Monday, October 31, 2011

Sydney Dance Company- Dancer Charmene Yap - INTERVIEWS

Written by Paul Andrew   
Sunday, 30 October 2011 11:19

Charmene Yap has worked with the Sydney Dance Company since January 2010 and recently performed in the Sydney season of Rafael Bonachela's The Land of Yes & The Land of No.

She is a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts completing a Bachelor of Arts in Dance in 2006 and has worked as a freelance dancer for various choreographers and companies around Australia and internationally. Charmene was nominated for the prestigious world-wide Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative Award and has been a successful applicant for the 2009/10 SCOPE program to expand her interest in architecture.

Charmene Yap spoke to Australian Stage's Paul Andrew.

Charmene YapCharmene, The Land of Yes & The Land of No, it's such an evocative title for a work – what does this name evoke for you?
The title evokes a dual side to people and also how we deal with others. It represents the idea that there are two – or more – sides to everything and often a negative and a positive, each of which you can interpret into a human response.

The overall work comes from Rafael’s fascination with signage – for example, street signs and directions. We are all told what to do and where to go multiple times every day. Each of the segments in The Land of Yes & the Land of No relates to a specific example of this. The title, however, has a more evocative and emotional element to it.

Tell me about a memorable performance?
Absolutely, it was opening night at the Brisbane Festival – the first time I performed the work. I have a solo that opens the show and it was an amazing feeling to finally be on stage after an intensive rehearsal period.

Ezio Bosco's score – what in particular do you feel this score teases from deep inside your body as you dance?
A lot of Ezio’s music is emotive – he creates work that touches the soul. Some of it is recorded sound, from a market place for example, which is mixed with instrumental music, which I feel humanizes the music even more. It taps into the human emotions.

What do you feel is the primary concept is behind the work?
The Land of Yes and the Land of No is a deep exploration into the human psyche, the power of imagination and the body’s ability to give physical shape to memory, experience and emotions.

This work begins with your solo?
My solo was initially created by our Dance Director, Amy Hollingsworth (who performed it in the original version of the production). It is a very personal solo to her and I’ve had to insert my own emotion into to it. Hopefully translating it in a unique way!

Tell me about what you feel is the most inspirational aspect to this work, how so, why so?
The work is clean and pulled back which means it allows each us to personalise our performance.

From a dancer's perspective can you tell me something about one key aspect of the lighting design for this production that you adore?
At the beginning I’m in total darkness, then the light flickers on and I enter in silence. It’s atmospheric and spine tingling!

Which costume do you enjoy dancing in the most?
In The Land of Yes & the Land of No, for the first time ever, I’m in pants! It’s so comfortable.

Image credits:–
Charmene Yap. Wendell Levi Teodoro @ ZEDUCE

Tuesday, October 11, 2011



Written by Paul Andrew   
Monday, 10 October 2011 19:37
Cult indie trio, Black Dice have been at the forefront of experimental rock and 'noise art' for over a decade. Currently in Australia as part of the 2011 Melbourne Festival, band member Aaron Warren talks to Australian Stage's Paul Andrew.

Black DiceBlack Dice – dark chance – tell me the story behind the band's name?
Well I was not in the band at the time but legend has it that Hisham, the old drummer from the band, had seen the words grafitti'd on the wall and that it was an old NY street gang. Everyone thought that sounded pretty tough, so that was that. An earlier incarnation of the band was called Spit On Your Corpse, I believe.

For the benefit of Australian readers new to Black Dice, tell me something memorable for you guys about the band's formation?
I joined the band in 1999 in NYC. Post-providence. But the shows were still pretty wild. I had to learn how to play twice as fast as I'd ever played and would as often be beaten down by Eric as I would by the crowd. I once had a footprint on my back after a show!

The question of chance – the Dada noise attack days with Wolf Eyes – tell me a little about this dada time too, and if chance/collage continues to play a vital role?
BD is into writing songs. We have aspects of improv in that we get loose on the songs live and jam out a bit, but any collage aspects are written into the songs at the beginning. We are open to chance and happy accidents, but try to get these elements under control in the practice space when we're making up the songs.

The line up for the Melbourne gig, who, and on what instruments or devices?
Its me and Eric on electronics and microphone, and Bjorn on guitar and electronics

Who do you count as your major influences now – and more importantly who do you count as the minor influences?
Personally I feel most influenced by the DIY hardcore and indy bands of the 90s – Nation Of Ulysses, Unwound, VSS, Bikini Kill, Born Against, Antioch Arrow. Bands that toured and put out great records with grassroots support by kids in small towns nationwide.

The DFA label days, more tribal, more dancey – what remains the most memorable song from this time – why it lingers in your consciousness?
I like Cone Toaster, though the version that made it to vinyl was never as good as the live version. We retired the tune at this huge outdoor festival in France in 2004 – that was the version I wish was on the record!

Who are you listening to now?
These days I am listening to much of what kids across the world are listening to: Kanye West, Black Lips, Kurt Vile, Gang Gang Dance. I love the internet music culture of today – you can literally think of any band and be listening to them within seconds.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


Written by Paul Andrew   
Saturday, 08 October 2011 08:23

Award winning dancer and choreographer, Byron Perry was recently appointed as the Melbourne Festival's inaugural Harold Mitchell Foundation Fellow. His first work for the Festival, Double Think, a rhetorical examination of the illusion of opposition, opens next week at the Arts House, North Melbourne.

Byron Perry spoke to Australian Stage's Paul Andrew.

Byron PerryIs the world of Double Think – like Orwell's classic novel – a dystopia dressed in utopian clothing?
Not exactly, no I am not really attempting to analyse the notion of Double Think in relation to the original context from which it sprang or even to apply this concept to our lives in an attempt to illuminate something about the human condition or to explain the struggles and psychology of modern life.

The work is concerned only with Double Think as an abstract thought experiment or a discrete psychological condition. I am attempting to look at the performance itself through this lens of contrast, contradiction and opposition, the idea of the performance as the individual in the throes of Double Think.

I like the idea that this notion can be applied on as many levels as possible, to the structure and style of the work itself, to the scenes and the dance/text within it and also to the performers understanding of what they are doing.

The political and social references are instantly very clear with a topic like this, but those connections are not what I am interested in presenting in the work – I will leave that to Orwell. I feel like many people have examined the idea of Double Think within a social or political framework and that making a dance work along the same lines wouldn’t address anything that hasn’t already been better explained on paper.

As I said what I am trying to examine however is the notion of this psychological condition through the structure and machinations of the performance alone. I feel it is important to explore this concept without reference to anything outside of the performance environment, as I feel like any topical or social reference within such an abstract work will carry more weight than it deserves.

It could very easily seem that the work is somehow about this reference rather than about the interrogation of the subject at hand.

And is the image of 'the state' in Double Think also a controlling one, one of constant war, mind control, surveillance?
Double Think as a performance work doesn’t deal with the broader themes examined in 1984. The work is very singular in its focus, which is how the notion of Double Think might exist on stage – in dance – separated from its context.

The term Double Think entered the vernacular after Orwell's 1949 book became a best seller, simply put it means to know and not know. Tell me about your sense of Double Think today?
The original inspiration came from an article I read titled ‘The illusion of Opposites’. Through some further reading I became interested in the idea that essentially opposites share more traits in common than ones that separate them, that in a sense they are simply two distant points on the same line.

I began thinking about opposing beliefs in this way and remembered there being something about this idea in the book 1984’so I read it again and became interested in the notion of Double Think and how it might exist in a performance environment.

Double Think is defined as the ability to believe two opposing or mutually exclusive ideas at the same time, drawing subconsciously on whichever one most benefits the individual in the moment. This led me to explore references to things like the Heisenberg uncertainty principal that limit our observations of subatomic particles to either position or momentum but never both at the same time. Initially the term Double Think seems to have negative connotations, but it could be a rather unique gift.

The notion that you might be unconsciously deciding what you believe based on who you are talking to and what you want out of a situation seemed quite different from just flat out lying or playing devils advocate. It also struck me as a subconscious act that each of us might well be doing in subtle ways every day. Opinions are normally considered so concrete and I like the idea that it’s quite possible we don’t really know what we think or that we are not in control of things as we feel we are.

I notice the references to a 'shifting world of dark and light', shadow and illumination, sounds almost Gnostic, a mystical work too perhaps – aside from the 'abstract' Orwellian parallels tell me in some detail about your other literary, cinematic or choreographic sources of inspiration for Double Think?
I have been reading some writing by Magritte on his investigations on Object vs Image. I particularly like the series of small ink drawings he produced on this subject for their simplicity.

I have also been reading on the Heisenberg uncertainty principal and quantum entanglement, I would like to think that one day these notions might go some way to illuminating questions of the mind. The short films of David Lynch and Chris Cunningham were something that I was watching around the time of our initial seed development.

The shifting dreamlike scenes and states of Lynch’s work has always been of interest to me, particularly the way he presents his work and the awkwardness and uncertainty it provokes in me when I view it. Chris Cunningham is inspiring, more for his style of editing, which in his hands becomes a sublime choreography in its own right, no matter the subject of his film.

The work I have tried to create is quite minimal and stripped back in terms of presentation. I wanted a work that feels like its oscillating or phasing between states. Small vs big, black vs white, slow vs fast, light vs shadow, learned vs improvised.

The set design was based initially around the units of ten counting rods that I used to learn counting and basic mathematics when I was in primary school. For me they are a metaphor for the way that we tend to divide our space and our time, combine ideas and tackle problems. The word block itself is used both as a description of the unit used to create, and an explanation of why we are having trouble creating. 

Light and sound become the 'the beloved', tell me something of your enthusiasm for light and sound as forms of embodiment and character Byron?
I have become very interested in developing work where the performers have the ability to effect and control their own lighting and/or sound and that the orchestration of these supposedly ‘supporting’ elements can become a kind of choreography in its own right.

It sounds like I am describing a sort of puppetry of objects, and in a way I think I am but that’s only part of it. In order to develop this kind of work it is essential that you have these elements in the room with you as you are developing the material.

I am always thinking of how something will be lit as I am choreographing and often a lighting idea will be the catalyst for a scene and not simply a way to present it. I think that in this work and with this concept especially; the sound, light and set can really become as much a part of the investigation as the dance or text is.

We are dealing with an abstract concept but one that is directly linked with universal themes of opposition and duality so it can be applied to almost every part of the performance environment.

I like the way that localized performer operated lighting can create methods onstage that are akin to things like the close up, point of view and zoom techniques used in film.

Also for me traditional theatre lighting has trouble snapping to or from black instantly, there is always a fade up or down involved albeit a small one; by developing my own lighting techniques for onstage use I can get the best of both worlds.

We often use the expression 'play of light' or 'trick of light' to explain something mysterious or unexplicable – is this something you consider in Double Think?
Yes, but in quite a dry and almost scientific way. The work presents light and the absence of it as an intrinsic part of the study of this concept of Double Think. The work doesn’t utilise theatrical trickery in the sense of traditional ‘illusions’ but light is considered, choreographed and arranged in much the same way that the performers bodies are.

One tall man, one short woman – it’s such a fabulous image and metaphor for the incongruities in relationships, tell me about two examples of the way your choreography develops this metaphor a little further?
I am not dealing specifically with gender roles or relationships in this work.

I am aware of the references and connections that can and will be drawn the moment you place a man and a woman alone onstage, however I hope that the work sits somehow outside this. I am interested in creating a feeling that the work is almost like a closed system, that we are looking at and examining a method of mental processing without any outside input.

I imagine this is sort of like observing the workings of the machine aside from anything you put into it, or anything it might produce. If we are to take something from this presentation of man and woman it is in a very simple and direct way; that they represent one of the most recognisable and ancient oppositions we know and one that we have a direct connection with.

Tell me something humorous that happened during rehearsals?
While we were doing our first cobbled together run and were in a particularly focused moment without any soundtrack and at the very same time the circus show began rehearsing in the adjoining studio and their soundtrack spilled over into our rehearsal. Needless to say that muffled soundtrack is now the audio for that section of the work – sometimes a bit of chance works wonders.

Double Think by Byron Perry plays the Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall from Oct 12 – 15, 2011 as part of the 2011 Melbourne Festival