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Bold, not just older

Adam Broinowski: BOLD, The Bold Dance Festival

Dr Adam Broinowski is a performer, writer and scholar. His book Cultural Responses to Occupation in Japan: The Performing Body during and after the Cold War was published in the War, Culture and Society series with Bloomsbury Academic in 2016.

Rakini Devi, The Two Madonnas, Mexico City Rakini Devi, The Two Madonnas, Mexico City
image by Nina Yahred, 2014

BOLD, a new dance festival, is an initiative led by Liz Lea to celebrate the legacy of dance. The inaugural festival will be held 8-12 March at the National Film and Sound Archive, the National Library of Australia and QL2 Dance in Canberra.

In response to Australia’s ageing population, entrepreneurial programmers are targeting older audiences. Liz Lea, a widely travelled Australian-born performer has used the theme of legacy to frame BOLD. Rather than catering to a specific audience with the lure of nostalgia, however, Lea wants to pay respect to dance legacies that continue to inform and evolve in the present.

Trained in ballet and contemporary dance from an early age and later in the mudras (conventions of gesture) of Bharatanatyam, Kalariapayattu and Chauu with teachers in London, Bangladesh and Bangalore, Lea developed a healthy respect for the importance of conveying knowledge embedded in dance forms that have been cultivated over hundreds and even thousands of years. In a present of instantaneous consumption and disposal in which obsolescence is a chronic affliction, Lea recognised that such artistic and cultural knowledge may offer an antidote.

Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, whose photo emblazons the BOLD festival materials, observes how dancers, often unaware of the legacies of forms and methods which they carry in their bodies, can find clarity and purpose in knowing these histories. Taught first by Nora Stewart in the Russian style of classical ballet and then by Margaret Morris, an early proponent of the Isadora Duncan technique, Cameron Dalman also recognises Eleo Pomare, a student of José Limón, from whom she learnt at the Folkwangschule in Germany and who grounded her creative worldview. As a venerable torch bearer of her lineage and self-identified shape-shifter, Cameron Dalman believes that it is not only the physical techniques, but also mind and spirit carried kinetically, psychically and intellectually, which can be passed on.

Elizabeth Cameron Dalman Elizabeth Cameron Dalman
photo Chen Yi-shu

Rakini Devi, a Kolkata-born Australian performance artist and guest of the festival, is also trained in classical Indian dance forms—Bharat Natyam and Odissi. While respecting the origins of sacred traditional Hindu rituals and icons, Devi creatively translates and transforms this legacy by situating it in paradoxical and hybrid contemporary performance contexts and rituals. In doing so, she seeks to subvert and rewrite the hegemonic image of the feminine across the binaries of East and West, sacred and secular, traditional and contemporary.

For movement artist and BOLD guest Glen Murray (Artistic Director, In-visible Practice), the legacy of other artists is to be negotiated during rehearsal time, and then forgotten in the ephemerality of the moment. Prioritising emotional and intellectual dialogue with an audience, Murray, who has worked extensively with mature dancers, seeks to liberate himself from the boundaries of social norms and to become, if temporarily, a purer self: "braver, more intelligent, kinder and more generous." The extent to which he can achieve the sublime is his measure of success, and failure is only the refusal to try.

Cameron Dalman, who perceives success and failure as akin to the cyclical seasons of nature and by extension to death and regeneration, also concentrates on the immediacy of the physical and emotional exchanges at the cellular level. Devi too recognises the potential in sculpting the body in time to transform her lived reality, although she cultivates "uniqueness" through "difference" in rejection of society’s daily negativity in order to transcend conventional Indian or Western standards.

In a similar vein, movement improviser Matthew Shilcock, who has lived nearly half his life in a wheelchair as he repaired from "one break or another" due to osteoporosis, is on a path of alchemical transmutation. Influenced by Embodied Unity, which incorporates modalities from Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Kundalini Yoga, craniosacral therapy and meditation, Shilcock devised the Osteogenuine method ("Osteo" relating to the bones and "Genuine" to truth or authenticity). This allows him to move authentically in real time as he explores the limitations and restrictions of pain, mobility aid devices and physical injury. Inspired by Laban, Shilcock notates the sensory and emotional interactions, or "inner alchemy," which he reads from his study of the dynamics of meridian lines and the five elements of traditional Chinese medicine and Western alchemical writings found in the Magnum Opus (of Alchemy), Alistair Crowley and Manly P Hall.

Underlying BOLD is the constant and permanent legacy that informs our shared landscape: Australian Indigenous cultural heritage. Speaking and performing from this place are Murruwurri performer, choreographer and theorist Tammi Gissell, Wiradjuri dancer and choreographer Vicki Van Hout and choreographer, performer, dance historian and Wonnarua man Garry Lester.

In what promises to be a rich and stimulating collection of ancient, recent or combined dance forms, rituals and practices, BOLD appears to value accumulated artistic and cultural experience as translated through bodies beyond the marketable nostalgia of an oblivious, infantilising present.

Tammi Gissell in Liz Lea’s Magnificus Magnificus, 2013 Tammi Gissell in Liz Lea’s Magnificus Magnificus, 2013
photo Lorna Sim

The BOLD Festival, Canberra, 8-12 March

Dr Adam Broinowski is a performer, writer and scholar. His book Cultural Responses to Occupation in Japan: The Performing Body during and after the Cold War was published in the War, Culture and Society series with Bloomsbury Academic in 2016.

RealTime issue #137 Feb-March 2017 pg.

© Adam Broinowski; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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