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Adam Linder Adam Linder
photo Dan Aboud
ADAM LINDER EXUDES A DANCER’S RESTLESS ENERGY, MOMENTARILY SUSPENDS SENTENCES AS HE SHAPES THOUGHTS, FILLS THE GAPS WITH EMPHATIC TURNS OF THE HEAD AND EXTENDED GESTURING (AS IF LITERALLY REACHING FOR THE RIGHT WORD), AND THEN RACES ELOQUENTLY ON. LINDER’S PASSION AND DETERMINATION BELONG TO A DANCE-MAKER IN HIS MID-20S IN THE PROCESS OF CREATING A NEW WORK, ABOUT ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS, FOR THE SYDNEY DANCE COMPANY’S FIRST 2010 SEASON, IN A DOUBLE BILL WITH ANOTHER NEW WORK, FROM ARTISTIC DIRECTOR RAFAEL BONACHELA, FOR WHOM LINDER HAS DANCED IN LONDON.

A graduate of the Newtown Performing Arts High School, Linder trained in ballet with Christine Keith and left Sydney at 16 for London where he was admitted with full scholarship to the Royal Ballet School. He subsequently joined the company, performing in classic works as well as modern creations by Kenneth MacMillan, Christopher Wheeldon, Mats Ek, Wayne McGregor and Cathy Marston. But he told The Guardian (Sept 29, 2008) that he had chosen to leave the world of ballet because “it’s not an evolving form of dance.” He explained: “I realised that traditional ballet, and the themes and stories it deals with did not really connect with me as a young dancer and artist. I wanted to delve into contemporary things and be involved in new work and the exploration of new approaches to dance, not be involved in rehashing historical pieces.”

After dancing with Netherlands Dance Theatre II in 2004 and making Over My Dead Body for company dancers in 2005 Linder then worked as an independent in productions by Michael Clark, Rafael Bonachela, Arthur Pita, Meg Stuart and, in Berlin, Jeremy Wade.

Linder says that the spaces between these jobs allowed him the freedom and time to invest in his own dance-making and branch out into photographic and film work. “I’ve managed to divide my time between dancing under other people’s authorship and my own. For the last few years it’s been six months on each if not always consecutively.”

Since 2006 Linder has worked with photographer Will Davidson on the dance-film collaboration Collectnudes.com, including the making of Fuck Forever (2007), which has been broadcast on British, Australian and Spanish television. There have been art films with Pablo Bronstein, since 2007, and in 2008 Lindner presented I Put My Trust In You with British band These New Puritans at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. “I was getting into film and video before I plunged into making my own performances. It was at a time when I was dancing mostly for other people and it was somewhere I could form an identity. It was self-produced art-making with Will. We just did it, seeing the web as a great outlet. We were both living in London. I’d just moved back from Holland and I was creative assisting him on stills-based projects. I was also dancing and we were making these small films with no money and a lot of ideas and using every resource at hand in covert locations.”

Linder is now engaging with interactive media in a work-in-progress with a fellow Sydney-sider and Berlin resident, media artist Jordana Maisie as part of the 2009 Critical Path-UNSW Dance Research Residency Program. “I’m a dance-maker and she’s a media artist working in interactive installation—we meet in the middle to create a one-on-one participatory installation for the audience, one person at a time. I’m working on how to guide that person, orienting the whole physical experience and guiding them through it. It’s almost like translating all my body practice history onto someone who doesn’t have a practice.

“My work has either been on film or performed in black box and Jordana’s is gallery-based, on a loop, without a beginning or end. But here we were, working in an an undefined pitch black space, creating a linear journey. The audience member becomes the performer and it brought up the question of how you exchange movement history. We’re also working with a lot of text, which neither of us had gotten into before: more new media possibilities.”

Linder’s solo work, Perfect Score, performed to Ravel’s Bolero and described as “the psychodrama of an adolescent search for masculine identity” was commissioned by London’s The Place and performed in Italy and France. Later in 2008 he won the 25,000 pound Place Prize for Dance with Foie Gras a duet (with Lorena Randi) offering a satirical, surreal account of the excesses of consumerist society. His new solo performance, Early ripen early rot, has had preliminary showings in Sydney, London and Berlin and “is about the faith of self-obliteration.”

In 2009 Linder was one of the collaborating performers in Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods’ Do Animals Cry? which was developed in Berlin and is still in repertoire. He’ll work on a new Stuart show later this year. He says that over the last year he’s struck up a close relationship with her: “Meg’s processes are second to none...so wholly inclusive, so thorough, from the six performers to lighting and costume designers and production manager. We worked on Do Animals Cry? for four to five months almost every day, talking, meeting, engaging in experiential experiments. It was such a definitive process for me. Meg works completely with improvisation, with constant dialogue that is theme driven. Twice a week we’d watch a related film. We’d find different physical scores to realise that came up in discussion.”

Linder is inspired by this model of collaboration, of mutual discovery and sharing, where “choreography is not simply a group of performers on stage solely embodying someone else’s vision.” He sees the dance-maker as “setting up a thematic score or situation and improvisations that entail feeling, looking, thinking, possible references. But it’s up to the performers to access their own responses.” He says that many dancers happily work with improvisation and, increasingly, “will be disappointed if they’re not asked to.”

Linder’s new 30-40 minute work for the Sydney Dance Company is titled Are We That We Are. Asked what drives his dance-making, Linder replies, “I will make a work because I’m curious about something and the work needs to be made. By starting the journey I go further into the enquiry, primarily driven by its theme and then engaging in movement research to best explore it. This work will be about altered states.”

Linder explains that he’s been “doing a lot of state [of being] work rather than body practice improvisations with narratives or somatic directions or aesthetic ones, like ‘Only work with a plane lower than a metre high.’ I’m working with rapture, disillusionment, neuroses, inhibition...”

Working with Meg Stuart and Jeremy Wade in Berlin provided some of the impetus for Linder’s new work: “Jeremy’s very interested in the grotesque, the distorted and the transgressive. I was involved in a festival he curated in Berlin called The Politics of Ecstasy titled after Timothy Leary’s book. Meg and Jeremy and a musician, Brendan Dougherty, co-curated a series of improvisations. We were working in a pool of performers, researching ways of dealing with the topic of altered states, and I thought I want to get further into this, to find out my own take on it. I’m personally very interested in altered states, in what is fundamental to the right side of our brain—the sensory, the visionary, the experiential.

“Last night I was having fish and chips at Bondi Beach with my mother. A woman, clearly under the influence of some substance or other, was very slowly moving up the hill from the beach. I could almost sense what she was seeing with her mind’s eye, so disengaged was she from the function of her body in that moment, making swirling, sweeping, spirally walking patterns up the hill.”

Linder admits that he’s taken on a huge subject. He says that creative associate and dramaturg Sally Schonfeldt tells him, “Adam, this topic is too big.” His research embraces “clinical material, scientific research, transpersonal psychology, anthropological forays into shamanism, as well as meditation and Buddhism.” But Linder is emphatic: “I’m not out to make a definitive statement. Contemporary performance is not about putting a cap on things. The work will be an utterance of sorts, proposing an avenue in, one way of looking at things, hopefully inciting the audience to make their own estimations.”

For the new work, Linder’s primary communicative tool is, “of course, my body, for the most in-depth, extreme, experimental, for want of a better word, movement research. But lighting, which will be by Nick Schlieper, is especially important for the work given its role in altering states of being, and sound will also offer an accumulation of entry points into the topic.” In the 1960s psychedelic music was integral to the altered state experience. Linder will draw on the contemporary version (known variously as psychedelic pop or neo-psychedelia) found in the music of Animal Collective, Panda, MGMT, White Rainbow and, reaching back into the 90s, Sunburned Hand of the Man. Linder is curious: “This huge experimental psychedelia movement happening, these new modes, make me wonder what is it about the current political and social climate that is bringing this line of enquiry back from the 60s and 70s but exploding the old notion of it. It’s transcendental, ecstatic and timely for my investigations.”


Sydney Dance Company, New Creations, Rafael Bonachela, 6 Breaths; Adam Linder, Are We That We Are; Sydney Theatre, March 23-April 10; www.sydneydancecompany.com

RealTime issue #95 Feb-March 2010 pg. 31

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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