May 3, 2016

By Elissa Blake [Sydney Morning Herald]

Published May 2, 2016

Video projections, live iPhone footage and GoPro cameras strapped to dancers’ bodies feature in works by the four finalists in the 2016 Keir Choreographic Award.

The finalists in this year’s competition are Ghenoa Gela, a Torres Strait Island performer from Sydney who has worked across dance, circus, television and stage, Melbourne dancer-choreographers Rebecca Jensen and Sarah Aiken, and Australian dancer Martin Hansen, who lives in Berlin.

Choreographer Atlanta Eke, who won the inaugural Keir Award in 2014 and is now on the judging panel, says the artists selected for the finals are pushing the envelope very hard.

“The Keir awards are a place to experiment and a place to take risks,” Eke says. “All of these choreographers are representative of a community who expand the capacity of dance. There is a sense of urgency in the independent dance sector.”

Gela’s Fragments of Malungoka – Women of the Sea draws on traditional Torres Strait Islander dance and customs with a GoPro camera strapped to one of her dancers.

“I wanted to explore my female ancestry, on my mother’s side, and what it was like growing up in Torres Strait where the women took on the roles of hunting and fishing when the men were out at sea,” Gela says.

“One of my dancers is wearing a camera on her chest and every now and then the audio-visual components click in and the audience sees a big projection at the back. They see everything the dancer is seeing and doing. The image is then manipulated.”

According to Gela’s artist statement, “the multimedia features of the work question self-monitoring and surveillance within a group of people and the restrictions it places on growth and progress.”

Presented by the Keir Foundation, Carriageworks and Melbourne’s Dancehouse with the Australia Council, the Keir Choreographic Award is dedicated to the commissioning of new work and promoting innovative, experimental and cross-art form practice in contemporary dance.

A $30,000 prize will be awarded to the winner selected by the jury, with an additional $10,000 prize for the competition’s People’s Choice award, nominated by the audience at Carriageworks.

The four finalists were selected from eight new works commissioned by the jury. While some question the competitive element, founder of the award Phillip Keir believes that all involved benefit from the process.

“Many of the artists involved in the first award have gone on to present their work in different contexts, in black box theatres, in white box gallery spaces and in open-air venues,” Keir says. “Some commissions were subsequently developed into longer form pieces, some work ended up influencing visual arts pieces. The award is about the whole process of commissioning, performance and discussion.”

The Keir Choreographic Award final series is hosted at Carriageworks, Eveleigh, from May 5-7.



BACKGROUND IMAGE: Ghenoa Gela, Fragments of Malungoka – Women of the Sea, Dancer Elle Evangelista. Photography by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.