Gretel has created many site-responsive performance works and evolved an improvised dance practice, which she calls ‘locating’. She facilitates and curates art projects that respond to site and situation, often reflecting upon social, ecological and historical layers of place. Since 2014, Gretel has been an artist/research fellow at University of Melbourne, collaborating on ARC Discovery Project ‘Challenging Stigma’ led by sociologist Deb Warr, exploring potentials between site-specific art and community cultural development with residents of neighborhoods in Victoria and Tasmania. Gretel completed a practice-led PhD, Locating: Place and the Moving Body, in 2009, and has lectured in Live Art and Performance Studies at RMIT, Victoria University and Monash University. She has facilitated Body Weather training and sensory perception workshops for over 10 years and continues her solo and collaborative performance practice, exploring experiences and identities in relation to place.
The paper advocates for the possibilities of dance in community development and place-making contexts through its proposition of a ‘phenomenology of belonging’. From her vantage as facilitator/director of video series Dancing Place, the author observes sensory interactions between participants’ bodies and the sites in which they performed, as enhancing relationality between participants and place.
Conceived as part of an ARC Discovery Project exploring potentials of artistic methods to challenge neighbourhood-based stigma, led by sociologist Deborah Warr, and employing the expertise of screendance artist Dianne Reid to create the video works, Dancing Place invited diverse residents of Wyndham, Victoria, to dance to their favourite music in their favourite local sites. Through reflection upon the project, the author teases out issues of visibility, embodiment, identity, marginalisation and changing relationships to place.
The participants of varied cultural and social backgrounds, age, gender and levels of dance training, inevitably chose to dance in very different styles and places. The paper explores some political and social ramifications of (being represented via video) dancing in relation to place for particular groups and individuals, and outlines the facilitating artist’s motivations for the project’s structural framework. Rather than presuming or contriving a unified ‘community’, the nine distinctively discrete videos were presented side by side, which collectively evoked a sense of co-presence, or parallel belonging.