AU ABROAD

the AU interview: Linda Luke talks about developing "Still Point Turning" & bringing contemporary dance to Western Sydney

A girl in a pink top faces the back of a darkened stage with bright white lights
Photo by Mayu Kanamori.

Following its premiere at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the solo performance - combining dance, video, sound and installation - Still Point Turning is coming to Western Sydney for four performances at the end of the month, presented by FORM Dance Projects. Choreographer Linda Luke will be performing the solo work, and our own Naomi Gall caught up with her to talk about the acclaimed and anticipated production:

Still Point Turning premiered at the Melbourne International Arts Festival on October 17 / 18 – what was the reception like to the work?

It was exciting to premiere at the Melbourne Festival. It is always such a wonderful moment when you first share a work with an audience. You feel the audience present and that connection tells you so much about the work and if it is communicating the way you planned. It’s good when people are back out in the foyer afterwards and talking. I received a great deal of positive feedback and the applause was warm and appreciative!

The work was initially inspired by the T.S Elliott poem Burnt Norton – what was it about this poem that caught your interest and how did it develop?

The poem has existed in my life for many years and I’d often sit and think about it. So using it as a starting point was a great opportunity to explore its depths in a studio. It’s a poem that explores the interiority of the self and so i felt it was a good starting place for a new solo work.

How long did it take to develop and choreograph the work?
The initial idea and development was in Los Angeles in 2010 as part of a dance residency. It was mentored by esteemed Japanese born bodyweather choreographer Oguri (www.lightningshadow.com). I further developed the piece in 2013 with a team of collaborators to build it as a multi media piece. The final rehearsal was in September 2014 to prepare for the premiere at Melbourne Festival.

Still Point Turning is having its Sydney premiere at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta in conjunction with FORM Dance Projects – what do you feel is the importance of bringing contemporary dance to Western Sydney?

My dance practice is called bodyweather. It was originally developed in Japan and therefore, has a strong Asian influence in terms of how the body fundamentally moves and how the choreography is developed. But my work also draws from western contemporary dance and performance practice, so it’s an interesting hybrid. I think it’s exciting to see and share all manner of dance to all parts of metropolitan and rural areas of Australia. It reflects the extraordinary diverse cultures that make up the people of our country and that is something that should be promoted and celebrated.

It seems as through this work you’re exploring contemporary cultures obsession with time and our inability to simply exist. What interests you about this area and how did it transform from an idea into a performance?

I’m interested in exploring the deeper undercurrents that we collectively experience and trying to capture that feeling to create a performance. My experience of life so far is that it is becoming more and more fragmented - we are becoming endlessly distracted and there are increased ‘choices’ to make. I think in the west we believe we are free but we are far from free. The invention of the clock - of precisely regulating time - the production of time, carving it up into little units and putting price tags on it, and not ‘wasting’ time which is almost a taboo – this all contributes to us feeling constrained and subtly anxious. Of course this is subjective, but I guess there are other’s who would agree. Making this into a performance was simply dropping down into my body in the studio and asking these questions as I worked. I usually work (and ironically) with a timer. For example: explore a question physically for ten minutes, notate in writing or drawings for five minutes; then repeat with a slightly different question and so forth. Eventually one starts to build a language for a particular piece.

Your work combines dance, sound, video and installation – how complicated it is to choreograph such diverse elements into one performance?

In one sense its simple. I have chosen very consummate collaborators in their respective art-forms: Martin Fox on video design, Clytie Smith as lighting designer and Vic McEwan who is the composer. The challenge is to layer and integrate the elements. This requires us as a team to work together, adapt and re-create as required so that a synthesis emerges to make the piece as a whole.

The phrases ‘clock time’ and ‘cosmic time’ have been mentioned in relation to Still Point Turning – can you elaborate on what you mean by that and their relationship to each other?

Clock time is something we invented to order our daily living and to feel a sense of control in our daily choices. Order, repetition and patterning seem to soothe the human soul. Cosmic time is something we know we cannot control. For example: the rising of the sun or moon, the time we are born and when we will die, how a flower blooms and wilts. Cosmic time has a will of it’s own. So does clock time I guess, but this is a complex topic – the question of time – is it fixed or flexible and what it is exactly? None of us know and that’s why its such an interesting topic to ponder upon. Our perception and experience of time is inexplicably tied in with our relationship to ourselves, each other and life. Big topic!

You both choreographed and are performing the solo performance – does it become more difficult when you adopt both roles?

Yes! It’s a challenge to dance in a piece and craft the piece into a performance. Sometimes, I’ve had a very kind dance colleague come in and ‘stand in’ for my movement which helped a lot. And then there are video recordings. Mostly, I need to close my eyes and ‘see’ the performance, moment by moment – and ideas emerge.

What would you like audiences to take away from Still Point Turning?

I like to think of Still Point Turning as a dance poem. With my team of collaborators, our aim is to create an immersive experience for the audience, so Id like to invite the audience not to ‘think’ so much about it’s meaning but to simply experience a journey. One reviewer referred to the piece as an immersive installation and not as a ‘dance piece’. I think that’s really interesting and asks the audience to question dance and performance not just as a form of ‘entertainment’ but as a place in which to share something else, something not so easily labelled as ‘this’ or ‘that’. I hope the audience experiences something that we don’t get to experience in our everyday – a quiet time to reflect and a time to immerse oneself in something else.

Will Still Point Turning be travelling anywhere else after Sydney?

Yes, we will be performing a version of Still Point Turning at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery on December 13th. It will be especially adapted to suit the gallery, which will be very exciting to do.

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Still Point Turning opens at the Lennox Theatre (Riverside Theatres in Parramatta) on the 27th of November, with four performances running through to the 29th. Tickets are $28 (Adult $25). To purchase (and for more details) head to: http://www.riversideparramatta.com.au/