yin & yang Raewyn Hill & Richard Longbottom
Katherine Fleming, West Weekend
Their marriage didn’t last but Raewyn, 45, and Richard, 41, are still dancing together.
I started ballet at age five, plus my surname is Longbottom so that was always good fun. I ended up at the New Zealand School of Dance, then started to notice Raewyn around the contemporary dance scene. She was an incredible performer, one of the strongest I’ve ever seen.
I got a job with Royal New Zealand Ballet where Rae was doing classes. I thought I was pretty cool, gave her the “hey, what’s up, chur bro” in the hallway, which didn’t go down very well. In 2004, we met properly in Christchurch and the rest is history.
We were married for five years. In some ways, the work crushed our personal life. It’s not easy to achieve what we did; we always put the professional relationship first, consciously or subconsciously, and it probably destroyed our marriage. Thats OK, we all move on – Raewyn’s pregnant, sweet as, and I’m loving my life, so we all end up where we need to be.
We separated in 2012 and I went to work at TasDance, while Rae stayed in Townsville as artistic director of Dancenorth. We wanted to work together again, even though the personal stuff wasn’t falling back into place. In 2014, Rae was appointed artistic director here at Co3, then the Contemporary Dance Company of WA, and the next year, the community engagement role came up.
There are three pillars of Co3. There are the adult professionals who perform at the State Theatre Centre, and the youth program, which includes the elite training squad for kids interested in furthering their development. It’s about inspiring young dancers to be better people, really, providing a safe space for them to express themselves. The third arm is community and education; school dance incursions and workshops.
I have a real passion for education, so I bring that to Raewyn’s vision. To be honest, knowing each other so well can be tricky. We can cut corners with communication and that can end up in miscommunication, particularly now more times has passed since we were personal partners. We have to be careful we are both actually on the same page rather than just assuming we are because we used to be.
Raewyn is one of the most driven people I have ever met – once she sets her mind on something, it is very unusual she doesn’t achieve it. It’s inspiring and overwhelming at the sae time. Also I’m just a huge fan – some of the best contemporary dance has been created by Raewyn.
Rae operates in broad brushstrokes, while I’m in the detail. Sometimes she gets lost in that and it’s blue on Monday and red on Wednesday and pink on Friday. I’m like, “How did we get from blue to pink?! I was just about to roll out blue.” But that’s the vagaries of being a contemporary artist. I find it frustrating as executive director but I’ve learnt it’s necessary.
I first connected with Richard at the end of a ballet class. I thought he was really intense, which is funny, and he was high achieving and hard working. Then we worked together and got to hang out and I found he was thoughtful and caring and kinda funny. We are goal oriented and driven and have a deep passion for humanity. We had great conversations.
But the big driver for us was the work. It was really what we lived for and we still do, in part. We were two kids for Christchurch who wanted to make a difference in our industry. I believe we can make great change by working together. I feel more complete and driven when Richard is beside me; I feel stronger and able to make more courageous decisions. That was there from the beginning. Sometimes when were in my dressing room at the Bolshoi in Moscow with the borscht and beautiful flowers, or the Baryshnikov Arts Centre in New York or Julliard, we would just crack up, like, “How did we get here?” But we got there together, because we were a team.
We had an honest discussion and decided we were better at working together. I’m five days off giving birth to my miracle child with my new partner. It’s next level really, going through a courtship, a marriage, a divorce and coming back to work together. Sometimes it’s a bit surreal but it’s very special to have Richard so close. He will be big part of our baby’s life.
I knew I wanted him here at Co3 in some capacity. Richard fought hard for the position. We were so focused on projects and constant travelling and moving, you don’t often get the opportunity to sit back and admire what someone has achieved.
Richard comes from a family of educators and I love how he thinks and approaches our industry. He has the most phenomenal ability to run the abstract nature of contemporary dance into a written language. He is selfless in his approach to wanting people to be better and that is unusual in our industry, which is more focused on what you personally want to achieve.
The bigger picture versus detail thing does my head in. Sometimes I just want to dream … whereas Richard is thinking about how are we going to actually make this happen.
I think it works because we respect each other. It’s not easy to continue being with your ex but we made their commitment to be in each other’s lives for ever. I can put my hand on my heart and say we will see each other to the grave. It’s kind of beautiful.