Rika Hamaguchi and Tyrel Dulvarie in a section from 'to make fire'. 30 Years of sixty-Five Thousand, Bangarra Dance Theatre, 2019. Photo: © Daniel Boud

Australian Dance Awards 2018 and 2019

The recipients of Australian Dance Awards for 2018 and 2019 were announced on 8 December. The announcement was streamed by Ausdance National in order to manage the various restrictions on travel, gatherings of people and the like as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But it was relaxing at least to be able to watch from the comfort of one’s lounge room, or at a small ‘watch party’.

The two recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award were Jill Sykes (2019) and Janet Karin (2020). As is the usual practice, the Lifetime Achievement Awards were announced prior to the other awards and this information has been on the Ausdance National website since late November.

Both awardees have had astonishing careers for well over the forty years that is a requirement for nominations in this category, and their love for and commitment to dance is exceptional. Read the citations that accompany their award at the following links: Jill Sykes; Janet Karin.

Below is the list of awardees in other categories with just one or two personal comments, some photographs, and links to my reviews, where available:

Services to Dance
Valerie Lawson (2018)
Philippe Charluet (2019)

The work of filmmaker Philippe Charluet crosses many boundaries from documentaries to the addition of film sequences in dance works (remember, for example, his black and white footage in Nutcracker. The Story of Clara). He has worked with many Australian companies including Sydney Dance Company, Meryl Tankard Company, and the Australian Ballet and his contribution to Australia’s dance heritage is inestimable. His website, Stella Motion Pictures, is at this link. Below is a trailer for his documentary on Meryl Tankard.

Services to Dance Education
Karen Malek (2018)
Sue Fox (2019)

Outstanding Achievement in Community Dance
Tracks Dance for In Your Blood (2018)
Fine Lines for The Right (2019)

Outstanding Achievement in Youth Dance
FLING Physical Theatre for Body & Environment (2018)
QL2 Dance for Filling the Space (2019)

Filling the Space was a triple bill program comprising Proscenium by James Batchelor, Naturally Man-Made by Ruth Osborne, and The Shape of Empty Space by Eliza Sanders. It was performed by QL2’s Quantum Leap group, the senior group at QL2.

Quantum Leap dancers in Ruth Osborne's 'Naturally Mad Made'. Filling the Space, 2019. Photo: © Lorna Sim
Quantum Leap dancers in Ruth Osborne’s ‘Naturally Man-Made’. Filling the Space, 2019. Photo: © Lorna Sim

Outstanding Achievement in Choreography
Narelle Benjamin and Paul White for Cella (2018)
Garry Stewart for South with Australian Dance Theatre (2019)

Outstanding Performance by a Company
Australian Dance Theatre for The Beginning of Nature (2018)
Bangarra Dance Theatre for 30 Years of Sixty Five Thousand (2019)

Dancers of Australian Dance Theatre in 'The Beginning of Nature', 2018. Photo: © David James McCarthy
Dancers of Australian Dance Theatre in Garry Stewart’s The Beginning of Nature, 2018. Photo: © David James McCarthy

Outstanding Achievement in Independent Dance
Vicki van Hout for plenty serious TALK TALK (2018)
Laura Boynes for Wonder Woman (2019)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer
Narelle Benjamin for Cella (2018)
Marlo Benjamin in Stephanie Lake’s Skeleton Tree (2019)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Dancer
Kimball Wong for The Beginning of Nature (2018)
Tyrel Dulvarie in Bangarra Dance Theatre’s 30 Years of Sixty Five Thousand (2019)

Scene from 'Unaipon'. Bangarra Dance Theatre, 2019. Photo: © Daniel Boud
Tyrel Dulvarie as Tolkami (the West Wind) in Frances Rings’ Unaipon from 30 Years of Sixty Five Thousand, Bangarra Dance Theatre, 2019. Photo: © Daniel Boud

Outstanding Achievement in Commercial Dance, Musicals or Physical Theatre
The Farm for Tide (2018)
Strut Dance for SUNSET (2019)

Outstanding Achievement in Dance on Film or New Media
RIPE Dance for In a Different Space (2018)
Samaya Wives for Oten (2019)

Congratulations to the awardees and to those who were short listed as well. Some of the short listed items that I especially admired included the work of West Australian Ballet, especially the production of and dancing in Giselle and La Sylphide; Liz Lea’s RED; the performance by Anca Frankenhaeuser in MIST; and Alice Topp’s Aurum. Some results were very close.

Michelle Potter, 8 December 2020

Featured image: Rika Hamaguchi and Tyrel Dulvarie in a section from ‘to make fire’. 30 Years of Sixty Five Thousand, Bangarra Dance Theatre, 2019. Photo: © Daniel Boud

Rika Hamaguchi and Tyrel Dulvarie in a section from 'to make fire'. 30 Years of sixty-Five Thousand, Bangarra Dance Theatre, 2019. Photo: © Daniel Boud

In glass. Narelle Benjamin. Spring Dance 2010 (2).

7–12 September, 2010. Sydney Opera House, Spring Dance Season,

Narelle Benjamin says her latest work, In glass, was inspired by the partnership of the two dancers who perform the work, Paul White and Kristina Chan. The best parts of the work are indeed when White and Chan are dancing either separately but in unison, or when one is being partnered by the other (that is when there is physical contact between them). Their opening sequence was breathtaking—liquid, silky smooth, perfectly synchronised and stunningly executed.

While White and Chan have shared many experiences dancing together, and this in itself builds a partnership, what makes this pairing work so extraordinarily well is that White and Chan also share many physical similarities. They are similarly proportioned—length of limbs in relation to trunk for example—and probably most importantly they have similar muscle tone, even acknowledging the gender difference. Great partnerships grow from these kinds of physical similarities because dance is ultimately a physical art form.

I’m not sure, however, that the work as a whole was as successful as the White/Chan partnership. In glass tries, I think, to explore some intangible ideas that don’t necessarily translate well into dance. Benjamin’s program notes say that the work ‘hovers between planes at a liminal place of transition’. To tell the truth, I’m not sure what she means by this but I guess the idea was given shape at those moments when, looking into the mirror surfaces that made up the set, I wondered whether I was looking at reality in the shape of a dancer or some other idea made visible by film projection onto the surface. There was one quite surreal moment when an image of White’s body morphed into a tree, for example. There was also one unsettling, but also surreal occasion when White held two oval mirrors, one on either side of his head so that it seemed that he had sprouted two extra heads from the one neck. The footage and other visuals, the work of Samuel James, were at times entrancing, whether or not their interaction with the movement connected in my mind. Sequences showing Chan, softly focused and drifting through a hilly, forested landscape were especially engrossing.

Watching White and Chan is a huge joy. The opening sequence promised so much and many other moments of dancing built on that promise. But I would rather have watched White and Chan just dancing Benjamin’s challenging choreography without other philosophical distractions, especially when those distractions were not meant to be ignored but were less than obvious (to me anyway).

Michelle Potter, 13 September 2010