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Beyond Technique at Bundanon

Aug 06, 2013

Bundanon Trust  has a long tradition as a creative hub for artists across all disciplines through its artist in residence program.  This July Philip Channells, Creative Director of Dance Integrated Australia, was appointed an Ambassador of the Artist in Residency program and took the Trust into new territory with the Beyond Technique Residency, a pilot program of disability-inclusive dance.

Gifted to Australia by Arthur and Yvonne Boyd, the Bundanon properties and collections have given Australia a unique cultural and environmental asset. Bundanon Trust operates on two sites: Riversdale and Bundanon, the latter of which is the site of the Artist in Residence complex, Bundanon Homestead and Arthur Boyd Studio.  The Trust is partially supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, which has provided funding in various forms since 2000.

Understanding the value of Bundanon Trust as a cultural asset, and identifying the need for greater disability-inclusive practice, Philip Channells committed to mounting a disability-inclusive residency at the Boyd Education Centre (BEC). Recognised as an advocate for and thought leader in disability arts practice, Philip has an ongoing, vested interest in disability-inclusive dance practice. According to Philip, ‘…this work is so incredibly important because without opportunities like this, the landscape for Australian dance remains constant and I’m willing and committed to fostering the growth of the industry as a real continuum in my practice.’

The Beyond Technique Residency ran from 10 – 12 July 2013 and consisted of two strands.  The first strand focused on solo-practice, led by Elizabeth Ryan, providing a starting point for future practice of five artists.  The second strand, led by Philip, focused on ensemble practice for nineteen artists. Asked to describe the energy around the residency, Philip responded:

‘It was really quite amazing because people from all around Australia and New Zealand had made such a commitment to be there. Although it was one of the few occasions in my career where I’d worked with a group where people without a disability were the minority, there was a point really early on in the first day where I thought, “gosh, I don’t really see anyone here with a disability, just an incredible bunch of talent all feeding off each other and stepping up to every challenge both Elizabeth (Ryan) and I presented.” The energy was really buzzing for the three days.’

The residency resulted in the first stage creative development of five solos and a forty minute showing of some of the ideas the ensemble had generated, using the nature and the architecture as a backdrop: ‘…it’s almost impossible not to when you’re working in such an incredible environment…’ states Philip.

Philip described some of the highlights of the viewing:

‘(Jianna) Georgiou, who chose to work close to the water and under a tree near the property’s entrance, invited the audience to witness her basking in the grass and autumn leaves at close range. (Joshua) Pether, who had been on the entire journey without the audience realising, suddenly broke away walking slowly out into the woods and into an amphitheatre in the final solo. His 10-minute work left the audience gasping when he suddenly disappeared close to the river’s edge in front of the Boyd Education Centre.’

Georgia Cranko, one of the five solo artists, commented on the experience of being involved in the residency:

‘In all the projects that I’ve been involved in with Philip Channells, he has created a working environment conducive to creativity and inclusion, which is a magical feat to include all abilities, and make it work.’

The intended outcome of the residency is to provide a launch pad for the development of work, which has the possibility of translating to artists both with and without disability developing and mounting new works. Asked whether he felt that the artists would continue developing the material from the residency, Philip stated that Jianna Georgiou has returned to Adelaide and has already started developing her solo work for a ChoreoLab  season through Ausdance SA .

As for developing the ensemble work, Philip is engaged in a project called Movements in the Landscape which is a film project that will span across the next three years.

‘We started the research for this just before the 3-day residency with local people from the Shoalhaven area and we’re looking to seek out more talent across generations. Bundanon received funding from the Australia Council’s Community Partnerships section for the films which is part of the Bundanon Trust : Local Project series. There were some really interesting ideas which sprung out of the Beyond Technique Residency which (cross fingers) I hope will lend nicely to film.’

Longer term, Philip’s intention with this pilot program is to put Bundanon Trust and NSW disability practice on the map by mounting an international dance-inclusive residency like UK’s Candoco International Lab.  With a view towards another program in 2014, Philip’s efforts may well contribute to the diversity of arts practices in Australia, providing a richer representation of Australian society in dance.

For the final word on the importance of the Beyond Technique Residency, Lyn Cotton, Artistic Director of Jolt Dance Company  (Christchurch, NZ) stated:

‘Residencies like Beyond Technique are a wonderful forum for people to find their own voices, to inform their practice and share ideas. Living together created a space where we were able to really get to know each other and had time to share our thoughts. Time went quickly though and it felt like there was potential to have more time, to talk more, dance more and push the boundaries of integrated dance.’