Interview with Aimee Smith | Borderline

Posted by Thom Smyth, September 17th, 2014

Aimee Smith is a busy lady. Recently returning from working in London, she’s straight into the rehearsal room ahead of the premiere of her latest production Borderline. It’s no small undertaking either – using the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre, she is choreographing for eight dancers

TS: Borderline – what’s it all about?
AS: Borderline is a dance work that explores the experience of collective or cultural insanity – that which we might see in the pack mentality of a mob, in the extremes of religious doctrine and mass media, and certainly, but perhaps more subtlety, in our capitalist consumer driven lives.
Boderline 3 by Aimee Smith and Ben Taffee Photo by Tinderbox Creative

TS: You’ve got some of Perth’s best up and coming dancers working on this project. How did you go about choosing artists, and how is it working a cast that large?
AS: I knew this work was going to be physically demanding and at times quite a spectacle in its aesthetic so that of course informed the casting for the work. I’m absolutely loving working with such a superstar team and large cast. It’s so energising in the studio and, for this particular work, its also essential to the realisation of the ideas behind it.

TS: I’ve heard that rehearsals have been really fun and a bit of a different process – lots of play and experimentation, maybe even a séance…! What’s been happening in that room?!
AS: Oh that’s top secret! But I’m glad you’ve heard rumours that it’s been fun though because I’ve been concerned with how hard I’ve been working the dancers! We’re trying to create the majority of this work in the space of four weeks so it feels really tight and I’ve been cracking the whip a bit. But yes, we’re trying to find the fun when we can. There is a lot of room for the fantastic in this work…..

TS: Ben Taaffe is on board as your collaborator on this project for the first time. You’ve worked together previously, so how is his role different on this project? Does music play a more significant role than in previous works?Boderline 2 by Aimee Smith and Ben Taffee Photo by Tinderbox Creative (1)
AS: So often in dance I think the design elements of sound and lighting often get left until the end and are used only to serve that dance but Ben and I are both really interested in how the dance and design can grow together and inform each other, to create a really integrated work. Hence, in 2012 during an artist residency in Kyoto we began collaborating together on some ideas that have since grown into this work, Borderline. So yes, we’re collaborating much more closely on this work, though as the work has evolved into a more traditional dance production I guess I’ve taken the reigns a bit more.

TS: What can we expect from the show? What should we look out for?
AS: You should look out for the incredible dancers as well as the gorgeous designs by Trent Suidgeest (lighting), Holly Boyton (costumes) and of course Ben Taaffe (sound). You can expect some darkness mixed with the fantastical.

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Interview: Aimee Smith Wintering

Posted by Thom Smyth, June 14th, 2013

Aimee Smith is one of those Perth people I really admire. She appreciates what this city has to offer and uses her art as a way to talk about social, environmental and political challenges we face in the world today. She’s is an advocate for social change, and it shows in her work. Inspired by a trip to the High Arctic in 2010, her current work Wintering asks us to consider what it means to live in a world that is ever changing and disintegrating.

Words: Sarah Rowbottam (SR) and Aimee Smith (AS)

SR. Let’s start from the beginning. What’s the story behind Wintering?
AS. In late 2010 I was part of an artist-led expedition to the High Arctic. For 18 days we ate, slept and travelled on a boat around the archipelago of Svalbard. Every day we made landings on shore, working independently and collaboratively, to create art works immersed in and around this incredible landscape. It was simultaneously one of the most heartbreaking and hope-filling experiences of my life. From this came Wintering.

SR. What should audiences expect?
AS. Wintering has been described as a meditative and hypnotic work. It moves more slowly than most contemporary dance and live performance. But there is purpose and intention and structure to this pace that, I hope, in the end guides people on a journey through an emotional landscape.

The dance also shares the space with an audio-visual performance by musician Craig McElhinney and video artist Kynan Tan at the beginning of the show. I’m really interested in presenting different artistic mediums within a shared performance context, bringing new audiences and communities together.

SR. For the Perth season you have collaborated with video artist Kynan Tan. What has he brought to the performance?
AS. Kynan has brought an incredible sensibility and design to the video content that sits at the beginning of the performance. I collected some incredible footage from my time in the arctic but didn’t have the skills to turn it into an engaging video work that also spoke to the themes of Wintering. The footage, before Kynan came along, looked a bit like a holiday slideshow and he has been able to transform that into a video work that contains texture and grit and emotion.

SR. You talk about Wintering evoking a sense of Solastalgia. Can you expand on this?
AS. Solastalgia is a word created by Professor Glenn Albrecht to try to explain a sense of solace and loss one experiences when the place in which they live changes. About 10 years ago he saw a lack of words in the English language to adequately explain the lived experience of negative environmental change and has been working on a generating relevant vocabulary ever since. When I first heard of that word it connected with me and made me realise my experience was shared by others. This was really empowering.

In the arctic I was overwhelmed by the immense beauty and fragility of a magnificent place. I acknowledged a great sadness in myself in this space. It was this emotional landscape, very rarely spoken of, that I wanted to nurture in Wintering. And in this way the work connects with both the meaning of, and my experience with, solastalgia. Perhaps by expressing and talking about how we feel about the world we may be more able to accept where we’re at and move forwards.


SR. What keeps you optimistic about our ever-depleting environment?
AS. I just have to be optimistic…or I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. There is no choice. Other people doing inspiring things helps. Surrounding myself with people who care also helps. And regular trips to our amazing beaches to stare out over that incredible expanse of ocean also brings me optimism.

SR. Who are your main influences at the moment?
AS. I’ve just completed a Masters in Sustainability and Climate Policy so that, of course, is having a huge influence on my thinking and creativity at the moment. I’m also finding great inspiration in other art forms right now – music especially. Both these influences, I think, shine through in Wintering.

Aimee Smith is the Choreographer for Wintering 12 – 15 June 2013 at the State Theatre Centre of WA Studio Underground.
Special Offer for Performing Lines WA readers! quote password ‘Arctic’ for $25 evening tickets and $20 matinee tickets
Click here for tickets and info

*FREE GLASS OF WINE pre-show to those traveling to the theatre by bicycle or public transport. Present your bike helmet or train/bus ticket between 7-7.30pm, prior to any evening performance and receive a free glass of locally produced House of Cards wine at the Studio Underground bar.

Wintering from Aimee Smith on Vimeo.

Photo shoot with David Collins and Aimee Smith for Accidental Monsters of Meaning at the WA Museum.

Posted by Morgan Leek, March 23rd, 2011

Accidental Monsters of Meaning. Photo David Collins. Performer Rhiannon Newton.
Photo: David Collins Performer: Rhiannon Newton

A few months ago independent choreographer Aimee Smith approached me to take the reins of the marketing and media for her new work – Accidental Monsters of Meaning.

Having worked previously with Aimee in 2010 on her first full length solo work Breakings at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, I was more than happy to step up to the job.

Accidental Monsters of Meaning is a performance with a twist. For this work Aimee has decided to turn the Western Australian Museums Temporary Exhibition Space into quasi dance installation, inviting the audience to navigate through the space, like they would at a exhibition or museum, and engage with the work at their own pace.

Emerging from display cases, five dancers twist and turn through imagery of consumer culture, are remotely controlled by the audience and travel through an Arctic wonderland.

Accidental Monsters of Meaning continues Aimee’s interest in the impact mass media has on modern life. According to Aimee, “The work delves into the contradictions which exist in humans – our instinct for survival and yet our species’ inability to comprehend its own demise. The beauty of this work is its ability to allow the audience to view humans and our behaviours as we would any other specimen.”

When Aimee first asked me to market this work with a limited budget we quickly agreed that the best way forward was to focus our energy and resources on creating a set of strong promotional images that would speak to our large and diverse audience: museum patrons, contemporary dance supporters, visual arts goers, and the general public.

This work has one big edge (of course there are others) from a marketing point of view: it is a contemporary dance installation presented in a venue not traditionally associated with dance. Leveraging off this unique situation, my approach for marketing the work was fairly simple: to take the inherent properties associated with ‘the museum’ (that is, animals and specimens on display) and merge them with contemporary dance in a clever and creative way.

Museum of Natural History
Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Working with local artist David Collins, who is known for using taxidermy animals in his artworks, we headed to Guilford’s best kept secret taxidermy museum – The Academy of Natural History. Run by a lovely chap by the name of Michael Buzza, who kindly let us move and re-position the animals, we created a set of images which positioned the dancer like a specimen (or animal) on display. The results were stunning and thanks to the persistence of Stephen Bevis, Arts Editor from The West Australian – we were able to land the holy grail of prime media positions – the Today cover.

The West Australian's Today Cover, Accidental Monsters of Meaning

To top it off, we brought John Macliver from Cut & Paste DVD into the space to make a snappy 30 second promotional video which we sent viral earlier this week.

My tip for marketing? Strong promotional images, a viral video campaign and finding the right creative minds for the job.

Big thanks to David Collins for stepping up to the role of photographer and directing the shoot, Rhiannon Newton and Aisling Donovan for performing in the shots, Abdul Abdullah for assisting, Ainsley Canning for setting up the display cases, John Macliver for his filming skills, Aimee Smith for her creative vision and the Western Australian Museum for putting up two massive billboards of the image at the Mount Lawley Subway South Bound and 269 James Street, Northbridge. If you happen to go past please take a picture and post it here! We still haven’t had a chance to swing past.

Accidental Monsters of Meaning will be at the Western Australian Museum – Perth from this Friday 25th March until Sunday 3rd of April (10am – 2pm weekdays, 12pm – 4pm weekends). Entry is FREE!

Visit or for more information.

Written by Sarah Rowbottam, Communications Manager for Performing Lines WA.

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BREAKINGS Artist profile: Interview with Fiona Bruce

Posted by Morgan Leek, March 30th, 2010

model breakingsLR
Image: Set model for Breakings by designed by Fiona Bruce and Bryan Woltjen.

Perth set designer Fiona Bruce is currently working on Aimee Smith’s Breakings – a new solo dance work which will be presented at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts Performance Space next month.

How did you get into set design?

Sideways. Growing up I had a real passion for acting and so when it came to picking a university course, I chose Performance Studies. But I found that the harder I worked and the more study I did, the less I enjoyed acting. I still loved theatre so found myself retreating into more backstage duties on the university productions and there, nestled amongst the musty costumes and old paint tins I found a new passion. And when I enrolled in a second arts degree, this time majoring in Design at WAAPA, the formal training only magnified my desire to work professionally as a set and costume designer.

Who influenced you to become a designer?

I think the first major hurdle young people face when thinking about a career in the arts is well meaning concern from their parents about the lack of financial security and stability many artists face, and their pleas to turn their creativity into a hobby rather than a career. Luckily for me, both my parents have worked in creative fields so they were very encouraging and taught me that when faced with a challenge that’s when you take your work to the next level, not give up and go into accounting. With that support behind me I was able to follow my creative interests, keep my eyes and my mind open to a vast array of creative influences and find my niche.

What’s unique about the set for Breakings?

It’s highly flammable! And during the long hours of lighting plots and tech time there’s plenty to read.

It’s other unique features may not be visible from the audience, but collaborating with Bryan Woltjen on the design was a first for me, and having most of the set built early on so Aimee’s choreography can evolve around physical objects in context was a unique process too. Also extra time in the venue to make sure all of the theatrical elements are in balance with one another (as opposed to crossing your fingers and not finding out until dress rehearsal, or worse, Opening Night!)

How do you access news about the world?

Without ever really trying too. I would be quite happy to live under a rock in blissful ignorance of the latest footballer scandal or stock market adjustment but somehow all that information gets into my head anyway. I’ve been told that as an artist it’s a valuable tool to keep your eyes and ears open all the time to see what unexpected thing inspires you. But it also means a hell of a lot of junk gets in too, which can be counter-productive. I prefer the newspaper or internet for keeping abreast of events as I can control what information to focus on whereas TV you are force fed information whether you want it or not.

If you could change just one thing about your industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

I would change the perception that the performing arts are for snobs. The arts are for everyone. Perth would be a better place if a Sunday session meant heading into Northbridge for some contemporary dance at PICA or a new theatrical work at the Blueroom rather than sitting in a pub.

PICA, Perth Cultural Centre, James Street
8 – 11 April

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BREAKINGS Artist profile: Interview with Aimee Smith

Posted by Morgan Leek, March 29th, 2010

LR_Breakings, Aimee Smith, [CR Traianos Pakioufakis]05
Pictured: Aimee Smith Photo: Traianos Pakioufakis

Perth choreographer and dancer Aimee Smith is currently gearing up to present her first full length solo work Breakings next month at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts Performance Space. Working with Sound Designer Ben Taaffe, Lighting Designer Mike Nanning, Audio Visual Artist Jerrem Lynch, Set and Costume Designer Fiona Bruce, Set Designer Bryan Woltjen and with outside eye of LINK Dance Company Artistic Director Michael Whaites, Aimee’s Breakings gets to the bottom of how the media influences our perception of the world.

You recently bumped into PICA for your final rehearsal stages, how are you feeling about getting the show up and running for opening night on April 8th?

Well its crunch time right now. Less than 2 weeks from Opening Night always means long hours and hard work mixed with a burst of adrenaline and excitement at seeing all the elements finally come together. It has been so wonderful to be able to spend some time in the performance space prior to production week, where we can still be creative and adaptable to the space. It’s not very often you get this time in a venue. It’s a real luxury.

Why did you choose to both choreograph and perform in Breakings?

There’s something unique about a self devised solo that you just can’t re-create in an outside choreographed work. Not necessarily better, but just different. In some ways I think it lends itself to be more intimate. Also, the themes of the work grew out of a personal reaction to living in an increasingly mediated world. As I started to realise that I was not alone in these feelings I decided to make this work, but it made sense to me to base it in a personal framework.

How do you access news about the world?

Just like everyone else – through the multitude of globules and streams that get thrown at me – internet, television and occasionally, very occasionally, newspaper. I guess what I seek most is balance. I want to feel like I’m getting told all sides of the story so I can make my own judgments about things, so this leads me to the internet a lot. I think the internet is an amazing tool, that yes, can be overwhelming, but is also been so revolutionary and empowering in how it has re-opened and democratised news and information.

Do you dance alone when you are at home?

Ha! Actually I dance at home all the time. My kitchen floor is well worn. I always have. My brother will tell you that his friends knew me as ‘the dancing sister’ as I spent entire summers dancing on my back lawn. So yeah, I dance at home…still….as a 27 year old(!)… though not necessarily alone.

Who influenced you to become a choreographer?

I think the question for me really is ‘what’ not ‘who’. As a child I loved to dance and I loved the magic of the theatre and the emotional transformations, and space for imagination that the theatre offered. As an adult I am interested in using arts as a way of sense-making, of sharing stories and ideas as a society, in order to find our way through this world as best we can. I think the body is a storehouse of extremely valuable information and a carrier of very rich and grounded wisdom. This inspires me daily.

If you could change just one thing about your industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

I would like the world to realise how magical and powerful art can be to human wellbeing and social happiness. I would like Australians to dare to put down their footballs occasionally, and to pick up a paintbrush or a guitar or a go to a dance class instead. I think this is the answer for our industry!

PICA, Perth Cultural Centre, James Street
8 – 11 April

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