Brolga 37 an Australian journal about dance

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In This Article


by Alan Brissenden

The first online issue of Brolga, so imaginatively conceived and edited by Amanda Card, concentrated solely on Martin del Amo’s Anatomy of an Afternoon and its performance by Paul White. By contrast, issue 37 ranges widely—geographically as well as in its discussions of different kinds of people and different styles of dance.

Nina Levy ponders the pros and cons of artistic mentorship/collaboration exemplified by Future Landings, an Ausdance WA project involving city and country-based dance artists who created works in four Western Australian places—Denmark, Albany, Bunbury and Busselton. The description and investigation of the methods and the relationships that developed and of the results produced have useful lessons for anyone concerned with collaboration and with the influence community can have on the creative process.

While new dances were so recently being made on Australia’s west coast, well over half a century ago a young New Zealander, Shona Dunlop, was performing new modern dances by Gertrud Bodenwieser, the Austrian choreographer and teacher who settled in Sydney in 1939 and became a major influence in her adopted country.

When Shona married Donald MacTavish, a missionary, she added his name to hers, and her dance interests developed with anthropological flavours as they moved from one country to another. Jonathan Marshall of Otago University makes a critical analysis of Shona Dunlop MacTavish’s career in a richly detailed essay which provides a splendid introduction to her own briefer account of indigenous dance in the Philippines in the 1970s, when she held the post of Professor of Dance at Silliman University at Negros.

Hahna Briggs and Motohide Miyahara, also from Otago, and Alexandra Kolb, who has recently moved from there to Middlesex University, have combined to write ‘Able as Anything’, a deeply thought discussion on integrated dance—dance involving people with and without disability.

By focussing on integrated danced in New Zealand, they are adding significantly to international considerations of the subject, which are mostly centred on Britain and America. Significantly, their sometimes challenging ideas are illuminated by analyses of works performed by New Zealand’s first integrated dance company, Touch Compass.

From Aotearoa the Land of the Long White Cloud to an old goldmining town in Australia, Ballarat, where David Wynen, who lectures in dance and movement at Ballarat University, was commissioned to create a Bollywood style work for a Commonwealth Games event. Bollywood Meets Tap, his sprightly account of the journey to performance, involves research, problems with time and money, the melding of different styles, and negotiations with bureaucrats.

And just as our last issue of Brolga heralded a new era, the current issue is also able to break new ground simply because we are now online. We have provided a video link to add to the still images illustrating David Wynen’s article.

As is inevitable, the year has seen the loss of friends and others who have contributed to the dance community. Two of particular significance deserve mention, and both moved from dance into teaching movement to drama students. Keith Bain OAM, who died on 4 July aged 85, was a schoolteacher who came to dance late, studied and appeared with Bodenwieser, was a ballroom dancing champion, helped establish Ausdance in 1977 and began the annual Dancers’ Picnic which became the Australian Dance Awards.

As teacher of movement at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) for over 35 years he influenced hundreds of students, among them Cate Blanchett, Baz Luhrmann, Mel Gibson, Geoffrey Rush, Miranda Otto, John Bell and a whole universe of other stars. His book, Keith Bain on Movement, edited by Michael Campbell, is reviewed in this issue.

Zora Semberova, who died in Adelaide on 9 October, would have been 100 years old on 13 March 2013. In December 1938 in Brno, Czechoslovakia, she was the first person to dance Juliet to Prokofiev’s music. Later she became a famous teacher in Prague, numbering Jirí Kylián among her students, but came to Adelaide in 1968, where she taught movement in the drama department at Flinders University. Her students there included theatre director Gale Edwards, actors Noni Hazlehurst and Glyn Nicholas, film director Scott Hicks and designer Michael Pearce. Like Keith Bain, Zora Semberova received many awards and honours, particularly from her homeland, where she continued to be revered.

And, of endings, this is my last issue as editor of Brolga. Maggi Phillips will begin her editorship with the issue of June 2013, and with my grateful good best wishes. I have many people to thank—first of all, Julie Dyson, who invited Robin Grove and me to be co-editors in 2006, and who has also retired—an event commemorated in Shirley McKechnie’s tribute on page 4.

Sadly, Robin was unable to continue owing to a debilitating illness, but his wise, well-informed counsel was always generously given when sought. A wonderfully talented man, a warm friend and a valued member of the dance and academic communities, Robin died on Christmas morning 2012 with his wife, Lis and other members of his family at his bedside. He is greatly missed. I am grateful to the guest editors who have suggested ideas and themes and then carried them through.

I have received indispensable help and encouragement from the various members of the advisory board, from Leanne Craig and the team at Ausdance National, and from our designer, David Bonsall. I could not have managed the job without the loving support of my wife, Elizabeth. Thank you, one and all.


Facilitated marriages

This paper outlines the Future Landings project run by Ausdance WA, examining how the artistic relationships between the choreographers played out, and suggests steps that may be taken to ensure that such ‘facilitated marriages’ have the best chance of success.

Able as anything: integrated dance in New Zealand

This paper firstly examines theoretical perspectives on dance and disability with a discussion of the ideal dancing body and strategies for how the disabled body may reiterate or disrupt such constructions. Secondly, it presents concrete analyses of two works by Touch Compass as an illustration of the ways in which disability and the dancing body on stage are constructed through choreographic imagery and iconography.

Ausdruckstanz, faith and the anthropological impulse

Jonathan Marshall elaborates on Shona's own research into indigenous and ‘tribal’ dance in the Philippines, drawing links between the early history of modernist dance in Europe and the German language states, and later developments in the Asia-Pacific, New Zealand, and Australia. Particular attention is paid to the often neglected issue of religion and spirituality, with MacTavish’s project being identified as a specifically Christian ecumenical approach.