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iOU Dance: You want sauce with that?

By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.

iOU 3 climbs into the leotards this month and fires up the BBQ for a very tempting tasting plate of Sydney dance talent.

Born of a chance conversation back in 2011 the concept for iOU Dance has now developed into an annual showcase for emerging creatives in the New South Wales dance scene. Whilst this doesn’t sound like a radical proposition in and of itself, the advent of iOU 3 this November is certainly something of a triumph; and not simply because it will give audiences the opportunity to sample six short works and share a BBQ with the cast after the show.

For iOU’s Project Manager Kristina Chan the 2014 season at Carriageworks is a lot more than a smorgasbord. Indeed, it represents a chance for choreographers to road test ideas, develop their voice and, importantly, make a more meaningful connection with their audience.

Aside from being an evening of shorts (three solos and three duets, one of them on film), iOU 3 aims to melt the audience/performer distinction. As Chan explains it, “It’s part of our evening to go and engage with the audience in a really casual setting. It sorta creates a little festival vibe.”

To this end, Chan & Co have dispensed with the standard Q&A and opted for the much less intimidating setting of an apres-show BBQ. “I’m quite aware of the ‘foyer talk’ after a performance. I’m an artist myself so I can only imagine what it must be like for some of the general public; y’know, not feeling confident to ask a question or give an opinion,” Chan elaborates. “We wanted to demystify that idea of these artists on stage who were untouchable.”

Yet what’s good for the punters is also good for the performers. “It’s also cool to actually meet who’s there,” Chan admits with a wry chuckle. “Often you come out after a performance and everyone’s gone and you can feel very separated. I really felt that there was a community vibe lacking in the Sydney dance scene and we’ve really tried to address that with iOU.”

However, before the chops and sausages comes the dance; and this year iOU features work from Tanya Voges, Emily Amisano, Joshua Thomson, Adam Synnott, Lisa Griffiths, Timothy Ohl, Craig Barry, Gavin Clarke and Kristina Chan herself. As you might expect, the six works will explore a number of styles but one of the things they have in common is that they are all the seeds of larger works. Indeed, part of the iOU mission is to help NSW artists develop and audience test their ideas before rushing off to grant bodies and committing to the creation of a full length work.

Looking back across previous iterations, Chan recalls how the artists involved have benefited. “Some have seeded collaborations and have gone onto develop creative relationships and some of the work has informed subsequent works. For instance, my works have definitely informed the solo piece I’m working on now, which I’m doing next March. So really, it’s all about the practise of choreography and having the opportunity not just to create but to trial things in front of an audience and get actual feedback. I mean, it always feels different in front of an audience.”

That all sounds fine for the artist but what’s in it for an audience other than the lottery of ‘like some, didn’t like others?’ Kristina Chan responds confidently to this challenge. “In the past iOU has attracted audiences that wouldn’t normally come to dance,” she reveals. “So y’know, people who might not enjoy watching a whole evening of dance if they’re not sure they’re going to like it but who might take a chance if it’s six short, very different works. With the last two we found that the diversity made them quite entertaining for people. I don’t want it to sound like a variety show, but if there’s one thing on the night that might not be quite what you’re expecting, then maybe the next might really inspire you.”

And of course, that inspiration cycles back onto the stage because, as Chan explains, all the choreographers find themselves in the same boat. “We’re all at that ‘mid-career’ point, whatever that is,” she observes. “We’ve all had extensive performance careers but now we’re all at that point where we’re branching out into making our own work. So yeah, I just feel like this is something for us oldies.”

It’s a throwaway line but it points to one of the peculiarities of the broader Australian dance scene. Citing the example of a 31 year old friend who dances with Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal in Germany, where he is considered the “baby of the company” Kristina Chan says, “I’m 35 and in Australia I’m considered old, but if I were to go to Europe and dance in a company I would be considered one of the youngest.”

For this reason alone, iOU Dance 3 serves its purpose; namely, keeping experienced professionals in the industry and giving audiences the benefit of all their years. Not to mention the chance to rub shoulders and share snags with them at a classic Aussie barbie.

iOU Dance 3, presented by Performance Space, will run at Sydney’s Carriageworks from November 12-15. For tickets and more information visit http://performancespace.com.au/events/ioudance3.

Photo (top): Kristina Chan performing in iOU Dance 2. Photo by Heidrun Löhr.

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