The Niche Series

The Niche Series is a body of work created by choreographer Sue Healey during 2002 – 2003. It demonstrates how one choreographer meets the challenges posed by new technologies and conflicting demands.

In a time of shrinking funds for the arts many eminent dance artists are seeking ways to extend the life of dance works through the use of video and film. The ever-evolving technologies which can enhance a dance production or aid in the conceptualisation of a new work have contributed much to this development. The Conceiving Connections research project has now conducted interviews with seven Australian artists who have made significant contributions to these new directions. Recordings of the interviews are held by the Oral History Department of the National Library of Australia (See publications, McKechnie, 'Oral history series'). Information regarding content and access can be found on the NLA website.

Individuals interviewed in 2003 include choreographers Sue Healey, Michelle Heaven, Chrissie Parrott, Hellen Sky, Anna Smith and media artists Margie Medlin and John McCormick.

Sue Healey, choreographer and film maker provdes the following information regarding the evolution of six works which began with the short film Niche in 2002 and were subsequently developed in several media and shown in different venues over the next eighteen months. Her notes provide an example of one artist's response to the challenges now facing many in the world of dance. Two short films and an excerpt from Fine Line Terrain were part of the forum "Unspoken Knowledges" An Umbrella Event of the 2003 Melbourne Festival.

Notes by Sue Healey—June 2003

The Niche series is devoted to the choreographed body and its intricate occupation of space: from geographical exploration of the imagination, to fantasies on habit, habitat and habitation. It has traversed film, live performance, installation and international collaboration.

6 works have been created in this series during 2002/2003. With each work shaping its own place and context - but all sharing the 'potency of the experience of space'.

  • Niche the film
  • Niche live solo
  • Niche/salon installation
  • Niche/Japan, an international collaboration with dancers from The Aichi Arts Centre
  • Fine Line Terrain a major company work in Australia
  • Fine Line a film

The Niche series has been developed over several years, in association with lead performer Shona Erskine and Victor Bramich, Lisa Griffiths, Nelson Reguera Perez, Nalina Wait and dancers from The Aichi Arts Centre in Nagoya, Japan. It has received additional funds from NSW Ministry for the Arts, The Aichi Arts Centre, The Myer Foundation, Australia Council and sponsorship from UNSW (and The Conceiving Connections Research Project).

The effect of the work is cumulative. It elucidates the evolution of a simple choreographic idea into a complex array of forms. It is a reflection on the hybridisation of film, dance and architecture. The Niche series has been an extensive journey, a moving geography, a mapping of the ways of being in touch with each other and the environment.

The work is accessible to a broad audience while being choreographically rigorous and challenging. The main live component of the series - Fine Line Terrain -was created with a development grant from the Australia Council. This full length work was performed in early March 2003 in a season at Bangarra Theatre, Sydney. This short season of 3 performances, gained excellent feedback:

...there was so much substance in Sue Healey's Fine Line Terrain that it could have been overwhelming had it not been for the quality and character of the dancing and the clarity of presentation....the choreography is a dynamic mix of natural and highly stylised movement, sharp and creamy phrasing, stillness and action...a memorable performance. Jill Sykes (Sydney Morning Herald)

Fine Line Terrain is the result of research undertaken in The Niche series and illustrates the significant success of a long and systematic development period. With only a small creative development grant, I was able to create and complete this work and it is now ready for international touring. In essence, the many years of research from the Niche series has enabled me to create this work cost-effectively. It could not have been made without the consolidation of several years of intense research through the series.

On a personal artistic level, the development of my choreographic ideas through this series has been immensely rewarding. Each part has allowed a deeper and more complex investigation of the ongoing theme of the inhabitation of space. I have never before experienced such a fluid creative process and I believe that Fine Line Terrain has achieved a level of intricacy and sophistication that has been my objective for many years. I was able to give employment opportunities and professional development for 5 dancers and 4 artistic collaborators, further deepening my working relationship with composer Darrin Verhagen, film-maker Louise Curham, lighting designer Joseph Mercurio and dancer Shona Erskine. The project also enabled me new collaborations with artists I have long admired - Michael Pearce and the 4 other dancers Victor, Lisa, Nelson and Nalina.

Audiences for this series have been diverse and numerous

  • The film NICHE has been screened in Italy, Holland, United Kingdom, Japan, NZ, Spain and Monaco and numerous Australian festivals, winning Highly Commended Reeldance 2002, nominated for Best danec film Ausdance awards 2002 and was one of five finalists in the prestigious IMZ competition in Monaco 2002.
  • Niche-solo was shown to an invited audience at the Figtree theatre, UNSW, July 2002.
  • Niche-salon was performed at Antistatic Festival The Performance Space, Sydney and was described by Erin Brannigan in Realtime as a 'delicately and finely honed work evoking magical transformations of proto-cinematic effects.' October 2002
  • Niche-Japan enjoyed a sell-out season at The Aichi Arts Centre, Nagoya Japan with a company of 12 Japanese dancers and Shona Erskine, December 2002. It also was performed in Togo-town and Toyohashi as a 'work in progress'.
  • Fine Line Terrain was performed in Sydney in a short season with a capacity crowd in the Bangarra theatre. Excerpts from Fine Line Terrain have also been shown in Bodyworks at Dancehouse March 2003.

The film, Fine Line, winner of the Australian Dance Awards 'Best Dance Film' in 2003, is the last component of the NICHE series. It completes the process from film/solo, to live solo, to installation, to live company work, to filmed company work. The filming was completed in June 2003 and was shown with live excerpts from Fine Line Terrain as part of the Unspoken Knowledges forum in Melbourne, October 2003. The full length work toured to the Auckland Dance Festival in November 2003 and has a formal season at the Sydney Opera House in 2004.

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