18 September 2022

Urgent new dance theatre on the violence of forgetting

| Emma Batchelor
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dancers from SAVAGE

SAVAGE is showing at Canberra Theatre Centre on 29-30 September. Tickets are on sale now. Photo: Canberra Theatre Centre.

SAVAGE is the first major work from Australian Dance Theatre (ADT) under its new artistic director, Daniel Riley. Through collaborations with a range of dance artists and creatives, Riley evokes urgent, confronting dance theatre to explore power, myth, identity and the violence of forgetting.

Following its world premiere on Kaurna Country (Adelaide), SAVAGE will next travel to Canberra, an opportunity that is significant for Riley as he began his own dance career here on Ngunnawal Country, performing with local youth dance company QL2.

It was during his time in Canberra that Riley, who went on to perform and choreograph works for Bangarra Dance Theatre, first connected with ADT founding artistic director Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM. Now, almost 20 years later, Riley is the first Indigenous artistic director of a non-Indigenous Australian dance company.

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It is within this cultural and political landscape that SAVAGE sits, urging audiences to confront their fundamental belief systems while directing our gaze to those who shape them. What happens when stories and the people who tell them are erased? When past injustices continue to go unreconciled?

In an unusual move for an artistic director, Riley will also take the stage, performing alongside his collaborators.

“I have a strong connection to the themes of SAVAGE and I really feel the need to be in it, to dance beside and within the ensemble,” he said.

Company dancer and performer in SAVAGE, Zachary Lopez, shared what his experience of working with Riley in the creation of this new work has been like.

“Dan [Riley] brings a way of dreaming about our bodies in space. He works from the ground up. His style and approach to movement is rooted and grounded, something quite different to past ADT works, which saw bodies often elevated. It is a different way of thinking about movement, a thought process of bringing nurture from the ground into our bodies and then sharing it in the performance space.”

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This way of thinking about movement and of collaboration extends to the engagement of leading dramaturg Kate Champion, artist Dean Cross (Worimi and who is also from Canberra and grew up performing with QL2), lighting designer Matthew Adey and composer James Howard (Jaadwa), who each add another layer to this exploration.

“It is incredible to see and feel the harmonious connections that we have as a company,” Lopez said. “We each have different strengths and it is amazing that we can support and learn from each other. That collaboration is integral to SAVAGE as a work and the company as a whole.”

In a first for ADT and in recognition of the importance of youth art and supporting pathways for emerging artists, nine dance students from the graduating year of the Bachelor of Creative Arts (Dance) Flinders University, Adelaide College of the Arts program will also perform alongside Riley, Lopez and other ADT company artists.

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Nick Hays, the executive director of ADT, explained that: “To have the full company, the artistic director and some of our best young dancers together on stage is going to be, quite simply, spectacular. And for audiences to see these generations of artists on stage, bringing Dan’s first major work to life, will be exhilarating.”

SAVAGE presents a rare and important opportunity for Canberra audiences to engage with the work of Australian Dance Theatre, and to support and welcome back artists who have been shaped by our region.

SAVAGE, Australian Dance Theatre
Canberra Theatre Centre
29-30 September 2022
Book here

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