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In Company with Others: Perth’s New Co3

Co3 contemporary dance company of WA

“We call ourselves a 54-year-old start-up,” declares Raewyn Hill down the line from the world’s most isolated capital. “The WA dance community hasn’t had a full-time contemporary company since the Chrissie Parrot days. That’s 20 years. So, in terms of the community it makes sense that we should be in existence.”

Clearly, the chance to create a new professional company is not something that comes around every day. When Perth’s freshly minted Co3 (that’s company three, not carbon trioxide) launch their premiere season, re:Loaded 2015, later this month it will bring to fruition a daring leap for its founding AD, the aforementioned Ms. Hill.

Starting a company in the arts environment of 2015 is a lot more than getting together to put on shows. However, as Hill enthuses, “I’m passionate about the collision of business and art and also about creating opportunity and engaging with communities.”

Co3 is therefore as much an operation as a group of dancers. Again, this fits well with Hill’s overarching vision. “That was what was so exciting about this position,” she explains. “I like to think outside the box, and I have this curiosity and love of strategy, so with a new company I really get to indulge in those things. And certainly for us, we are a contemporary company. We’re having contemporary conversations. We are pushing the envelope on how we operate and what sort of team we have around us.”

That the company centres around a core fourtet who play across the creative, the technical, the promotional and the educational exemplifies the “many hats” philosophy of a lean, functioning professional body. And speaking of which, it’s Co3’s nine dancers and extensive youth wing (up to 60 dancers) who will be there at sharp end when the company announces itself to the world on the boards at the Heath Ledger Theatre.

“Within all the work you’ll see these absolutely glorious personalities and physicalities; and so it’s finding a way to fit those together while retaining their presence as individuals,” says Hill of the collaborative process of bringing four short works to life.

Whilst this might seem banal, it’s the take-out of the company’s three-pronged creative mission statement: curate, commission, create. For Hill, it remains crucial that Co3 not be about one choreographer and their work. Having previously headed up Townsville-based Dancenorth and fronted her own eponymous company, she knows that in-building challenging variety is essential to the long term health of a company. 

For Co3’s debut, she has called upon her Dancenorth and Garry Stewart (ADT) connections, recruiting Adelaide-based Larissa McGowan and former Dancenorth cohort Gavin Webber. The former will re-stage a piece originally created for Tasdance, Transducer, and Webber will make a new work, What’s Left, featuring a score from Regurgitator’s Ben Ely. In addition, two of Hill’s works, 2012’s Fugue and the brand new Carnivale, will bring an air of deliberate ceremony to the proceedings.

Of her choreographic collaborators, Hill is openly effusive. “I love Larissa,” she blurts. “She has a beautiful voice. She creates a wonderful energy, and Transducer is a great example of that.”

From the latter, she takes a slightly different inspiration. “Gavin Webber’s an extraordinary voice, and every time he creates a work he pushes a little bit harder; and I really respect that. You have to be brave to continually look at your practise in terms of how you’re evolving, and that can sometimes be quite terrifying.”

For a dancemaker like Hill, the tabula rasa of new company is a rare gift, especially within the highly visible professional context of the flagship WA Theatre Centre. “I feel very privileged to have this opportunity,” she states simply.

It should perhaps come as no surprise to discover that the artistic director of Perth’s newest contemporary ensemble has broader ambitions than her own name in lights. “Every creator has a specific language, and that’s what makes it a beautiful community of voices,” she muses. “For me, though, I have two roles: one is about building a vision and engaging with my community, and the other is about my craft and my art form. But supporting and nurturing a community and sector are all just part of the artistic vision.”

For more information on Co3, visit co3.org.au. For tickets to the launch season, visit co3.org.au/current/reloaded-2015-launch-season.

By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Photo by Photo Ashley de Prazer.

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