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‘Doing, reflecting and doing again’: Dance Artists In Residency

Rhiannon Newton. Photo courtesy of Newton.

Space is premium for dance artists. They need studio space to develop ideas, create new works and rehearse. As part of the business of making new work, space needs to be bought or negotiated. Dance Artists in Residency (DAIR) is a direct response to the ongoing challenges of access to affordable and appropriate spaces to dance artists for the development of dance making and practice. Ausdance NSW’s negotiated residencies spaces for seven artists and collaborations as part of its DAIR program is an attempt to address the problems of affordable rehearsal space. DAIR artists can use the space for creative development, research, mentorships, rehearsal and remounting of work.

Rhiannon Newton. Photo courtesy of Newton.

Rhiannon Newton. Photo courtesy of Newton.

NSW DAIR resident Rhiannon Newton says that the DAIR residencies are important because “as an independent artist, it is very easy to get bogged down in the administration work that enables your work to circulate and develop. A residency like this gives me the focused rehearsal time and space that I need to dig into the embodied practices and material that is at the heart of my work.”

DAIR will allow Newton to prepare for her performances of Doing Dancing, in August, at Sydney Gallery First Draft. She is also preparing a video and sound “tracing” of the live performances that will remain installed in the gallery space when she is not there performing.

Newton says Doing Dancing is “about the immateriality of dancing, the fact that when we dance we don’t necessarily leave a trace or an artifact behind — say in the way that a visual artist’s work might produce an object or image. However, I do think there is a wonderful physical transmission that happens from one body to another in the process of dancing. When I am improvising, I often feel like I am dancing with, or saying hello, to all of the wonderful teachers and friends I have danced with over my life. Doing Dancing is my attempt to bring attention to the fact that dance is a very concrete residue of our individual and collective histories.”

Nikki Heywood in rehearsal at FraserStudio. Photo by Heidrun Lohr.

Nikki Heywood in rehearsal at FraserStudio. Photo by Heidrun Lohr.

“In Sydney, it has become harder and more expensive to find a suitable place to develop work,” Nikki Heywood, another DAIR resident, says. “Many of the studios and warehouses that were once cheap, accessible and more plentiful have disappeared. This has made it so much harder for artists to maintain consistent research, development and output of performance work. I think this leads to dissolution and ultimately a dissipation of what was (a decade ago) a rich and diverse cultural landscape.”

She continues, “Without being able to test ideas in action, where we can share a common space, concepts remain theoretical. There is only so much talking and planning you can do. Without the residency, we would need to plan to gather ourselves and to find and pay for space and time in a fragmented and piecemeal way, which means the creative pathway is diluted and it takes a lot more time and energy to make work in that way.”

Rhiannon Newton. Photo by Alison Laird.

Rhiannon Newton. Photo by Alison Laird.

Heywood says that the residency will allow her to “work with my collaborators, sound artist Mark Cauvin and outside eye Hellen Sky. We will conduct some experiments, bringing together a sound score and a choreographic score in relation to certain objects. I’m interested in how the material qualities of certain objects can translate as abstract sound and as movement, and how these two forms influence each other.”

Heywood says the residency time and space allows her and her collaborators to “listen and be available for what turns up unexpectedly. We will spread ourselves and our thoughts in the space. This is the ideal way to generate new work, in the doing and reflecting and doing again’.

For more information on the residencies, visit www.ausdance.org.au.

For more on Doing Dancing and Rhiannon Newton, head to firstdraft.org.au, rhiannonnewton.com.

By Tamara Searle of Dance Informa.

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