By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.
Q: What happens when a young dancer gets the chance to run an established federally funded dance company?
A: Management with the moves.
They do things differently in the tropics; but you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to appoint a 27 year old to head up one of the country’s flagship regional arts organisations. However, as Kyle Page travels up to Townsville to take the reins at Dancenorth, it will mark the beginning of a bold new phase in the life of the company and the man.
As one of Australia’s only federally funded regional dance companies, Dancenorth has a proud thirty year track record; not simply in terms of repertoire but with regards to community engagement and reaching out to far flung populations across the tropical north. With Kyle Page’s appointment as the company’s new Artistic Executive, Dancenorth’s ambition has expanded.
“One of the things I really want to get done is getting a big name international choreographer over to work with us,” Page declares. “Dancenorth has such incredible potential. It’s got great regional connections and it will have an incredibly powerful new ensemble of dancers, which we’re going to gather from around the country.”
In order to execute this vision, the company has started at the core by changing its very structure. As Page explains, “So what they’re doing is moving away from the traditional Artistic Director model, where one person creates all the work, or at least a majority of it, and moving to where we commission choreographers around the country and internationally to come and make work. My job is to oversee that process and make one work a year.”
It’s a big leap for a man still in the prime of his dancing life. Indeed, when Dance Informa met up with Kyle Page he was in Melbourne working with Stephanie Page at Chunky Move’s Southbank HQ. In addition to winding up his commitments with ADT in Adelaide and working on a piece for the upcoming OzAsia Festival, there are trips to Japan and the Arctic Circle to contemplate.
If that sounds like a packed schedule, it’s more like the norm for the Lismore born dancer/choreographer. Inspired by his older sisters to get into dance he was already studying it full time at 14, (cramming it in alongside his regular Year 10 commitments), before landing his first contract at 17.
To make the story even more satisfying, that first break came with Dancenorth. “I saw an audition notice, so I just went along and they said they were really interested but they didn’t have any contracts,” he remembers. “So I said, ‘well, how about I come up as a secondment?’ Y’know, find a job, work on the weekends, hang out with the company and just immerse myself. Anyway, about two or three weeks into my secondment one of the older dancers in the company broke his ankle and I was straight into a job.”
A decade later, Page’s return trip north begins another adventure. “I kinda feel that dance is such a powerful vessel for communication, education and interactions; and those interactions have been some of the most rewarding times in my career thus far,” he says. “So the idea of investing more time into that area is a really exciting thing.”
Aside from the precocity there is something else unusual about Page. He enjoys admin. Whilst that would seem strange to most people, it’s positively counter-intuitive for a practising and passionate artist.
At the mention of it, he smiles broadly. “I really enjoy grant writing. Y’know, I brought that up in the interview and everyone looked at me kinda strangely. But one of the reasons that the Dancenorth gig feels right for me is that I do have a strong interest not only in creating work but also in the administration and logistics.”
For a company celebrating its thirtieth birthday this year, this shot of youthful vigour is doubtless timely. That Dancenorth also has to contend with the fact of its own relative isolation is yet further reason for them to embrace new energies. According to their brand new Artistic Executive, “Isolation is both a blessing and a curse; but I think that through the isolation we will be up there creating something very special and unique in the Australian dance scene that we will be ready to present on the national stage.”
If these things weigh heavily on Kyle Page’s young shoulders it certainly doesn’t show. Despite the executive mantle, he is still very much a dancer. “You definitely won’t pull me out of the studio,” he promises. “Physically, I’m just too attached to movement to let go of it.”
No doubt Dancenorth audiences will soon be seeing the benefits of both the management and movement.
To learn more about Dancenorth and to view their upcoming shows, visit dancenorth.com.au.
Photo (top): Dancenorth’s Artistic Executive Kyle Page. Photo by Amber Haines.