Twilight: a new work by Cheryl Stock for Dancenorth’s 30th anniversary

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2015 is the 30th anniversary of the formation of Dancenorth as a professional contemporary dance company in Townsville, and previously the company has undertaken large-scale community projects. The last time Dancenorth led such a project was in 1994 when founding artistic director Cheryl Stock directed the memorable Meet me at Kissing Point—a project that even today is still remembered locally.

Cheryl Stock, now an Artistic Advisor to Dancenorth, could see the potential to mount a similar project to highlight Dancenorth’s cultural vibrancy in Townsville as well as to celebrate 30 years of Dancenorth and its artistic contribution to the community. She was inspired to make a new work to honour the Townsville community which was such an integral and enriching part of her life for 11 years. While Meet me at Kissing Point was her farewell thank you to Townsville, Twilight celebrates the present; embracing the renewed company vision of quality performance with ongoing engagement in and with the community.

Three young men perform Parkour on a flight of steps. Two jump from the steps' concrete wall railings while one balances his bicycle on a steel hand rail.Rhys Kirk, Borys Zagrocki (on bike) and Nathan Wood from Townsville Parkour group working on site. Photo: Ashley McLellan

Cheryl has directed similar dance-led, interdisciplinary projects around the world: most recently Naik Naik for the Melaka Performance and Arts Festival in Malaysia, a collaborative multi-site work with Australian and Malaysian artists; accented body, a site-specific international collaboration involving 30 artists from five countries across six outdoor and indoor sites at the Creative Industries Precinct with interactive streaming to and from Seoul and London for the Brisbane Festival; and here/there/then/now, a performance project which brought together 11 artists in dance, music, visualisation and video to evoke four discrete sites at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

In the last eight months, Dancenorth has regained its sense of 'connection to place' within the community by developing its audiences and participation through cultural engagement. This change is not simply about increased attendances. It is also about involving the audience in myriad ways, adding to the already existing program of providing workshops for community and educational groups. Twilight is another means of developing ongoing relationships with diverse sectors of the community to sustain and strengthen the cultural dynamism of the region, whilst consolidating its role as a creator and producer of high quality innovative contemporary dance.

Project concept—‘sensing sea, sky and earth in connection to place’

The multi-site project Twilight will see the audience “explore” the environs of the Jezzine Barracks area by moving with the performers in a guided ‘promenade’ event. Spectators move around and through the chosen sites in a dusk to dark dance and music journey along the winding pathways of Jezzine Barracks, to celebrate its special magic at the twilight hour. Featuring 130 performers from the Townsville community in ten short performance episodes across ten sites, Twilight will encourage the audience to experience the beauty and poetry of Jezzine Barracks in new and surprising ways.

The concept for this community event is based on the special ambience of the area at twilight, which invokes contemplation, memories and story-telling—and in the tropics, a renewed energy as the cool of the evening drifts in. Background research and liaison with Indigenous advisors and participants of the area and military personnel are being consulted in planning and realising the work.

Conceived and directed by Cheryl Stock, in collaboration with musical director and composer Ng Chor Guan from Malaysia, the performance itself will comprise 11 small performance sections working with 11 community groups in as many sites around Jezzine Barracks. Each group will be led by one of the Dancenorth dancers (who will also perform in the final section of the work) and Dancenorth’s cultural engagement facilitator, Susan, who is assisting in coordinating the project. These sections will be approximately 5-7 minutes, with each group developing individual responses to their chosen site.

A man and two women stand in front of a rocky outcrop in a native parkland setting. The sun is harsh and one woman shields her eyes from the glare with her hands. They all wear shorts and t-shirts and other woman is faces them talking.From left to right: Andre Reynaud (production manager), Susan Van Den Ham (cultural engagement facilitator), Cheryl Stock (Twilight director/creative producer) on site at Jezzine Barracks. Photo: Ng Chor Guan

An overarching thread to interconnect the diverse sections has emerged through working on the sites themselves, based on what the sites at twilight evoke—the magic hour between day and night when anything is possible...  Musically and choreographically it will be eclectic but will cohere into one journey of many parts. This is evolving as the content for each site is created from the various groups. The natural sounds of the sites will be evoked, such as rustlings in the breeze, the pervasive sound of insects and birds at dusk, and the sound of the sea.  Music composer and director Ng Chor Guan will combine original compositions together with improvised scores in a combination of live and recorded music, including interactive interventions in real time. There is the potential for a mobile phone orchestra of sea (or other) sounds accessed by the audience from a website during certain parts of the promenade journey. Text that has emerged in the form of poetic fragments of stories provided by participants in response to the sites is being incorporated into the sound score.

Participating groups range from an over 60s yoga group and a group with disabilities, to an energetic Parkour group including parkour on bike, and a drumming group, as well as participants from the Barrier Reef Orchestra and acclaimed Aquapella choir. Youth groups comprise dance students from two local high schools.

Secondary school students walking, sitting and laying on a pathway in a garden setting. Others stand waiting on at the top of a flight of steps looking down at a performance director who stands facing them. Left: Dance students from Kirwan State High School on site. Right: Dancenorth dancer Mason Kelly taking rehearsal with Kirwan State High School students. Photos: Cheryl Stock.

The two sunset performances on 2 and 3 October will begin at 5.45 pm with a Welcome to country by Wulgurukaba elder Virginia Wyles, accompanied by a smoking ceremony and creation dances by the Ngulumburu Boonyah Women’s Group. Pathways have been carefully chosen so that those unable to manage stairs will have an alternative route on the sloping ramps. Many sections will unfold as the audience travels with the performers while others feature short performances for audiences to stop and observe.

Guides wearing Dancenorth Twilight shirts will assist audience members to traverse the sites while logistics will be provided by the company’s production staff and crew.

Twilight event details

  • Dates: Friday 2 and Saturday 3 October 2015
  • Venue: Jezzine Barracks, Townsville
  • Time: 5.45 pm to gather at entrance
  • Duration: approximately 75 minutes