INTERVIEW: Sally Richardson Standing Bird 2

Posted by Thom Smyth, November 6th, 2013

We have a soft spot for the team behind Standing Bird 2. Not only have we had the pleasure of working with the entire creative team individually on other projects – we worked alongside Sally, Danielle and Jacqui on the first iteration of Standing Bird for their premiere season in 2012 during Summer Nights and Fringe World. Billed as a bravura solo performance by Jacqui Claus (2012 Dance Australia Critics Choice – Most Outstanding Female Dancer), Standing Bird 2 has been re-structured, re-visioned and refined for Season Two at The Blue Room Theatre. We talk to Director and Performing Lines WA core artist Sally Richardson about what to expect.

Words: Sarah Rowbottam (SR) and Sally Richardson (SallyR)
Photos: Ashley de Prazer


SR. You did it once, why do it again?
SallyR. You return to a work determined to make it better, and to resolve and refine your concept and your ideas. The initial devising space is such a different experience, with a high degree of uncertainty and is always limited by the time and resources available to you. Fringeworld was a perfect environment to show the work at an early stage, in a performance framework that is about experimentation, exploration, and testing your ideas for the first time with an audience who is also excited by the rawness and freshness of the work. The original presentation also incorporated a number of ideas, and story lines I had been working with on and off over a few years. Standing Bird 2 is a synergy and synthesis of those ideas into a single narrative and ‘voice’, co-created and performed by and for dancer Jacqui Claus.

SR. What have been some exciting developments with the next iteration of the work?
SallyR. The work has been re-structured, re-visioned and refined, with some additional new material developed and scored. The new design created by Fiona Bruce and Lauren Ross is bold and contemporary and locates the work in a different context and audience configuration. We also re-shot all the film sections exclusively with Jacqui, and these appear on a range of screens in and around The Blue Room (check out the Cultural centre screen as you make your way to the Theatre). We have also incorporated The Blue Room bar as a performance space, so yes on many levels if feels like a ‘new’ work. (My previous role as a somewhat shadowy presence in the work has also been erased – thankfully)!


SR. What is personal about the story?
SallyR. For me all creative work is personal to a degree…This work is also inspired by many things, including what is a solo? What is a self-portrait? What is particular to this form, and this solo journey that we all experience…Reflection and  self-reflection are key concepts, as are both physical and psychological notions of re-framing, reviewing, re-membering, and re-visioning..How we move through time and space, both physically and mentally, backwards and forwards (as does the reflective gaze) …It is interesting in the process of re-visiting this work, the theme of re-construction, re-collection, re-covery and review is central. What is retained, what is rejected, what is re-formed…through the journey of performance making, as in life ,there is a constant editing, of the story.  In SB2 as this lone woman moves through landscapes (emotional territories) she recognises herself while also rejecting parts of herself, shedding skins and layers.  The idea of metamorphosis and transformation are central. In this version there is always choice (made by her-self)…and ultimately one arrives at a space where there is release and revelation. It is about the pursuit of self awareness, from an initial self consciousness…a process of moving from who am I? to a claimed space of I am…here present and before you in the immediate now..The interior is made exterior and vise versa through fragmentation, re-fraction, and re-formation..The keynote is the gestural, as motifs recur and return moving from the minutae through to the epic..a moment amplifies and echoes, is refracted and re-framed by repetition. …A solo is always about the performer, and as the dancer’s body is ultimately their own unique voice, Standing Bird 2 is also Jacqui’s. It has been created and framed by her own physicality and dance vocabulary, and so it uniquely hers, and hers alone.

SR. As a movement based performance, how have you (as the Director) worked alongside and in collaboration with Choreographer Danielle Micich?
SallyR. Danielle, Jacqui and I collaborate as a team. We each bring a different element to this creative dialogue, and there is a trust and mutual understanding that comes from having worked with each other over many years. Danielle defines herself as a movement director, and her and Jacqui have now collaborated on a range of projects, so there is an efficiency and clarity to their communication. I am there driving the sense of overarching narrative, intention and through line, and commenting, questioning and adjusting what is generated.  We all know what we want to create, and the outcome we want to achieve, and it has felt very simpatico in this process. It is exciting to be working together with Dank and Jacqui right now, as both in their own way are professionally at the top of their game, and with that there is a confidence and ease, and sense of play in the creative space that is delicious.

SR. What’s great about presenting Standing Bird 2 in The Blue Room Theatre’s season two?
SallyR. The Blue Room Theatre is a fantastic venue and hub for original new work, and it has a strong audience base and great team that support this focus. To be able to present two new dance works (SB2 + Verge) in such an intimate venue is exciting, as we believe this will give the audience a dynamic performance experience, as it is a rare opportunity to view dance in such close proximity.  To also have an almost 3 week season for 2 new contemporary dance works is almost unheard of in Perth, due to high cost of suitable venues. We believe this gives us an opportunity to develop new audiences, and the season duration gives a chance for word of mouth to build, and hopefully we can sell out!!

SR. How did you become a Director?
SallyR.  I wanted to. Practice makes perfect. I am still practicing.

SR. Why do you make work in Perth?
SallyR.  I make work in Perth as it is my home, and the home of my children. I also have some strong ongoing creative relationships here with other artists and collaborators that have developed and grown over many years. We are a dynamic and diverse creative community  and I think we are good at making our own opportunities to showcase our ideas and work. I do enjoy also working in other cities/places, and enjoy the dialogue with other artists from around the country. Living and working in such a remote city as Perth it is essential to travel and see and make work in other environments.

SR.Who do you dream of working with one day?
SallyR. That list is long.

Standing Bird 2 Showing at The Blue Room Theatre
12 – 29 November 2013
The Blue Room Theatre
53 James Street
Perth Cultural Centre
Northbridge WA 6003

Featuring: Jacqui Claus // Director + Concept: Sally Richardson // Movement Director: Danielle Micich // Assistant Director: Katya Shevtsov // Vision Design + Film Production + Editor: Ashley de Prazer // Set + Costume Design: Fiona Bruce // Sound design + Production: Joe Lui + Kingsley Reeve // Lighting Design: Joe Lui // Dramaturg: Humphrey Bower + Sally Richardson

standing bird: Interview with Sally Richardson

Posted by Morgan Leek, January 18th, 2012

Sally Richardson is one of those all-round amazing ladies. She writes and directs her own projects, produces large-scale arts events and recieves countless awards for her efforts, including a 2009 Helpmann for Best Presentation for Children for The PromiseThis week I talked to Sally about her new work standing bird, a dance/theatre/film performance happening at PICA as part of The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights and Fringe World. Performed by Jacqui Claus, standing bird explores a woman’s encounter with the Australian landscape – an experience of submersion, dislocation, isolation and transformation.

standing bird

Pictured: Jacqui Claus, rehearsal for standing bird (2012) Photo: Ashley de Prazer

Sally Richardson (SR) and Sarah Rowbottam (Sarah)

Sarah. First up, briefly tell me about yourself.
SR. I am a mother, an artist, and a creative arts worker and facilitator. I was born in Melbourne but grew up in WA. My creative practice is based in WA but I have worked regularly in the performing arts across Australia since 1993. I am passionate about exploring who we are and our relationship to this place and space. What is the story we wish to tell, and the various ways we can tell it.

Sarah. What is the story behind creating standing bird?
The story or narrative for the work is simple. It follows a woman’s journey through the Australian landscape from the sea into the interior, the heart – It is a journey of the self. These environments are territories of the emotions and represent aspects of her life, fragments of experiences, punctuated by ‘abruptions’ or crisis that instigate metamorphosis and transformation. Visibly she moves from a contemporary urban superficial image of a standing bird, into the empowered animal that is the timeless spirit bird, her self.

The work is in four distinct and discreet sections; Shipwrecked, Beach, Swamp & Bird – they are the movements of a score, chapters in a book or single portraits, if you like. The spaces in between are the practical and perfunctory set up preparations made visible to the audience. We move lights, equipment and the performer changes costume, giving the audience the opportunity to engage both with the ‘character’  and the authentic construction of the performance.

This project has been in evolution for several years, and we have undertaken a number of developments exploring key themes, narratives, and forms to find the synthesis that represents the spartan and essentialist version that has become the current standing bird.

These developments have explored multiple physical languages working with different forms of choreographic practice and methodology, theatre and performance making (inc puppetry), live music, sound and vision design. (early workshop footage can be viewed on you tube)


Pictured: Shona Erskine, Eliza (2009) Photo: Ashley de Prazer

Over several years we produced and presented several short dance films (Eliza and Standing Bird) and a short dance work (Standing Bird choreographed and performed by Paea Leach) featured as part of Strut’s shortcuts season in 2010. (also on You tube)

The ‘we’ has involved a number of collaborators over this period and these include: Shona Erskine, Paea Leach, Jacob Lehrer, Philip Mitchell, Chrissie Parrott, with Kingsley Reeve, Danielle Micich, Ashley de Prazer continuing throughout the project alongside newer standing bird co-creators Humphrey Bower, Fiona Bruce, Kyle Morrison & Mike Nanning.

Fiona de Garis has been our producer since the projects inception. She is the definition of rock.

Sarah. You have been rehearsing standing bird intensively since Christmas. Take us through one of your favourite rehearsal days thus far.
SR. That’s tricky – each day brings new discoveries, un-coveries, sudden leaps in understanding and realisation. So no single day is more ‘stand out ‘than any other.

Sarah. What do you hope an audience member will take away from standing bird?
SR. To have undertaken a rich emotional and physical journey with the performer that is beautiful, powerful, moving and meaningful. To have experienced a visceral and authentic connection with the performer and her story.

standing bird rehearsals

Pictured: Jacqui Claus, rehearsal for standing bird (2012) Photo: Sally Richardson
Sarah. For standing bird you are working with one of my favourite Perth dancers Jacqui Claus. Why did you choose to collaborate with Jacqui?
SR. I have watched and enjoyed Jacqui’s work over a number of years here in WA, and particularly enjoyed her powerful dynamism and compelling physicality as a performer. I wanted to see her have the opportunity to extend her emotional and physical range. To find new layers,  a subtlely within the largesse and expansiveness she already offers an audience.

Not just any performer has the physical range, nor can sustain the emotional depth that is required in a full length solo work. Jacqui is ready for a work that demands a great deal of her, more than she has done before.

Sarah. Performing a full length solo dance work seems like a rare opportunity in Perth. What is special about making solo work?
It offers a unique performer and audience relationship. It is intimate, honest and revealing as solo work takes us to core of the human experience of self. It its creation it is intense, demanding, and detailed work.

The relationship between you and the artist is at the core of the work, so there needs to be honest open communication, and genuine collaboration. There is a dance between us as we make the work together. As I said previously it requires an intelligent, committed artist who has a dynamic performance range and stamina.

standing bird rehearsal

Pictured: Jacqui Claus, rehearsal for standing bird (2012) Photo: Sally Richardson

Sarah. standing bird is co-created by Danielle Micich, Ashley de Prazer, Jacqui Claus and yourself. How do you negotiate making work when there are so many equal voices? How do you achieve a clear articulation of your combined vision?
In coming in to the process for this presentation of standing bird.. I spent focused time by myself, and then in one on one conversation with a dramaturg I trust.

I feel I came into the rehearsal stage of the project with clear objectives and story boards about what I wanted to explore and potentially achieve. How this is delivered shifts and alters inevitably through the co-creative process – but ultimately I am not asking of my co-creators to tell me what the work is about. So we are working together to explore, develop and realise a core vision. That I have generated.

We also have previous history of collaboration, with some of the team over many years, so there is an inherent trust and already a proven ability to work together.

Sarah. How do you feel about self-funded work?
SR. That it is inevitable at times. Positive – I do get to do it the way I want to. Work at my own pace, in my own way. I don’t have to aquit the production! It puts all kinds of obstacles (and limitations) in place, which can be good (and not so good) You pull a lot of favours – (special thanks to Yirra Yaakin). It has felt really rewarding that this talented and experienced group of artists believe in my work to give of their time (and money) to create this together

Sarah. What advice would you give to young aspiring artist looking to develop their craft?
DO it – don’t wait to be asked (or funded). Practice- really means that. GO and see work, all kinds. Ask people to help you (support, advice, whatever) – they can only say no and most times they don’t

Sarah. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you in your career?
Lots on the list – touring your work to major festivals, and internationally, but really? The present moment – Right NOW feels really good – to be in a studio with great people making stuff – nothing better


standing bird
7 – 10 & 12 Feb 2012
PICA Performance Space
All shows 9.30pm
Tickets: $30*

*Save $5 and book early with The Blue Room Theatre  (08) 9227 7005 or book online

Presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights and Sally Richardson in association with PICA
Created by
 Sally Richardson, Danielle Micich, Ashley de Prazer and Jacqui Claus
with contributions from Paea Leach and Shona Erskine
Sound: Kingsley Reeve with Kyle Morrison
Dramaturgy: Humphrey Bower
Lighting: Mike Nanning
Costume: Fiona Bruce
Producer: Performing Lines WA