INTERVIEW: SUE HEALEY

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!

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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.


INTERVIEW: MARTIN DEL AMO

Posted by Thom Smyth, September 4th, 2013

If you managed to catch It’s a Jungle Out There in PICA performance space in 2010, you’d known that Martin del Amo has an uncanny way of mixing idiosyncratic movement with intimate storytelling. Later this week Martin is returning to Perth for a residency at Chrissie Parrott Arts in Maylands for two series of workshops, an artist talk, showing and exclusive dinner.

Words: Rebecca Baumann (RB) and Martin del Amo (MDA)

RB. What are your current preoccupations as a choreographer? What is driving your practice in 2013?

MDA: My main focus this year has been on choreographing solos for others. In March, I presented Slow Dances For Fast Times at Carriageworks in Sydney. The piece consisted of 12 short solos performed by 12 different dancers. Its premise was to create the dance equivalent of a concept album, bringing together individual pieces under a singular, unifying idea  – short solos performed to recorded tracks.

My most recent work, The Little Black Dress Suite, was presented at Riverside Theatres Parramatta in August. It comprised four solos performed by Kristina Chan, Sue Healey, Miranda Wheen and myself.

Even though I transitioned from being a solo artist to choreographing works for others a few years ago, the solo form is still my favourite form. And the works I have created this year clearly reflect that.

RB. You’re in Perth for a 2-week residency at CPA, what have you been working on during this time?

MDA: As my focus has been on working with other dancers during the last few years, I haven’t been in residency by myself for quite some time. This has been a wonderful opportunity to take stock of where I am at as a solo performer right now, what I did in the past and what I might like to explore in the future.

RB. What should audiences expect from the showing?

MDA: I am going to try and make transparent both my thought and working processes during the residency. I am going to show a few short pieces that I created a few years back but that I am still performing. I am also going to show a sample of new material that I have been exploring over the last couple of weeks. There will be ample opportunity for questions as well. I’m really interested in a conversation with the local dance community and hope the atmosphere at the showing is going to be fun and relaxed.

RB. Can you tell me a little bit about the background behind The Little Black Dress Suite?

MDA: Sometime last year – during the tech rehearsal for a new solo I had made for dancer Miranda Wheen – I realised that the Little Black Dress had become a recurring costume in my work. Within a period of less than two years, I had used it for three different pieces. I started to think, what was it that drew me to the LBD? Even though I wasn’t fully aware of it at first, I would say that it probably was the question – what happens when you remove an iconic piece of clothing like the LBD, widely associated with feminine elegance and cocktail party glamour, from its familiar fashion context and use it as a stage costume? Each of my LBD pieces explored this question from a slightly different angle. I felt it would be interesting to bring together all of those pieces as a ‘suite’, maybe even add a couple and present them as part of the same program. When FORM Dance Project approached me about a work for their 2013 dance program earlier this year, I knew this was the ideal opportunity to finally realise this idea.

What excited me the most about The Little Black Dress Suite was that it allowed me to work with dancers whom I genuinely admire and whose performative skills I am in awe of – Christina Chan, Miranda Wheen and Sue Healey. There was also a nice mix between previously established collaborations and brand new ones. Whereas the solo for Miranda Wheen premiered last year, this was the first time that Kristina Chan and Sue Healey performed solos that I choreographed. And we even all get to perform together for one short piece, which was great fun.

RB. What is life like as an independent artist in 2013? What are some of the challenges you face?

MDA: As an independent artist you are constantly going from one job to the next. In fact, you are often working on two projects at the same time. Or you are preparing for one while working on another. This makes for a diverse and ever-changing work environment, which is exciting. At times, however, the constant switching from one headspace to another can be rather draining and exhausting.

Also, there is the realisation that things will never get easier for an independent artist, as far as applying for funding or trying to secure presenters and producers for your work are concerned – no matter how established you are or for how long you have been in the game. This can be frustrating at times.

At this stage though, the pros outweigh the cons for me. I enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with many amazing dancers and a divers range of artists from different artforms. I also love being able to take on many different roles relating to dance – I don’t only work as a choreographer and dancer but also as a teacher, dramaturg, consultant, mentor and writer.

RB. You’ll be back in Perth in 2014, can you tell us anything about the show you’ll be presenting?

MDA: The piece is called Benched, it’s a collaboration with choreographer and dancer Julie-Anne Long. We first presented the work as part of Performance Space’s Microparks series at this year’s Sydney Festival.

Benched is an outdoor, site-based dance piece that is performed on and around a park bench. We have conceived the work as two intertwining solos, performed in a restricted space, in direct proximity to each other. The piece takes its inspiration from a series of sitting positions as observed on TV, during sporting games, court room dramas and talk shows.

In Perth, Benched will be performed at the York Reserve in Maylands, it’s going to be presented by Chrissie Parrot Arts. We will perform the piece 9 times during a 3-day season.  In between performances we are having ‘a picnic’ – we will serve light refreshments and invite the audience to chat with us.

Soloists share the stage, Slow Dances For Fast Times, ‘bonus track’. Photo: Heidrun Löhr

Chrisse Parrot Arts
4 Sussex St, Maylands
Martin del Amo Showing – Fri 6 September, 6.30 for 7pm, $20
Artist Dinner – Sat 7 September, 7.30 for 8pm, $65

Book tickets here