Great Collaborations – Raewyn Hill & Eden Mulholland

Nina Levy, Dance Australia.


Raewyn Hill, artistic director of WA’s Co3, and Queensland-based composer, performer and film maker Eden Mulholland have collaborated on multiple dance projects. Their most recent work, THE ZONE, premiered in Perth in September to popular and critical acclaim.


Raewyn Hill

Nina Levy: How many works have you made with Eden? How long have you worked together?

Raewyn Hill: We’ve made about five works now. Eden was actually a dance student of mine – we’ve known each other for 20, maybe 25 years. It’s a bit blurry in terms of when we officially started collaborating because we had an ongoing conversation about life and philosophy and art and living for a long time.

Eden’s wife is Erynne Mulholland, who’s danced in almost every work I’ve made. She’s joined us as dance director [for Co3’s 2017 production, THE ZONE, for which Eden composed and performed the music]. It’s pretty phenomenal when you’ve got Eden making the music and Erin who can finish any sentences and can also read the unwritten language between a couple. It’s a beautiful triangle really.


NL: What made you decide to collaborate?

RH: Eden is a prolific writer [of music] for dance. He was always someone I dreamt about working with. I think the first big work we did was the cry [in 2010 when Hill was artistic director of Dancenorth and remounted on Co3 in 2016] where he performed live.


NL: Tell me about your process – how do you create work together?

RH: I talk about the cry and THE ZONE as collaborating in the way that we always dreamt which was, firstly, that Eden writes the music live in the studio from the beginning of rehearsals, so we can create together, and that, secondly, he performs live. We share images, research, writings, films, colours and sounds for months before a work actually begins and then we have some good conversations by email, text messages and phone (While he’s working on other projects overseas). Then when we start in the studio we have that foundation already in terms of where I’m looking to guide the work. We may have already decided on the sound palette. Then Eden sets his gear up and starts to write live. Sometimes it’s probably a bit frustrating for him because he’ll be making a particular sound and I’ll be tasking or directing something and I’ll suddenly yell “That sound there!” There’s constant dialogue between us in the studio. We’ll talk about the work as well, in terms of content or what he’s seeing. I rely on and respect his eye as well – it’s not just about the music.

Because Eden’s a dancer he understands dance – the language of dance, the nuances of our art form – in a way that is pure magic. Once we’ve written the score, then we’ll talk about the performance aspect of it, what he brings as a dancer, performer, a musician. Because he performs live, I thought about him, in terms of his place in THE ZONE, as a 12th dancer. The other incredible thing about Eden is that, when he’s playing live, he’s like a conductor because he understands momentum and flow. I think that’s why there’s such an incredible synergy when you see him playing live with the dancers, because he can read the language of the dancers. He’s a gift. He’s from another world.


NL: How do you complement one another as artists?

RH: Eden gives me confidence, courage and the capacity to dream, to think bigger, to be more courageous in my artistic decisions and sound palette. I trust him without question. I hope, in return, he feels that he has a freedom in his writing.


NL: Do you have any plans going forward to make work together?

RH: Yes, I don’t want to make a work without Eden. He completes my work in a way that is an absolute dream. So yes, there are plans, there are films. Eden’s an artist as well and we haven’t explored that avenue yet. He made a music video with our youth ensemble earlier this year, which will be released in a couple of weeks. It’s for his new album. So yes – this is a lifelong thing.


Eden Mulholland


Nina Levy: How long have you collaborating artistically with Raewyn?

Eden Mulholland: A few years now. The first thing we did was when she was at Dancenorth in Townsville. I met her when I was at dance school at the end of the 90’s but our paths never really crossed creatively until a few years ago. We’ve done four or five projects together.


NL: What made you decide to collaborate?

EM: I think through Erynne, my wife. We were living in Melbourne and Erynne wasn’t dancing at the time. Rae came into town with a show she was doing and went and saw it. They had a chance meeting which led to Erynne dancing with the company.

We got to know each other and she asked me to work for her. We landed up working on a development for a show. We clicked. I felt like I should just be myself and set up all my gear in the studio and making all this crazy stuff and she’d just yell out “yeah, I like that, I like that!”.


NL: Tell me about your process – how does it work?

EM: Rae is the driver of the projects. She has a vision, quite strong thematically. When I come on board she gives me a bunch of material, visual, abstract information that becomes a starting point. My main task, at the beginning, is to find a way in, to discover the world of the sound, the sound palette. That’s often the hardest thing. I feel like our relationship is quite intuitive as well. That’s probably the main thing I rely on, in terms of communication – trust. When there’s trust, artistic barriers can be broken. It’s about making strong offers and being brave. I think we both do that. The rest flows from there. We both know what we’re doing. She makes dance and I make music. There’s no deep philosophy behind that, which is cool.


NL: How do you complement one another as artists?

EM: I think Rae’s work can be really epic and grand. I reckon that’s a dying art in dance. I love music that is emotional and raw… and can hit a raw nerve and is a bit yucky sometimes but then really beautiful… exposes edges and curves and different shades of emotion. The way we complement each other is that we allow ourselves to go there fully. These days there’s a lot of work out there that’s cynical, self-referential, even apologetic. There’s a place for that kind of work, for cynicism… that’s the world we live in. But sometimes its cool when you make something that’s just escapism, that tells a strong story in the old-fashioned way. So I guess that we are both keen to affect people in that visceral way.


NL: What are the challenges of collaboration?

EM: It’s a pressure cooker for me – Rae works really quickly. We had five weeks to make THE ZONE from scratch, which is hard. I could probably wrote a whole score in a week in the studio but the way the relationship works is that I am in the studio creating at the same time [as Raewyn]. It’s great, I do enjoy that and it’s how we work together. I guess the difficult thing for me is that every single day that I attend rehearsals I am performing. So I get so exhausted because I am constantly, at every moment, trying to find something that is the best thing that I can find.

It’s quite intense because after a few weeks of that, I haven’t developed anything I haven’t fleshed out ideas, so it’s kind of this juggling act of developing a huge body of work so quickly and then spending the last two weeks developing and editing. And then figuring out what I’m going to play live and then learning that. Five weeks of that is quite full-on. I go home and work till 10pm after starting at 7am. And then you go to sleep and you dream about it and you wake up and go, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t sleep, I worked!’ It’s not work, it’s so much fun… but those are my pressures.


NL: I believe you’ve made a music video together – tell me about that

EM: We made this cool video with the Co3 Co:Youth ensemble, which I’m still in the process of finishing. It’s so cute, so beautiful. We shot it in this little theatre. We had a little wooden boat, and a smoke machine, and had them all lying down with their hands up, being the water. It’s got this strange Wes Anderson feeling, very odd.


NL: And what’s next for the two of you?

EM: There’s always things on the horizon. I go day by day. I go until someone tells me I have to be somewhere and then I go and do that. I can’t wait to do the next [collaboration]. It’s so nice when there’s a good response to shows that you’ve worked on. You don’t always get it.


Image by Stefan Gosatti.