This month’s diary is something of a celebration of three of Australia’s senior artists: Eileen Kramer (Cramer), former Bodenwieser dancer; Dame Margaret Scott, founding director of the Australian Ballet School; and Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, founder of Australian Dance Theatre. Each has been in the news in different ways recently. I have arranged these mini posts, which are largely in the form of links, according to descending order of age of those three dancers, beginning with Eileen Kramer, who will very shortly celebrate her 100th birthday.
(left) Eileen Kramer in Gertrud Bodenwieser’s Indian Love Song, 1952. Photo Noel Rubie; (right) in Sydney in 2013 celebrating her 99th birthday
Early in October I received an unexpected email from a producer for Sydney not-for-profit radio station FBi Radio. The message was to let me know that Eileen Kramer, whom I had interviewed for the National Library of Australia’s oral history program in 2003, was appearing on an FBi Radio program called Out of the Box. She was to appear on the program with singer/songwriter Lacey Cole who had made a music video in which he sang his composition, Nephilim’s Lament, accompanied by Kramer dancing on a rocky promontory above Clovelly beach in Sydney. Here is a link to the radio interview, which was conducted by Ash Berdebes, and a link to the five minute video. [Update August 2016: the link to the radio interview is no longer available]
Dame Maggie Scott: A Life in Dance
Maggie Scott (right) and Sally Gilmour unpacking Ballet Rambert costumes, Melbourne 1947. Image from Dame Maggie Scott: a life in dance
I have updated the post onmy biography of Maggie Scott with links to recent media stories in which the book is discussed. Here is a link to the updated page.
Elizabeth Dalman in From Sapling to Silver, 2011
It is a pleasure to be able to report that Elizabeth Cameron Dalman has been short-listed as a finalist for the ACT Senior Australian of the Year (2015). It is rare for a someone working in the dance area to be nominated in awards of this nature so congratulations to Elizabeth for once again putting dance at the forefront of public life. Dalman is one of four finalists in this category and the ACT Senior Australian of the Year will be announced on 3 November.
Press for October 2014 [Online links to press articles in The Canberra Times are no longer available]
‘Wayward daughter delights.’ Preview of West Australian Ballet’s La fille mal gardée. The Canberra Times, Panorama, 4 October 2014, p. 15.
‘A Dame called Maggie.’ The Canberra Times, Panorama, 25 October 2014, pp. 10–11.
With Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella now playing a Sydney season with the Australian Ballet, it was a delight to hear that in 2014 Sharmill Films will be screening Ratmansky’s Lost Illusions, a work based on the novel by Honoré de Balzac and made in 2011 for the Bolshoi Ballet. It opens at cinemas around the country on 29 March 2014. Follow this link for the full Sharmill program of ballet screenings.
I am, however, also looking forward to the visit to Australia (Brisbane only) in 2014 by American Ballet Theatre when Ratmansky’s gorgeous work, SevenSonatas, will be part of the company’s mixed bill program. I wrote about this work in an earlier post. It is truly a work worth seeing.
In the meantime I am looking forward to further viewings of Cinderella very soon. More later.
Canberra Critics’ Circle Awards: Dance 2013
The dance awards in the annual Canberra Critics’ Awards this year went to Liz Lea and Elizabeth Dalman. Lea was honoured for the diversity of her contributions to the Canberra dance scene, in particular for her input into the dance and science festival she curated in collaboration with Cris Kennedy of CSIRO Discovery, and for her initiatives in establishing her mature age group of dancers, the GOLD group.
Dalman received an award for Morning Star, which she created on her Mirramu Dance Company earlier in 2013. Morning Star was based on extensive research in and travel to indigenous communities and the final product used an outstanding line-up of performers from indigenous and non-indigenous communities and mixed indigenous and Western dance in insightful ways.
Movers and Shakers
Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery was recently the venue for a short program of dance presented by two Sydney-based independent artists, Julia Cotton and Anca Frankenhaeuser. Called Movers and Shakers and held on the last weekend of the Gallery’s exhibition of photographs by Richard Avendon, the short, 30 minute program was largely a celebration of dancers Avendon had photographed over the course of his career, including Merce Cunningham and Rudolph Nureyev. Cotton and Frankenhaeuser are mature age performers and it was a joy to see that, as such, they had taken their work to a different plane in terms of technique but had lost none of the expressive power that has always been at the heart of their dancing.
The tiny objects you see on the white pillar on the left of the image above are little decorative items representing bees, which Frankenhaeuser initially wore on her face and which she removed and stuck on the pillar at one stage in one of her solos. This part of the program referred not to a dance portrait but to Avendon’s well-known shot of a beekeeper. It was a particularly strong and confronting solo by Frankenhaeuser who danced around the pillar—and was sometimes almost completely hidden by it—using little more that fluttering hands to convey her story.
Hot to Trot: Quantum Leap
Hot to Trot, a program for young, Canberra-based choreographers has been around for fifteen years, although the recent 2013 program is the first one I have managed to see. As might be expected the short pieces, which included a few short dance films, were of a mixed standard. One stood out, however, and deserves a mention—Hear no evil, speak no evil. It was jointly choreographed by Kyra-Lee Hansen and Jack Riley who were also the performers. The dance vocabulary they created was adventurous and compelling and the work itself was clearly and strongly focused and well structured.
Jack Riley will join the WAAPA dance course in 2014.
Meryl Tankard and Régis Lansac
News came in November from Meryl Tankard and Régis Lansac. Tankard’s acclaimed work The Oracle was performed in mid-November in Düsseldorf, Germany, by Paul White, now a member of Tanztheater Wuppertal, as part of a celebration of the legacy of Pina Bausch.
At the same time, the gallery of Mac Studios in Düsseldorf held an exhibition of more than twenty large-format portraits of Tankard by Lansac. All were produced in the summer of 1984 in the Wuppertal apartment of the American art critic David Galloway. One of Lansac’s most striking images held in Australian public collections also comes, I believe, from the shoot Lansac undertook in this apartment. Follow this link.
Beginning in May I will be hosting a ten minute monthly dance segment on ArtSound FM, Canberra’s community radio station focusing on the arts. The segment will be part of Dress Circle a program hosted by local arts identity Bill Stephens. Dress Circle is broadcast on Sundays at 5 pm and repeated on Tuesdays at 11 pm and my segment will focus on dance in Canberra and surrounding regions. Michelle Potter … on dancing, as the segment will be called, will be a feature of Dress Circle on the first Sunday of each month.
In the first program, which will go to air on 5 May, I will be talking about the Australian Ballet’s visit to Canberra with their triple bill program Symmetries, whichopens on 23 May. Leading up to the program I have been talking Garry Stewart about his new work, Monument, and have been discovering some unusual and amusing stories about George Balanchine’s ballet The Four Temperaments. Monument and The Four Temperaments will be accompanied by the pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain in this Canberra-only program.
I will also be sharing some information about Liz Lea’s new work, InFlight, which will premiere at the National Library of Australia on 31 May. InFlight is danced by four female performers who are inspired to become aviatrixes when they see their heros, Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm, taking to the air in 1928 and breaking the trans-pacific flight record.
There will be other snippets of news as well, and I hope to have time to look back on some of the dance events I have enjoyed in the previous month.
Elizabeth Dalman and Australian Dance Theatre
There was some lovely news earlier this month from Australian Dance Theatre—Elizabeth Dalman has been named patron of ADT for the company’s 50th anniversary year, 2015. Dalman, along with Leslie White (1936‒2009), founded ADT in 1965. White moved on to other things in 1967 and Dalman continued to direct the company until 1975. After a varied career overseas, both before and after the ten years she spent at ADT, Dalman returned to Australia in 1986 and in 1990 founded the Mirramu Creative Arts Centre at Lake George, near Canberra. She continues to direct the Centre and its associated Mirramu Dance Company. Fifty years of ADT will also mark fifteen of Mirramu.*
I didn’t post my Canberra Times review of Sapling to Silver when it was performed in Canberra in 2011, so here is a link to the review. [UPDATE August 2020: Online link no longer available]. Here is a link to posts about Elizabeth Dalman
‘The Fabric of Dance.’ National Gallery of Victoria
In April I had the pleasure of presenting an illustrated talk, The fabric of dance, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, in conjunction with the Gallery’s exhibition Ballet and Fashion. In this talk I looked at how the tutu had developed over three centuries or so, and in particular at how its development had been influenced by changes in fashion and by new materials and fabrics that had become available. But, in putting the talk together, I found I was quite unexpectedly wanting to suggest a link between one of the costumes on show in the exhibition and Louis XIV in his famous role as Apollo in Les Ballets de la nuit of 1653, which I did. I am hoping to post the text of the talk, and the accompanying PowerPoint slides, on this site in due course.
One of the images I showed during the talk was of Paris Opera Ballet dancer Carlotta Zambelli, which I was only able to show as a black and white scan from an article first published in the Australian dance journal Brolga in 2005. My postcard of Zambelli was in colour but it disappeared as a result of being lent when that issue of Brolga was being prepared for publication. I despaired of ever seeing it again but it was returned to me a week or so after the Melbourne talk. So for anyone who was at the talk, below on the right is the image in colour, alongside another (also returned to me at the same time in the same circumstances) of Zambelli with an unknown partner in La ronde des saisons in 1906.
The Rite of Spring: Stephen Malinowski’s animated graphical score
I found what I think is an excellent review of Stephen Malinowski’s animated graphical score of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. I mentioned this score in a previous post without making much comment myself although what the animated score did instantaneously for me was bring me to a realisation of why I disliked Raimund Hoghe’s Sacre so much. Hoghe completely ignored the fact that the music has so much colour, drive and rhythm. The colour, drive and rhythm of the music is perfectly obvious when listening to the music of course, but seeing the animated score absolutely drives it home and opens up a new view of the intensity of the music. Here is the link to the review.
Michelle Potter, 30 April 2013
* Dalman has always been a strong voice in the dance world and she argued against a name change to Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre when Meryl Tankard became director of ADT in 1993. A brief account of that interlude appears in my recent publication Meryl Tankard: an original voice (2012). In a letter to Dance Australia Dalman argued that the company should not carry Tankard’s name as it was important to ‘maintain continuity and … respect for the historical background of the company’.
1 March 2013, James O Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Morning Star is the result of two years of research and choreographic development between Elizabeth Dalman and her Mirramu Dance Company based in Bungendore, New South Wales, and communities in Arnhem Land. The work is based on a sacred songline of the Yolngu people that deals with birth, life, death and rebirth. The cast of Morning Star consisted of indigenous and non-indigenous artists and the production was assisted by several cultural consultants, including the custodian of the traditional Morning Star story, Banula Marika, and didgeridoo player, Nalkuma Burarrwanga.
What made the show especially memorable, and indeed to my mind quite remarkable, was the way in which dances associated with the traditional songline were juxtaposed with contemporary versions of the same aspect of the story. So we saw, amongst other similar components of the production, a traditional spirit dance celebrating the rising of the morning star followed immediately by a contemporary spirit dance enhanced by powerful Western-style theatrical lighting and choreographed using contemporary dance vocabulary.
A particular highlight for me was a contemporary brolga dance, which in the spirit of the show followed ‘Mulung, Mulung’, a traditional brolga dance. Performed by Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal, a particularly powerful and captivating dancer, the undulating movement of the contemporary choreography expertly captured the notion of a dancing bird. The costume, designed and made by Peta Strachan, was exceptional: a long white, feathery gown with an extended ‘tail’, it was enhanced by a red flower placed on the breast area, which recalled the red plumage the brolga displays around its head.
But I also especially liked watching Albert David who danced strongly throughout and who had a duet with Miranda Wheen towards the end of the show that displayed both his and her technical strengths and strong stage presence. It was a delight too to see Janet and Djakapurra Munyarryun back onstage, in fact often commanding the stage.
I always feel slightly alarmed, however, at the prospect of non-indigenous dancers performing traditional indigenous movement and most of the traditionally-focused sections included non-indigenous dancers working alongside indigenous artists. But to their credit the non-indigenous dancers in Morning Star only occasionally looked out of place. I did find the section called ‘Kinship’ a little jarring though. In it each dancer came forward to explain his or her indigenous heritage or links, including those dancers without an indigenous background who had been adopted into a clan by an indigenous ‘brother’ or ‘mother’ and so on. I’m not sure it was necessary and program notes convey such matters much better I think. The commitment to the project shone through in movement and breaking that feeling with wordy explanations achieved little.
Morning Star was performed in the difficult space of the James O Fairfax Theatre. Its stage has little depth and little wing space and often requires dancers who perform there to radically transform their floor patterns to accommodate the space. But this show fitted beautifully and there were moments when the ambience, helped by a score from Airi Ingram that included the occasional crying child, transported the audience to an imaginary outdoor gathering place.
Morning Star is a beautifully honest show made with love and commitment.
Today Canberra 100, the Canberra Theatre Centre and the Australian Ballet released their programs for 2013. It looks like Canberra will have a bumper year of dance in 2013—what a change!
The month of May will see the long awaited return of the Australian Ballet to the Canberra Theatre stage due largely, I suspect, to Robyn Archer, creative director of the Canberra 100 celebrations. Archer commissioned a new work from Garry Stewart for the centenary celebrations and Stewart will make Monument on dancers of the Australian Ballet. Stewart can claim a connection to the Australian Ballet School where he was a student between 1984 and 1985 but Monument will be his first commission for the Australian Ballet.
We will have to wait to see how this work develops but media releases currently say that Stewart will engage with the design principles behind the architecture of Parliament House to generate movement. Stewart will have as a creative consultant Aldo Giurgola, architect of Parliament House and a truly generous man who loves the city of Canberra. Fingers crossed for a great world premiere.
The Canberra program will also include Harald Lander’s Etudes, a showcase of classical ballet first made for the Royal Danish Ballet in 1948. It has been in the Australian Ballet’s repertoire since 1986 and its inclusion on the program is an interesting one as it too is somewhat architectural in nature. The American critic Arlene Croce one wrote that Etudes shows ‘that classical forms [in ballet] have a structural coherence’. The program of two works has been given the collective name of Symmetries.
The Canberra 100 program is an incomplete listing at this stage but it does include the Canberra Theatre Centre’s program ‘Collected Works Australia 2013’. Symmetries is listed as part of ‘Collected Works’.
In June, also as part of ‘Collected Works’, Garry Stewart will be back with his Australian Dance Theatre and their production of G, a ‘reinvention’ of Giselle. It has photography by Bill Henson and music composed by Luke Smiles, whom Canberra dance-goers may remember from the mid-1990s when he was a dancer with Sue Healey’s Vis-à-vis Dance Canberra. G may or may not stir the hearts of those who are aching for a Giselle fix in their dance lives, but it will certainly deliver a contrast to the forthcoming Australian season by the Paris Opera Ballet, which will be showing a traditional production of Giselle in Sydney in January and February.
Indigenous dance will feature in two programs in Canberra in March. Elizabeth Cameron Dalman will be combining with Albert David, Djakapurra Munyarryun and cultural consultant Uncle Banula Marika to direct The Morning Star a cross cultural collaboration between Dalman’s Mirramu Dance Company and dancers from the Yirrkala community. The Morning Star will be at the National Gallery’s James O. Fairfax Theatre.
Wesley Enoch, a Stradbroke Island man and currently director of Queensland Theatre Company, is artistic director of of Kungkarangkalpa: the Seven Sisters Songline. It will have an in-progress showing at the National Museum also in March and will feature senior desert dancers from the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara lands. This is a pilot performance of a larger work being developed over four years under an Australian Research Council grant.
In July KAGE, a Melbourne-based company led by former Canberran Kate Denborough and her artistic collaborator Gerard van Dyck, will show Team of Life—First Stage at Gorman House. This work is being made in conjunction with the Dulwich Centre Foundation, a charitable association dedicated to responding to groups and communities facing mental health difficulties as the result of significant hardships. Team of Life uses sport, in particular AFL and soccer, to tell stories of the search by young people for different kinds of freedom. The project will be performed by professional dancers and actors and informed by workshops with young refugees and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Team of Life is set to dissolve the boundaries between sport, theatre and identity.
Also in July Bangarra Dance Theatre will bring BLAK to Canberra. BLAK is a new triple bill production about the challenges to and rewards for Aboriginal young people making transitions to adulthood. Daniel Riley McKinley will choreograph Scar, Stephen Page Yearning, and the two will combine in Keepers. BLAK is part of the Canberra Theatre Centre’s 2013 program.
Sydney Dance Company will be back in Canberra in September with two works by Rafael Bonachela: Project Rameau in collaboration with Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and 2 One Another. Project Rameau has grown from Bonachela’s and Tognetti’s mutual passion for the music of Baroque composer Rameau, while 2 One Another celebrates relationships, interactions and the sheer beauty of the human form. Sydney Dance Company is one of the few companies that has toured to Canberra consistently since its beginnings in the 1970s. What a pleasure it will be to see them again as part of ‘Collected Works’.
Dance in Canberra’s centenary year looks promising. Other events and more dance performances are listed on the Canberra 100 website.
UPDATE August 2020. The website with listings is no longer available. The following quote, however, appears on the site:
“One of the great achievements of the Centenary of Canberra, in my mind, has been the unearthing of community and city pride. This is something we must carry forward as a legacy–the means to a permanent departure from Canberra bashing and self-deprecation about our city. A city brand is far more than a logo. It’s a collective idea–and a collective advocacy–about who we are and what we have to offer.”
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, 2013 Blackfriars Lecture at the Australian Catholic University
SAR Fellowship: National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA)
In 2012 I will be taking up a SAR Fellowship, SAR being the acronym for Scholars and Artists in Residence, for two months at the National Film and Sound Archive. This Fellowship will enable me to investigate a lesser known aspect of the career of designer Kristian Fredrikson, namely his commissions for film and television. In addition to designing costumes for one or two televised ballets in the late 1960s, in the 1980s Fredrikson worked on at least three feature films, Undercover, Sky Pirates, and Short Changed, and three mini-series for television, The Shiralee, The Dirtwater Dynasty and Vietnam. I’m looking forward to delving into this aspect of Fredrikson’s multi-faceted career.
The SAR program aims to promote the NFSA as a centre for scholarly activity, to encourage and facilitate research relating to the NFSA collections and programs and to bring new ideas and expertise to the NFSA.
In addition to my meeting with Stanton Welch while in Houston recently, which was the subject of a recent post, I spent half a day with Laura Lynch, Houston Ballet’s wardrobe manager. Laura spoke to me at length about Kristian Fredrikson’s designs for ‘Pecos’, part of a Houston Ballet evening length program called Tales of Texas, and Fredrikson’s last work, a new version of Swan Lake. Both works had choreography by Stanton Welch and his Swan Lake, which premiered after Fredrikson’s death, was dedicated to Fredrikson. We also visited the HB warehouse, a little out of town, to have a look at the costumes themselves.
Miranda Coney Barker
Most readers of this site will remember Miranda Coney, a much-loved principal of the Australian Ballet during the 1990s. Miranda is now living in New York with her husband, conductor Charles Barker, and their two young sons. I caught up with her while in New York and was more than delighted to know that she has been giving class to young dancers in the current Broadway production of Billy Elliot—‘quite a challenge’ she says!
Canberra Critics’ Circle Awards: Dance 2011
In November the Canberra Critics’ Circle met to discuss nominations for its annual awards, which were presented on 29 November. Two dance awards were made. Liz Lea received an award for her creative use of archival material from Canberra collecting institutions in her solo production of 120 Birds. Lea showed 120 Birds as a work for a small company at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010 but reworked it as a solo show for presentation in February 2011 as an event associated with the National Gallery of Australia’s Ballets Russes exhibition. She drew on material from the National Film and Sound Archive, the National Library of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia bringing it all together to pay homage to those intrepid artists who toured to and from Australia when communications were not the instant experience we know today.
Photos from Lea’s Gallery performance are at this link.
Elizabeth Cameron Dalman received an award for her poignant and moving show Sapling to Silver, which was the story of a vibrant life—her own life in dance. I recall in particular from that show a duet between Dalman and Albert David in which two cultural heritages were juxtaposed, as were two lives lived in different generations. The citation for Dalman’s award also mentioned the seamless way in which the various sections of the work were put together to deliver a beautifully produced whole.
‘The fire and the rose’
The link to my tribute to Valrene Tweedie, an article originally published in Brolga. An Australian journal about dance in December 2008 and posted on this site in July 2009, is not currently available as it was previously via the Ausdance website. The National Library of Australia’s web archiving service, Pandora, came to the rescue however and the tribute is now available at this link.
Michelle Potter, 30 November 2011
Featured image: Kristian Fredrikson, designs for Undercover (Bright Young Things and Eastern Corset Dancers). National Library of Australia