Interview: Ben Taaffe Sound Designer for Reflect

Posted by Thom Smyth, May 7th, 2013

Ben Taaffe is known around town for co-hosting The Underground Solution program on RTRFM 92.1 and DJing, promoting and partying with the M.O.V.E Foundation for Musical Health and Well-Being. What people don’t really know is that Ben also designs soundscapes for dance. He’s currently working with choreographer Sue Peacock on Reflecta new work showing at The State Theatre Centre of WA Studio Underground until Sat 11 May. 

Interview: Sarah Rowbottam (SR) and Ben Taaffe (BT)

SR. If you were to describe your job to a stranger, what would you say?
BT. Which one!? Juggling multiple jobs / personalities at the moment. With Reflect, I have been designing soundscapes and a musical score for contemporary dance performance.

SR. How did you get into creating sound scores for dance?
BT. I’m a DJ and record collector first and foremost. It grew naturally from there. Friends would ask me to help them find songs to use in their performances or workshops.

SR. What is the difference between mixing a live set at a {MOVE} gig and mixing live music for a dance performance?
BT. Music and sound for dance performance can serve any number of functions. Sometimes it is about complementing, or even shifting, the tone and emotional atmosphere of the work. It can be used to evoke a sense of time or place. Or it can become part of the conceptual substance of a performance.

Music at a {MOVE} party is something quite different. We try to use music as a way of bringing like-minded people together, to create an atmosphere of escape, freedom and celebration where one can connect to others and oneself in a shared physical and emotional experience.

I guess the difference is not so much in the music but in the dancing.

SR. What has been your process for selecting music for Reflect?
BT. It’s been a highly collaborative and intuitive process. Sue Peacock, the choreographer, was already working with some music. I took this as a starting point and tried to build upon her selections, offering alternatives and trialing numerous songs in the studio to see how it shifted or enhanced the work. Something that changed the work or unsettled the feeling of the space was often taken up by Sue with great enthusiasm.

SR. The music in Reflect spans different generations, from Albatros by Fleetwood Mac to The Godfather (for William Basinski and Snoop Dogg) by Klimek and Husak. How do you marry different music so it flows together?
BT. Finding a common thread or a logical connection / progression through the feeling the songs evoke. Sampling pieces and building musical bridges between two contrasting songs is another way.

SR. On a philosophical level, music is one of the strongest triggers for memory. What are your thoughts surrounding the synergy between music and memory?
BT. Some people have suggested that music is as old as language itself, or older – that communicating emotions with our voice and bodies as sound was evolutionally prior to communicating any specific or practical meanings. It makes sense I guess, it is built into us. We remember emotions more powerfully than we do specific experiences or events I think. Music can certainly be a part of this process, even new music that you have not ever heard before.

SR. Do you remember the first music artist you listened to?
BT. No, but I have very strong memories of listening to Paul Simon’s Graceland Album and The Travelling Wilburys turned up very loud in the family car as my dad sang along. I must have been four or five at the time.

SR. Is there a point in the performance that sparks a distinct memory or feeling for you?
BT. No nothing distinct, but plenty of vaguely familiar feelings that allow the mind to wonder backwards.

SR. How would you describe what memory sounds like?
BT. I wouldn’t.

SR. Through your work with {MOVE}, you’ve brought over some pretty great artists. Ghostpoet, Flying Lotus and TOKiMONSTA to name few. If you could bring any music artist to Perth, who would it be?
BT. Right now, probably Sir David Rodigan…

Ben Taaffe is the Sound Designer for Reflect 3 – 11 May 2013 at the State Theatre Centre of WA Studio Underground.
Click here for tickets and info


Storm Helmore: Task, focus, reflect

Posted by Thom Smyth, May 1st, 2013

Words: Storm Helmore, Reflect performer

Over the past few weeks we have had the pleasure of working with Bill Handley as part of the lead up to performances. His focus is on focus – where do we look when we perform? Why do we choose to look there, if we chose to at all? How does our eye focus affect the performance; both our experience of it and that of the audience? And how do we, as performers, confidently take on the task of decision makers in this aspect of the work.

We begin with restriction. Our first direction from Bill is to walk through the beginning of the work, at all times keeping our eye focus low, at about 45 degrees down towards the floor. This immediately goes against our performative instinct of directing our focus outwards, towards the audience, and proves to be quite a difficult task. The mood shifts, I feel sad, sombre and more serious than usual. At the same time I am anxious at having to resist the urge to look up, open up, to the (not yet there) audience. But then, a tiny bit of comfort sneaks in; I enjoy this section of dancing more when I don’t have to look up, I realise that my focus is always down in that moment, or actually, this just feels right. Then I relax my focus, I loosen the fixed, intense gaze I just noticed I had, and begin to explore the room at 45 degrees. There is definite relief upon finishing this task though – I can look at my cast mates again, can connect with them, am able take in the whole room, not just the floor and the chairs – the sadness and seriousness that I felt during the task begin to subside. I wasn’t the only one that experienced this shift in mood. And this is nothing compared to when we revisit this idea in a few days time.

This task repeated, but in a different section of the work. I am almost crying at one stage then I get so angry my jaw hurts from clenching.  Bill asks us how it felt. I reply that I wanted to shoot somebody. Sue says slyly, that’s how you should feel by the end of that section… Now how to bottle that feeling, and the movement quality that came with it, and recapture it (perhaps not so intensely) next time? Bill seems genuinely excited that we all felt angry and/or sad during this task, and he asks us next time, to make room for the emotions that arise. Make room for them instead of resisting them. Life lessons learnt in the studio.

Here are a few more of those lessons which have taken me by surprise or have been reinforced during this process…

Filling someone else’s shoes is hard work, but making yourself comfortable in them so you can walk your walk (or in this case, dance your dance) is another thing altogether.

Take time to notice what you notice. More and more detail will be revealed to you.

Your time is precious – not only to you but also to the people in your life.

By restricting our options every now and again, a wealth of opportunities can be revealed.

Simple changes may result in huge shifts.

Sometimes what you think you are doing, is not what others perceive you to be doing.

Being surrounded by amazing people can only be good for you. Surely we absorb awesomeness from others by osmosis if we stand close enough right?!

It is hard to stay sad or angry when you are laughing.

Storm Helmore will perform in Reflect from 3 – 11 May 2013 at the State Theatre Centre of WA Studio Underground.
Click here for tickets and info

Storm grew up dancing in country Queensland before moving to Brisbane to undertake a Bachelor of Science degree. At the completion of her degree, Storm returned to dancing and was soon performing and teaching regularly in Brisbane, mainly in hip hop styles. In 2008, she successfully auditioned for a place in the Bachelor of Arts (Dance) degree at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and made the move to Perth. Storm completed her training at WAAPA in 2011, having had the opportunity to perform in works by Dean Walsh, Matthew Morris, Sue Peacock and Xiao Xiong Zhang during the three years of training. Since graduating, Storm has worked on creative development processes for Sue Peacock, Rachel Ogle and Isabella StoneShe has performed as a dancer in West Australian Opera’s production of The Pearl Fishers, alongside French company Les Commandos Percu for the opening event of the Perth International Arts Festival 2013 and in Sam Fox’s workPersonal Political Physical Challenge at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne.


Kynan Hughes: Beginning something as a stranger

Posted by Fiona de Garis, April 24th, 2013

Words: Kynan Hughes, Reflect performer Photos: Jenni Large, Reflect performer

I grew up in Perth and throughout my training I have clear memories of Sue Peacock, both as a dancer and a maker.  She was my teacher at WAAPA, and served as an inspiration through those formative years.  However, I never got the chance to be in one of her works…  I managed to miss out at STEPS and at WAAPA on having Sue as a choreographer – much to my great disappointment!

So, as you can imagine, my joy when Sue asked me to step into the second development of Reflect was immense.   It’s fantastic to have such a dream/goal be realised, especially upon returning to Perth after twelve years of dancing interstate.  The process has been a great journey so far, full of great people and incredible experiences.

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Reflect Rehearsals (2013) Kynan Hughes and Bernadette Lewis Photo: Jenni Large

It is always interesting to replace someone in a work, especially when so much of the work has been made but is still incomplete.  I took over from Cass Mortimer-Eipper who departed after the first development to work on other projects.  As dancers, the two of us are quite different in style and approach, so the process of making the work feel like it fits me is quite a lengthy one.   The journey of finding yourself in another dancer’s movement material and character is a strange combination of internal dialogue, in depth discussions (and dancing… of course) with the choreographer and other dancers, and much cursing of a television screen or video camera. I’m still slowly finding myself in the work as you can probably tell.

It’s also an amazing experience to begin something as a stranger, not only to the movement style, but to the other people in the room.  It is so rewarding to explore and grow with a group of people in a work such as Reflect, particularly with this stellar cast and crew!  As dancers, we have room to play with the many subtleties within the intricate choreographic structures that Sue has laid down.  The loose narrative that runs through the work is complex and can be ‘read’ in many different ways: as a dancer, that’s such a gift, albeit one that’s not without its difficulties to negotiate.  There are so many questions to consider and ask: “Do I look over there?  Or at her? And when and how should I take off my pants?”  See?  Now you really want to come see the show…

Kynan Hughes will perform in Reflect from 3 – 11 May 2013 at the State Theatre Centre of WA Studio Underground.
Click here for tickets and info

Kynan Hughes graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts with an Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts (Dance) in 2000. Since then he has worked with a range of companies around Australia including: Leigh Warren and Dancers, Dance North, the Tasmanian Classical Ballet Company and Sydney Dance Company. He has performed and toured a range of new and established works, both in Australia and overseas by choreographers as diverse as Jane Pirani, Natalie Weir, Leigh Warren, Troy Mundy, Rafael Bonachela, Emanuel Gat and Kenneth Kvarnstrom. Kynan has also choreographed a number of works and taught at various companies and institutions around Australia. In 2012, Kynan attained his Bachelor of Arts, choreographed at WAAPA, performed in Chrissie Parrott’sCicada and as Feather in Sally Richardson’s The Ghost’s Child. In 2013 Kynan has performed with Chrissie Parrott for UWA’s Luminous night and in James Berlyn’s Tenebrae et Lux for Perth Festival. He choreographed and performed in With a Bullet: The Album Project for Fringe World. In 2013, Kynan will also choreograph works for LINK Dance Company in May and STEPS Youth Dance Company in August, as well as developing a new production,Mermaid X with Sally Richardson.


Bernie Lewis and Jenni Large: Reflecting on reflect

Posted by Fiona de Garis, April 15th, 2013

Words: Bernadette Lewis, Reflect performer Photos: Jenni Large, Reflect performer and Amelia Stokes, Reflect secondment

What does it mean to reflect? Well, at the moment, for me it means relearning and remembering… All of it. How it started, how it goes, what happens, when and with whom. Remembering who was there in the beginning and how we met.

I’ll never forget meeting Jenni Large; third day in the very first Reflect development, both of us nervous and first time paid dancers. A blue and white, striped shirt hanging too big on her small frame, she looked up at me and… beamed. The biggest, brightest smile I’ve ever seen.

The Sweating. I always remember laughing and sweating in equal proportions. Maybe I’m sweating so much because I’m laughing so hard? Or is that the broken air conditioner? We haven’t even done a full run of the work yet and we’re all pitifully dripping. Drenched like swimming warthogs (thanks for the image Jen)!

I remember starting out like a deer in the headlights. Chapel space floor against my cheek, drawing tiny, imaginary circles with my inner ear. (I still don’t know how to do that movement.) Making duos with people I’ve never met before and then transcribing and developing them with people I’ll soon know inside out.


I remember the beginning. The starting points. Asking how do we fit together and whose thumb bends at odd angles? Everyone’s childhood stories of whimsy; getting dizzy with siblings, turning the world upside down, wearing hello kitty hairclips, rebelling with sugar sandwiches. None of these particular things are in the work but I remember them. And I like them. They stay with me.

Why am I trying to remember so much? Well the work is about memories. How we remember, what we remember, how different percipients recall the same event, what do our memories feel like???

My own memories are fuzzy. And disjointed. Or peculiar. Which is probably why I sounded so waffling earlier. Even that sentence is fuzzy.


But what should I be remembering clearly? My focus. Where is my focus? How much can I say with just my physicality? No expression necessary. And precision. A great deal of precision can be found in the movement whilst still being free to make spontaneous decisions. Hmmmm, that’s hard.

And what do I want to remember when it’s all done? These people. These incredible, joyous, intelligent people that make my job hard only because they astound me with their brilliance and make me laugh so hard I fall over.

Bernadette Lewis will perform in Reflect from 3 – 11 May 2013 at the State Theatre Centre of WA Studio Underground.
Click here for tickets and info


Bernadette Lewis graduated from WAAPA’s honours program, LINK Dance Company in 2011. As a company member she worked with notable choreographers such as Michael Whaites, Frances Rings and Ross McCormack and toured throughout Europe and Australia. Independently she has worked with The Western Australian Opera, Silver Alert (USA), Patrice Smith, Bianca Martin and Sarah Fiddaman, performing at such festivals as the Adelaide Fringe, Perth International Arts Festival, Perth Fringe, Movement Sur La Ville (Montpellier) and ITS (Amsterdam). Her company work has included regional touring projects with Tasdance and most recently Buzz Dance Theatre.


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Reflect opens in less than 4 weeks!

Posted by Fiona de Garis, April 8th, 2013

Outside the Perth autumn has delivered an unseasonable hot day. It is still 34C at 430pm. So of course the air con has broken in Studio 3 here at Kings St Arts Centre. It is the first day of rehearsal for Sue Peacock’s new production Reflect and none of the dancers will need to go out for a sauna this evening.

The cast started the day with class in Studio 3, followed up with a first day, sticky buns provided, meet ‘n’ greet/social media briefing in the (air-conditioned) green room. The company were together last in December 2012 for a two week development stage, so by independent artist standards it hasn’t been too long between rehearsals. It’s a perennial problem for independents to maintain a timeline that keeps a project ‘alive’; this time we got lucky with last year’s additional West Australian Contemporary Dance initiative funding round from the Australia Council providing an extra opportunity to resource the development of the work.

Today we missed Aisling Donovan. She has been with the show since its earliest days but sadly can’t make it to Perth for this final stretch to Opening Night. We know you are with us in spirit Aisling! We also welcomed project newbie and stage manager, Kirby Brierty and welcomed back Sound Designer Ben Taaffe. And we are joined by a number of secondments from LINK, WAAPA, and next week from Adelaide. It’s always great to have new bodies in the room.

Reflect by Sue Peacock, Image Christophe Canato

Reflect by Sue Peacock, Image Christophe Canato

Now we just await the arrival of Andrew Lake, Sue’s long-time creative collaborator and Reflect’s Production Designer. He flies in from Singapore late tomorrow night and then the team is complete. Well complete until we move into the Studio Underground in three weeks and are joined by their FOH and technical staff for the Final Phase. Hopefully by then we will be talking about heating not air conditioning…

3 – 11 MAY 2013
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
Read more here.