Posted by Thom Smyth, September 16th, 2013
This week NSW artist Sue Healey will start a two week residency at Chrissie Parrott Arts Space in Maylands. Her primary focus will be to launch the first part of her dance/film installation, ‘On View’, a newly developed portrait of Perth based dancer and long-time collaborator Shona Erskine.
Interview: Rebecca Baumann (RB) and Sue Healey (SH)
RB. From choreographing dance to making feature length documentaries – you’ve had quite an eclectic history as an artist. What are your current projects about?
SH. Ecelectic yes, but all my projects are about movement – the moving body, the moving image – I am interested in what moves us as performers and what moves an audience. It’s an endlessly fascinating subject! Finding the form to best reveal the idea is part of the game – I love to make films, allow them to morph into installations, and to challenge the moving body to inhabit these various spaces.
RB.Can you share some insight behind On View?
SH. I recently completed a feature documentary Virtuosi. This film is essentially cine-portraits of dance artists working in diverse places such as New York, Berlin, Brussels, London and Australia – from this experience I was hooked on the idea of portraiture…why do we make them? What information is necessary to reveal the identity of a subject? I’m fascinated by the history of portraiture and the ways in which a camera can capture and reveal an identity. So, On View comes from these questions – I focus on five Australian dance artists who are contrasting in their practice, ethnicity and age. I am always intrigued by the power of the performing artist – their ability to transform and shift between imaginative worlds.
On a simple level this work is about the act of seeing and being seen.
How do we look at a piece of art? At performance? What is the etiquette in today’s world, of actually seeing? I want to make a work that heightens this intimate and dynamic agency between subject and viewer.
RB. On View features Perth based dancer Shona Erskine, who is a long-time collaborator of yours. How does your working relationship with a collaborator develop and grow over time?
SH. This is one of the special things about working in dance…it is by its very nature, a truly collaborative form – we need each other to create the magic! Information is passed on through the body and it takes many years to achieve deep understanding of a movement language. My relationship with Shona has been an extraordinary one – and importantly, it is time that allows an evolution to occur. We have been working together since 2000 and share many ideas, extraordinary artistic experiences, and a plethora of works. Shona is one of the most imaginative artists I’ve ever met – I love her ability to completely embody a psychological state – it is a choreographer’s dream!
RB. Who are your main influences at the moment?
SH. I am loving studying the classic films of Tarkovsky – the perfect antidote to the mass hysteria of the dreadful Hollywood blockbuster.
RB. Your work intersects dance, film and visual art – when did you first become interested in working in this interdisciplinary manner?
SH. I became interested in making films of dance early in my career – actually out of frustration at the impermanence of the dance form and the lack of good documentation. I wanted to make films as a way to hold the dance and make the intangible slightly more tangible. As soon as I understood the editing craft I was hooked. I see the edit as truly choreographic part of the game. And then of course I love the challenges of an installation context – the play with space, film and the moving body is totally captivating, even more than a proscenium stage or traditional performance space.
RB. The Dancing for the Camera Workshop focuses on “a duet for camera and body”. What are the main differences between choreographing for film and live dance performance?
SH. Come along and find out! Not enough space to describe it!
RB. What is life like as an independent artist in 2013? What are some of the challenges you face?
SH. Life as an independent artist in 2013 is difficult. There is no doubt about that. But rewarding because you are independent – free from the strictures of a board or a company structure…you are your own boss, it means you can be truly honest about your artistic intentions, and take imaginative leaps that perhaps are impossible under formal company situations – but of course there is the flip slide of doing it alone…the lack of profile, support, no stable income, life is precarious at the best of times….
Receiving a Creative Fellowship this year has changed my life! I am indebted to the Australian Council for this incredible privilege – in fact it celebrates the independent status and makes the wildest things possible.
RB. Do you have any tips for WA based independents wanting a career in the performing arts?
SH. Work hard, then work harder.
RB. What is the most interesting project you have worked on in your career?
SH. Difficult to single one out because every project has been special – producing, making, editing and distributing the feature film was certainly an interesting one…challenging on every level. I even had to transcribe the entire film (just the other day) so it can be sub-titled in other languages.
RB. What have you got coming up in 2014? Can Perth audiences expect to see you again soon?
SH. I am collaborating with NZ singer Tim Finn on the visuals/film for his show White Cloud which will premiere in NZ and then tour.
I continue making my large scale project for my Fellowship which will culminate in a season at the Carriageworks at end of 2014. This includes travel to Berlin and the USA and making films and live performance – so I will be busy! My feature film Virtuosi will be screening in November 9 at Eyes Wide Festival, so Perth audiences can see it then!
ON VIEW Performance & Film Screening
7.30pm Fri & Sat 27-28 September 2013 $35-$25 online bookings ($38/$28 doorsales)
Tel 61439926 or online Here
For workshops and professional class bookings with Sue Healey visit CPA website.
Sue Healey is a choreographer, educator, installation artist and dance-film maker based in Sydney. Originally from New Zealand, Sue graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne with a BA (Dance Performance, 1984). She later gained a Masters Degree in Choreography (2000) with First Class Honours, Melbourne University. She was a founding member of Danceworks with Artistic Director Nanette Hassall performing and choreographing, nationally and internationally from 1983-1988. From 1989-91 Sue worked in New York with Zvi Gottheiner Company and studied with many seminal artists including Trisha Brown, Dana Reitz, Irene Hultman and Merce Cunningham. She was Artistic Director of Vis-à-Vis Dance Canberra (1993-95) and the Sue Healey Company from 2002. She has received multiple commissions from companies including The One Extra Co., Dance North, Tasdance, Danceworks, Limbs Dance Co. (NZ), Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and The Aichi Arts Centre, Nagoya Japan. Her worked has toured to the United States, United Kingdom, China, Japan and New Zealand. She was awarded the prestigious Choreographic Fellowship from the Australia Council (1999/2000), the Robert Helpmann Scholarship, Arts NSW (2009/10) and the Creative Australia Fellowship, Australia Council (2013). Her feature film Virtuosi continues its international screening success in Montreal, New York, New Zealand and beyond, into 2013. Sue occupies a unique position within the Australia dance sector, and was recently awarded a Creative Australia Fellowship in recognition of her outstanding contribution. Sue is one of five NSW artists supported by the Managing and Producing Services (MAPS) NSW initiative, supported by Performing Lines, the Australia Council for the Arts and Arts NSW. MAPS provides artists and collectives with managerial and producing support, enabling them to create, present and tour their work.