Come 2016, Limitless Dance Company hopes to make waves on the contemporary dance scene with its debut season. Founded by Mitchell Turnbull, the company is intent on “pushing the boundaries of dance artistically and creatively” and recently held auditions for its first generation of dancers. A native Sydney-sider, Turnbull has worked around the world, performing in Europe, South America and the USA, and gained his Royal Academy of Dance Professional Dancers Teaching Diploma in 2014. He hopes the company will provide a much-needed opportunity for young dancers aspiring to work with a professional dance company based in Australia.
Here, Dance Informa’s Grace Gassin speaks to Turnbull about what it means to be “Limitless”.
Tell me, what inspired the name of the company?
“I’m really driven by the idea that limitations exist mainly in our minds. That by overcoming our fears and continually testing our limits we can accomplish much more than we thought we were capable of, whether in movement, choreography or anything else we choose to achieve in life.”
What motivated you to form Limitless?
“I was standing side stage watching some of my dance students perform and being interviewed between numbers. When asked what they wanted to do with their dance careers, most expressed how much they wanted to have a career in contemporary dance.
This got me thinking that we produce so many talented dancers in Australia but have so few opportunities for them, particularly in contemporary dance. So I saw an opportunity to create somewhere for Australian dancers to grow, be nurtured and celebrated on our soil. Going by the mind-blowing response we’ve had to pre-registration, there is obviously a need for this.
As we get ready for our debut season, my hope for the company is that it will eventually grow from something project-based into a full-time dance company, but at the moment we’re just taking it one step at a time. Limitless Dance Company are always looking for sponsors to share with us in our journey and help us leave a footprint in the arts.”
You began your career as a commercial dancer. Why did you decide to make the move from commercial dance, where you began your career, to ballet and contemporary dance?
“After four years of travelling, I decided that I wanted to challenge myself. I had planned on moving to London with a friend and attempt the audition circuit overseas, but right as I was about to leave, another major influence, coach and mentor Brett Morgan, suggested I go back to full-time classical training and pursue my true passion, contemporary dance.
Both industries have their ups and downs, but for me, classical-contemporary was more demanding physically, emotionally and mentally. It pushed me to becoming a stronger artist and person. I enjoyed the challenges contemporary dance presented, of being able to immerse myself in different subject matters and characters I found rewarding.”
As a choreographer these days, what is your creative process?
“My creative process changes from project to project. As a youngster, I remember always thinking laterally — when asked to solve a problem or create something, I was always a bit left-of-field or obscure.
Each piece has a different thought process – sometimes it’s heavily researched and planned out, other times it’s more instinctual and led by my mood, a feeling or the music. I find that I create my best work when I’m surrounded with positive and dedicated artists who share the same passion for dance and movement research as I do.
Limitless Dance Company will be a collaborative process. I’ll be giving the dancers some tasks to develop some movement with my input, and bit by bit will slowly piece the work together. Dance has always been one of the most collaborative art forms, and I think this way it’s more interesting for me when working with others.”
You write on the company’s website that you had an important mentor in your formative years — can you tell me who that mentor was and how he/she inspired you?
“I’ve been lucky to have many amazing, influential people supporting me on my journey, but the one who stands out was a member of the dance department at Newtown High School, Janet Ashiabor.
Janet took me under her wing and helped me tap into my creative side, which is where my passion for choreography began, and under Janet’s guidance I created my first piece.
The knowledge she imparted has been invaluable, and the time spent nurturing my craft is something I am forever grateful for. To me, Janet’s strength as a choreographer was her ability to tell a story through the purity of movement, something I always admired. She had a wicked sense of humor, and that quirky quality shined through her work.”
How do you think your choreographic style has evolved over the years?
“Each piece I create wears my own distinctive style, which I feel can be traced from my first piece to my most recent piece. Over time, my style has also become distinctive for its imaginative interpretations of storylines in combination with my lyrical approach, conveying through movement the underlying emotion and feeling rather than just the narrative detail.”
What do you look for in your dancers?
“There are many things I look for — a strong classical and contemporary technique, musicality, fearlessness, but most importantly, a smart and intelligent dancer with a great work ethic.
I think there are many great dancers out there, but what narrows it down is passion, performance and being able to mix with a group of other artists yet have enough individuality and charisma to stand alone on a stage and completely transform into any role.”
I know it is early days yet, but have you been considering ideas for your debut season with Limitless? Can you give us a little insight into your thought process at the moment?
“The ideas have come in thick for our debut season. I think the freedom of being able to create something from scratch is allowing me to explore new ways of pushing and stretching dance with movement, music, lights and technology.
I always think in terms of what work I want to make and what interests me, and with every work I think there needs to be a certain degree of not knowing, a certain absence of knowledge that you uncover through making the work.
I have settled on one idea to which I feel many people, if not everyone, can relate to in some aspect. Without giving too much away, I’ll leave you with a few key words that have shaped our first work: illusion, suspicion, deception, humiliation, desperation and devastation.”
By Grace Gassin of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): A trio of dancers from Limitless Dance Company. Photo by Michelle Grace Hunder Photography.