes.”
Sadie writes about her experience of our first full company rehearsal for 2017…
I don’t know what I felt when I first sat down on the hard stage floor.
When I looked around not all the faces I found were genuinely familiar, so the first exercise was very helpful.
Alex gave us each a piece of paper with very, very random questions. Then we had to fill the sheet out, asking complete strangers some really weird questions like, What is your least favourite word? or what is an inside joke that I probably won’t understand?
The next activity we did was somewhat a less easily done task. In a group of four or five, there would be one chair. The first person sat down on the chair and braced themselves. Meanwhile the three to four students left clasped their hands in a gun-like shape and stationed them at their elbows and knees; from there they would try to lift the first person, but, that didn’t usually work. So, we gathered our hands on top of the persons head and held them there for a few seconds – then with the same gun-shaped hands – we lifted them again. IT WORKED!!
Alex then explained why we could do it the second time and not the first: “it has things to do with the timing of the lift – when you lifted them the first time your hands were in different rhythms. But when you put your hands on top of the person’s head, you were in time with each other so you could lift the person more easily”.
Our trust had already built so much over only forty-five minutes.
After our games, colourful easter eggs were tossed into our outstretched hands, and once we had had our fill of chocolates and fresh water we started what we came here to do and what we love doing: dancing.
The heavy crimson curtains were drawn in, leaving two spaces for dancing. One for junior, and one for senior. At first Alex took the juniors to the stage to learn a cool routine with floor work and jumps, while her assistant, Molly, took the seniors and taught them a snazzy and fun dance. Once we had finished the dances, we presented, and then the teachers swapped and taught us different dances, we showed our routines, and then bustled out to the foyer for some freshly supplied fruit and some randomly taken selfies.
We came back into the dimly lit room and sat in an irregular circular shape. We then did some brainstorming and then set off into smaller groups talking about smaller and more specific aspects of Spark and the film we are making.
My flipping thongs slapped my bare feet with every step I took, making a peculiar clapping sound as I made my way to our shiny white car.
Home time at last, I thought.
By Alex Dellaportas – Artistic Director of SYDC
MARCH 4 2017
“We reference the concept of ‘letting go’ of memories or pondering them to the point of madness many times throughout the piece.”
Choreographer Alex Dellaportas explains SYDC’s latest piece and talks about the stories behind the movements:
As humans, we are required to say goodbye to things every single day of our lives.
Don’t worry – this isn’t going to be a super sappy post about sad things and hard goodbyes.
That’s already been done a million times.
I just wanted to share with you something that I’ve always found hard to do – something that I think everyone struggles with.
And that is of course saying goodbye.
But I’m not just talking about those goodbyes that stem from rocky relationships or airport goodbyes; I’m talking about the times we’ve had to wave our friends down the road as they drive off after dinner, or those times we call out our goodbyes as a loved one leaves the house for work. The simple goodbyes. As well as the hard goodbyes.
As we age, we respond to these goodbyes differently, and my interest lies in this idea.
I hate saying goodbye and I hate letting go. So, naturally I made a dance about it.
Our VDF team has been busy creating a work that explores all of these ideas from our innate ability to be externally sad and present in our sadness when we are toddlers, to the most final and often the hardest of goodbyes; death.
In our piece, we try to represent many forms of saying goodbye and of having the ability to let go and detach yourself from something you love. We look at toddlers and how their response to a goodbye is much more physical and honest than that of an adult. When taken away from something they love, toddlers will cry and let you know why they are crying. They show their sad response to detachment externally. And then a few minutes later they are able to move on and forget about it. It’s not often you will see a toddler sitting in silence contemplating life’s problems.
Teenagers are often affected by their extreme emotions and as they are going through a time of growth and self-awareness, will usually go through the stages of being awkward at goodbyes – of not knowing how to detach themselves from the thing they have to say goodbye to; it is a time where humans learn how to deal with these emotions, and can produce feelings of confusion, anger or of being unsure of why we are having to say goodbye in the first place.
We then look at adults and how they tend to internalise their sadness at the realisation of a goodbye, whether this be towards something as trivial as waving your friends off after a dinner or something deeper such as some type of relationship that has to end. Adults often find themselves coming back to the event of the goodbye multiple times; unable to fully accept it and move on. We reference the concept of ‘letting go’ of memories or pondering them to the point of madness many times throughout the piece.
We’ve also looked at saying goodbye to old versions of oneself which has been very interesting to talk about amongst our cast.
But we haven’t limited our exploration to just people.
There are many things that we are forced to say goodbye to over the course of our lives such as events, groups, or happy memories. Teenagers often miss the idea of primary school and long to go back and teenagers who have just finished high school may find it hard to detach and find a new daily routine. How often have you yourself thought back to an overseas trip and longed to go back, or, as dancers and performers will understand, how often have you felt depleted or flat after a season of performances or end of a concert or dancing year? It’s often difficult to detach from these things because they become a part of us and a part of our memories and growth as a human being. In our piece, we focus on the idea that holding onto these memories won’t make them come back and will just distract you from what the world is presenting to you in the present moment.
We play with the idea of the group from which a single person in then detached, as if that person is saying goodbye to a collective group of memories or a person or a group. In another section, a series of fast duos represent the way that relationships in our lives will always be something of which we must be prepared to let go of and leave.
Something really interesting actually occurred during the creative process of this piece.
Before our last rehearsal, I found myself sitting on the couch looking at rehearsal footage, writing notes about what we needed to rehearse, slowly slipping into a panic about one particular section that just wasn’t fitting the intention. It was slow and repetitive and I couldn’t put any real meaning to it in relation to the rest of the piece.
But I was so attached to the idea of the choreography, having made it outside the week before with my sister, because it had just worked when my sister I did it. Looking back at the video, I realised that it really just wasn’t working in a group setting.
So I got progressively more and more stressed about it as I tried to find a solution by keeping the choreography and playing with different structures and timings. But I still didn’t understand what meaning the choreography was bringing to the piece. There was none.
I was so in love with the idea that I couldn’t think of anything else – and had I have kept that part, the work would have suffered.
So something important that I have always known but am only just starting to put into practice is to not fall in love with an idea.
Being in love with ideas is dangerous and doesn’t let you grow.
This is sort of along the same lines as don’t be afraid of change. (Which so many people are!)
So in the end I actually took that small phrase from the choreography and worked a whole new section around it with just my sister and I on stage dancing it – another dancer walking through us, breaking us apart to represent myself and letting go of that choreographic idea and the concept of not falling in love with your ideas, being open to change and being flexible.
I really love where this work is going, and I am so proud of our passionate bunch of artists. This creative process has been incredibly rewarding and I feel that I am learning a lot about myself through this new piece. As I love with all choreography, it has allowed me to explore the questions in my own head in a physical setting with real people.
I only hope that our dancers and the audience we are going to perform it to, take as much away from the piece as I have.
Spark Youth Dance Company Inc. will be premiering their new work ‘Goodbye’ at the Victorian Dance Festival Gala Showcase on Saturday 18th March at the Melbourne Town Hall.
In this post, Artistic Director and choreographer, Alex Dellaportas, shares how she has been creating and choreographing our new piece for the Victorian Dance Festival.
FEBRUARY 19 2017
Choreographing a dance is a challenging process – it is always hard to create art and love and accept your art at the same time.
I’ve been making my own dances for a while.
I think a lot of dancers will create their own work at some point – but it took a few years for me to realise that I loved the artistic element to choreographing as well as the dance part. I love thinking about pieces as much as I love actually moving.
So, for the Victorian Dance Festival this year, we decided to create a standalone five-minute piece that would represent who we are as a company. We wanted to create something with meaning but also something that would challenge us creatively. And not just me, but the whole team. We have each had a say in the choreographic process and we have all contributed our ideas and movements.
And there are a million ways to create a dance.
But here is the way I have approached this particular piece:
We started with an idea. I had an idea that had been sitting in my phone notes for a while and so I decided that this would be the perfect time to explore it with actual dancers.
I then found a piece of music that I loved. Music is very important to me. As much as I love silence in dance and using silence when improvising or trying to focus on movement, after a lot of experimentation I have discovered that music is actually a main ingredient of my passion for choreography. I’ve been surrounded by music my entire life and I often find that if I don’t have a strong and inspiring piece of music to refer back to, I tend to lose focus. I love it when good music and movement intersect to create something together. That’s when theatre magic is created.
So, our first rehearsal didn’t actually involve a whole lot of choreography.
I used to pre-choreograph all my pieces and would just show up to rehearsal with all this movement in my head and teach the dancers.
And sometimes I still do this – like for group sections.
But I’ve also discovered the fun of creating in the moment. It’s good to be able to actually use the bodies in front of you and use improvisation in real time to create something. So for our first rehearsal, we began to workshop both our idea for the piece and some movement. Firstly, we all sat in groups and I had the dancers discuss with me their ideas about our theme. And I am SO glad we did this because it actually provided me with even more material for creation.
We then workshopped some movement ideas I had – most of them were choreographed on the spot with a lot of input from the dancers.
I must admit – it was totally scary going into that first rehearsal knowing I only had an idea and some vague ideas of movement structures.
I felt unprepared.
But in fact, I had actually prepared myself in the best possible way because I walked into that studio with an open mind and was only able to rely on myself and the dancers. And it actually worked out to be a wonderful rehearsal.
The next part of the creation process was actually sitting down at home during that week to watch the videos of rehearsal and start actually choreographing. It was here that I pre-choreographed some bigger, group sections. I also made detailed notes about where dancers would be standing and where I wanted to use improvisation or where I wanted to try many different things with the dancers in the studio until I saw something that fully resonated with our intention.
So this brings me to the rehearsal we had last Sunday.
I went in feeling again slightly unprepared. But really, I had just the right mix of pre-prepared choreography and ideas for creating with the dancers. We learnt all the pre-choreographed parts first and then experimented with improvisation and tweaked different parts of choreography afterwards.
It was incredible to see our dancers becoming closer and more focussed as a company through this rehearsal. We got through a lot of the piece and we only have a little to choreograph before we start refining and developing further.
Choreographing a dance is a challenging process – it is always hard to create art and love and accept your art at the same time.
There will be many moments of doubt and fear before our performance but I know that this is just part of the process. It’s actually sort of exciting to know that we are creating something that is able to stir up so many questions and emotions just in the creative process alone; and that has been able to stir up many more emotions and life questions in the way of storyline as well.
Check back on this blog soon for an explanation of our VDF piece. We are truly so excited to share it with the world and I can’t wait for the next few weeks of creation and rehearsal!
By Alex Dellaportas, Artistic Director of SYDC, and Sarah Mann, costume designer for The Nutcracker
JANUARY 16 2017
“My major source of inspiration came from images and footage of falling snowflakes.”
Costumes are magical things. They can transform us into different people, different creatures and even snowflakes. We wear costumes from when we’re little, whether that be for Halloween, putting on shows for family, going to parties or just as a hobby. But for a dancer, costumes are a part of the job description.
So, I asked our costume designer for The Nutcracker, Sarah Mann, what it was like to design and create the Snowflake costumes for our performances. Sarah made and designed the Snowflake costumes pretty much fully on her own. Whilst also dancing a lead role.
Oh, and she’s 18.
How did you go about first designing the Snowflake costumes? What was your process?
Initially, I explored the ways that the shape of a snowflake could be placed upon the body, whether this considered of several clusters of snowflakes or one singular snowflake. Through these sketches, it became clear that focusing on a single snowflake was far more effective, allowing the portrayal of a distinct snowflake from an audience perspective.
As I wanted to create a more abstract and unique design, I constructed a snowflake from a bird’s-eye view. This meant that although the audience would see just the tips of the snowflake hanging from the dancer’s waist, when turning and jumping the shape would be raised to reveal the full snowflake shape, giving an individual and eye-catching design.
I also felt it was important to highlight the fact that no two snowflakes are identical. This allowed me to create slight variations in the costumes, thus accommodating the vast range of ages and body shapes of the dancers and emphasising the uniqueness of each snowflake.
Did you get inspiration from anywhere? Why did you choose the materials and colours that you did?
My major source of inspiration came from images and footage of falling snowflakes. This inspired me to construct a design that resembled the soft and elegant way snowflakes fall whilst still encompassing their sharp and angular nature. This is shown mainly in the snowflake skirt which consists of different types of material.
For example, I incorporated white crystal organza to show their transparent shimmering and falling characteristics. Whereas the use of stiff tulle demonstrated the angular and harsh nature of the snowflake and their environment.
What was the process of actually making the costumes?
The costumes were constructed in two parts; the skirt and the bodice. I began by making the skirt. This consisted of cutting out and edging nearly 250 petal shape pieces. These were then individually sewn onto an elasticised waste band which were then placed over five large petal panels which constructed the base of the skirt.
For the bodice, a nude leotard was used as the base which was then draped with see-through material to develop the transparent and ethereal nature of a snowflake. The straps were then designed individually to suit each dancers body type and costume changing time. The bodice was then embellished with small lace snowflakes and beaded motifs. Lastly, the skirt was attached strategically to the bodice providing optimal movement for the dancers.
What did you enjoy most about designing the costumes?
Making a mess of mum’s lounge room and leaving tiny sparkles EVERYWHERE.
What did it feel like to see the costumes being worn by real dancers on a stage?
To see my creations on stage was an experience that I will forever be thankful to Spark Youth Dance Company for. Although I am quite critical of my designs and often want to continue developing them, upon seeing the snowflakes on stage I was very proud and honoured to have been given this opportunity. I would like to thank the entire company for sparking my passion of costume design and showing me that anything is possible, no matter your age.
Visit www.sparkyouthdance.com.au for more details about how you can join us in 2017.
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