Thanks to a collaboration between dance educators and professional choreographers, advanced young dancers in the region are set to perform a full-length contemporary work at Erindale Theatre in mid-July 2021.
Unveiled is inspired by Giselle, the classical ballet piece that was first performed in Paris in 1841 and tells the tale of a young peasant girl who falls in love with, and is subsequently betrayed by, nobleman Albrecht.
The show has been written and choreographed by Suzy Piani and Bonnie Neate who say they’ve tried to do something different with it.
“A lot of full-length contemporary works tend to focus on one central idea or concept which is then explored in different ways,” says Bonnie.
“We’ve tried to bring the story back because it’s entertaining to follow a narrative that’s actually embedded in the choreography.”
Although many classical ballets often explore very dark themes, Unveiled fuses light and shade.
“There will be funny, quirky bits that break up the darker narrative,” says Bonnie.
Wanting to push the boundaries has gone beyond the work itself, with the project also being about providing greater opportunities for advanced dancers in Canberra, of which there are currently few.
Both Suzy and Bonnie trained and danced professionally interstate, where they say youth dance programs such as Unveiled are much more common.
“When I came to Canberra and started working with Suzy, I realised there isn’t a lot here for advanced dancers so what tends to happen is they leave or go interstate to Sydney or Melbourne on a weekend to participate in programs such as this,” says Bonnie.
Suzy says it’s understandable these programs are less common simply due to the time and effort required for such an undertaking.
“The big question for us was, ‘How do we go about this and how can it be done?'” she says. “But it was a daunting undertaking at first.”
Both Suzy and Bonnie say that because there is a gap in dance training in Canberra, it can be a massive shock to students who decide to study a diploma or tertiary qualifications in dance because they simply haven’t had the exposure to putting on full-length shows.
“Just competing in, and training for, eisteddfods is too simple,” says Suzy. “We wanted to bridge the gap, particularly for the students who were coming up under us as we could see this issue.”
The project has also been opened up to provide a space for advanced-level dancers who have completed school and decided to pursue qualifications in another field. A lot of these dancers will go on to work as part-time dancers in a studio or remain in classes.
“They lament that they want to do more dancing and training because they really miss that,” says Suzy.
It was one of their ex-students who first asked Suzy and Bonnie if they would consider putting on a full-length show so she could be a part of it, and so the seed was sown for Unveiled.
Since January 2021, dancers have been in training for multiple hours a week, but Suzy and Bonnie have been mindful of keeping them in their other classes and schedules.
Although Unveiled is currently self-funded, there are hopes it will become an ongoing annual arts program promoting dance in Canberra. For this, it’s vital to secure arts funding.
The project will culminate in two shows at Erindale Theatre on Friday, 16 July, and Saturday, 17 July, 2021.