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Dance (Lens) — Material Moves

Siobhan Murphy

'Uath Lochans' (2015), by Katrina McPherson, Simon Fildes & Marc Brew.

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Curated by Siobhan Murphy, material moves considers how screendance makers use material specificity to engage with sites. Dance on screen is often located in sites and situations away from theatres and studios. Sometimes sites are used as an alternative ‘stage’, furnishing an engaging backdrop to the dance. In contrast to this approach, the films in this collection engage with the materials specific to their locations as a means of grafting movement to site, using water, paint, dust, fabric, sand, grass and debris to mark and move the dancing.

Uath Lochans (2015), by Katrina McPherson, Simon Fildes & Marc Brew

A solo dancer and a physical, visceral experience of place, filmed at Uath Lochans ( (pronounced “wah lochans”; it means the hawthorn small lochs), on the edge of the Cairngorm Mountains in the Scottish Highlands. The film was commissioned through the Water & Glass project, produced by Peter Royston and funded by Perth & Kinross Council and Creative Scotland.

Commissioned through the Water & Glass project produced by Peter Royston, (Dance Development Perth & Kinross Council).

Camera: Katrina McPherson
Edit: Simon Fildes
Dance: Marc Brew
Music: David Lintern and James Weaver

Quarantine (2007), by Gabri Christa

Set in an old Quarantine Building for enslaved Africans, a young man (Kyle Abraham) enters the building, while being observed by an elder man (Marcel Stomp). Dance mixes contemporary with hip-hop and Music mixes rap and Curacao’s Tambu music, both social commentary style of music, mixing languages of both music and dance. The film is the first one in the ANOTHER BUILDING series that places dance and narrative in and around building and sites related to the Dutch Colonial History.

Creator, Director, Producer: Gabri Christa
Choreographer, Dancer: Kyle Abraham
Composer: Vernon Reid

Little Farewells, by Shantel Liao

A slice of time during the global pandemic of 2020.

A fictional experience based on what we all shared in the year of 2020, with the covid-19 lockdown. It is the moment that language no longer seems to hold a sense of reality. When she is all on her own, the world she used to know turned into something extreme.

Director: Shantel Liao
Choreographer: Hang Ning
Composer: Nozom Yoenda

Plant (2007), by Olive Bieringa

plant demonstrates our hybrid investigations between the languages of choreography, site work, video art, film and sound composition. Like an alternative music video where the music consists of a bullet rolling across broken cement, three men engage in acts of quiet violence and noisy interaction. plant engages us in a visceral hallucination amidst the ruins of an abandoned munitions factory in Minnesota.

Having developed several works in spectacular wilderness landscapes we have also been drawn to ordinary, broken or forgotten spaces, where nature is reclaiming the cement. As opposed to traditional narrative structures my work investigates the sensorial experience these places conjure in our bodies and imaginations. This abandoned military facility was designed to manufacture smokeless gunpowder and propellant in 1945. It was in operation for three months before the war came to an end.

The cast includes Otto Ramstad, Colin Rusch, and Bryce Beverlin, all men of military age. Our working process was fluid and intuitive, a counter to the history of the site, an unfolding of images and experiences provoked by it. The conscious of a country at war on others territory became an unconscious aspect of our process. It is difficult to imagine what it is like to fight a war if you don’t have direct experience. A space like this engages this question, which at once compels and repulses. Images emerged of men working together, seeking companionship, finding humor, struggling, broken, dying, men with secrets, erupting nightmares, forgotten soldiers, prisoners of war.

We shot the film in 2004 on mini DV. As a camera person I consider myself inside the action, inside the dance as it is taking place. I too am dancing with my attention, with the lens of the camera. The acoustic qualities of the space were incredible. We shot a long improvisation with Beverlin traveling through the site playing sound with and on objects he found along the way.

As an editor it took me a long period of time to embrace the rawness of this footage and find a structure for the edit. Eventually I realized it was not about pristine images, but a gritty and dynamic ones like a war documentary or action film. From this perspective I completed the edit in 2007. I began by cutting a sound track from the onsite sound improvisations. It was the first time I have included dialogue in a dance film work and am very interested in how the words engage the consciousness of the viewer in a different way and transform the reading of the visual image.” Olive Bieringa, Cameraperson + Editor

Where the Desert Meets the Sea (2014), by Mariaa Randall

Young people from Leramugadu / Roebourne in the remote Pilbara dance in response to their homeland – where the desert meets the sea.

Deep listening and community consultation gave rise to the award-winning intercultural project Yijala Yala (both words meaning ‘now’ in the local Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi languages). Initially spanning 5 years Yijala Yala brought new opportunities to Roebourne. It developed new skills, built stronger futures for its young people, helped reshape the community’s story and highlighted the value of its cultural heritage. Professional choreographers, musicians, digital artists and film makers, guided by cultural elders, worked in collaboration with the young people to create digital comics, short films, and performance pieces including Where the Desert Meets the Sea. Big hART and the community of Roebourne continue this partnership today through the New Roebourne project, currently touring a concert of songs written by professional musicians with community members from all local language groups and with inmates at the regional prison. Songs for Freedom aims to highlight the injustice of the high rates of incarceration of aboriginal youth across Australia.

Director: Mariaa Randall
Producer: Debra Myers
Choreography: Mariaa Randall and Gerard Veltre
Music: Stuart Thorne
Performers: Aisha Newland, Alison Lockyer, Claude Eaton, Layla Walker, Maverick Eaton, Shamara Lockyer, Sidney Eaton, Vynka Parker

This film was created with support from Woodside Energy through its conservation agreement with the Australian Government.

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Siobhan Murphy choreographs and directs dance on screen and publishes writing in the field of dance studies.  She is based near Naarm, Melbourne. Her current projects focus on the intersection of solo dance and portraiture, seen in recent journal articles, podcasts, screendance curation and screendance works on this theme.

Dance (Lens) 2023 is supported by the Besen Family Foundation.

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