INTERVIEW: Dances with Wollstonecraft
From The West Australia.
Acclaimed WA contemporary dance company Co3’s artistic director Raewyn Hill is nothing if not realistic about the role of dance in the community.
“Dance isn’t the be‐all‐and‐ end‐all of art forms,” she admits. “There are so many different voices that make up a community. People engage with different forms of communication and there are lots of things you can say without the voice.
“Dancers happen to use their bodies to tell stories and it doesn’t really matter to me what the genre is: hip‐hop, classical or contemporary. But I do understand some people don’t connect to dance. For me as artistic director of Co3, I’m realistic about that.”
Which is why, she continues, 2017’s program is such a diverse one. “We try to make meaning,” she says.
Resident at State Theatre Centre of WA, Co3 next year presents two major new works. Frank Enstein is the result of a partnership between Co3 and The Farm directors Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood, and is a dance‐theatre retelling of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Gothic classic for the whole family.
“I call Gavin and Grayson my two cowboys,” Hill laughs. “They really push the envelope. Frank Enstein is going to be a phenomenal work, beautifully humorous, profound and confronting with a unique visual and physical style. We’re already getting bookings for its Studio Underground run here in April.”
The second major offering is September’s THE ZONE at the Heath Ledger Theatre, “an explosive dance work that explores the notion of community forming in extraordinary circumstances”, choreographed by Hill with music by Eden Mulholland and sets by Japanese architect Satoshi Okada.
Then there is a collaboration with the Sydney Dance Company, Crazy Times, created especially for primary school‐aged children by choreographer Anthony Hamilton and dramaturge Matthew Whittet, which has its Australian premiere at the Sydney Opera House in March before coming to Perth and regional WA.
“This is the first time in 47 years the Sydney Dance Company has commissioned a work specifically for children and they looked to us as experts for programming for young people,” Hill says. “It’s a beautiful opportunity for us to join forces.”
Another partnership Hill is excited about is the continuing relationship between Co3 and the Art Gallery of WA, Reason for Being. The residency this year attracted more than 5000 people “to view the company in action and engage with the creative process along the way”.
Here, Hill’s pragmatic approach to her craft again comes through. “I’m very aware our art form can appear a little bit abstract and it can be difficult to find access points,” she says. “Reason for Being is a way for the community to meet me and get used to my style of making, and it’s been phenomenally rewarding. It’s a great way of being transparent about our way of working as dancers and choreographers.”
Also in 2017, Co3 invites the prolific WA artist and dance maker Chrissie Parrott to develop her most recent work, Elk.
“In 2017 we’re launching Co:Lab as a way to begin to support choreographic voices of the local independent dance community in Perth,” Hill says. “We also welcome the inaugural Co:Lab artist Tyrone Robinson to the Co3 family.”
This nurturing is again reflected in the strengthening of the Act‐Belong‐Commit Co:Youth Ensemble, the centrepiece of the company’s community engagement program.
It offers 60 young dancers regular training and development and there are three performance outcomes next year, including a new co‐presentation with companies LINK and Tracksuit.
The program also includes a remounted tour of Paper Scissors Rocket! created by independent WA artists UnKempt Dance, which will be performed alongside Barking Gecko’s presentation of Saltbush at the State Theatre Centre of WA in July.