Recollections of the Asia-Pacific International Dance Conference, 22-25 September 2011

In September 2011, I attended the Asia – Pacific International Dance Conference and was asked to write some thoughts on my experience for CHANNELS.

Hybridity has been an ongoing inquiry in my dance practice for over twenty years. Earlier this year I investigated some new research questions at Critical Path, a choreographic research and development center for dance artists in Australia, where I posed some anthropological perspectives: Can we create a hybrid form in a laboratory situation? If so, what are our reasons to come together in a safe ‘multicultural’ society? How do notions of celebration of diversity shape our works, and are they enough?

 It was serendipitous that I managed to attend the Asia-Pacific International Dance Conference 2011 in September, hosted by the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. It was four fantastic days of networking with dance researchers, scholars, dance producers and artists keen to listen and share their fieldwork and perspectives on hybridity in dance, a timely contribution to my own choreographic research.

Hybridity was presented as being ‘the offspring of two parents’ and contested that it not be used to describe an existing dance form but rather ‘a process of something on the way to something new’. It was discussed as the ‘slow evolution of localised forms’ and ‘the changing or coming together of two things because of socio-political circumstances in a particular community or region’ and it was pointed out that this process was not the same as artistic practise which must be clearly defined as just that, or as ‘hybridism in process’.

Not being an academic, I always find it challenging to link academic or reflexive practice with artistic practice, but the experience of the conference was completely engrossing. Dance anthropologists, ethno-choreologists and musicologists investigated a wide variety of themes, from traditional dances performed as daily practice by ancient cultures, to the hybrid dances-for-dance’s-sake created in the high arts.

Presentation papers at APIDC ranged from movement dialogues or ‘shifts’ in Hawaiian dance history, to discussions of the Norwegian Halling dance, multimedia in contemporary Indian dance productions, the trance dances of the Temiar aboriginal peoples of Malaysia, the minority cultures of Laos, trans-global Salsa dance, and the hypergendering of male and female forms in Bollywood items. Examples were drawn from the works of young choreographers on the British South Asian scene, such as Sonia Sabri and Shane Shambu, and Malaysian artists such as Umesh Shetty. Two papers by practicing artists were given. One was by keynote speaker Jonathan Hollander, New York choreographer, who told of his influences from Indian Carnatic music, and his exchanges with Samir and Sanghamitra Chatterjee and choreographer Ramli Ibrahim. “Who is the judge of authenticity?” he asked. Hollander also contested that hybridity is only accepted when the artist is ‘too big to fail’, and discussed the ‘mediocritizing’ of new exploration by use of the term ‘fusion’.

Attendees of the conference were mainly from the Asia- Pacific region and some came from as far away as Norway, Ireland and New York, but artists and researchers alike were asking the same questions and questioning the same politics on the validity of multiculturalism. Dato’ Norliza Rofli, the Director General of Malaysia’s National Department of Culture and Arts, offered the ‘Realising 1Malaysia’ policy in her keynote speech as the credo of contemporary life in Malaysia. We were asked to ‘forget the politics’ and to celebrate the country’s unique multiculturalism.

Cross-pollination, melding, braiding, weaving and fusion of cultural dance and music have been going on for eons. They express our need as human beings to exchange, share, trade with, or befriend another culture or people. The downside to globalisation, and the further hybridisation of dances such as Salsa, Hip Hop or Bollywood, means there is a serious disinterest in older cultural heritage. The social and folk dances of the past are becoming endangered species. Even here at APIDC, the art works examined in the presentations focused more on classical ballet and contemporary dance ‘fusion inspired’ works, rather than those that actually utilised and examined cultural content at an intrinsic level.

I found it exciting to discover theories that had a connection to practice, particularly from those researchers who had embodied their fieldwork in some way. There were many non-academics with strong ideas to contribute who felt there was not enough real discourse on the exploration of hybridity in dance practice, and on how the politic of multiculturalism does not work. Vibrant conversations were had in the hotel lobby or crammed in the back of a small Toyota in Friday night traffic.

I feel honoured to have met so many passionate and very real pioneers in our local region, particularly from Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, and East Timor, where singular individuals are forging pathways for dance to exist as a valid career, art form and research subject. Some are even campaigning for a National Dance Repertoire to protect and nurture awareness of their cultural heritage within the local youth and communities. My hat goes off to the many organiser-professors who hosted this rich and diverse program and their students who helped to see its success. We received a CD of the more than 30 presentation papers and keynote speeches featured in the conference. The event also included a show every night by local and international artists as part of the biennial MyDance Festival, and Jonathon Hollander’s Battery Dance Company in collaboration with Malaysia’s Sutra Dance Theatre. This years’ conference also launched several dance books on contemporary dance practice in Malaysia and Australia.

Being amongst such an array of like-minded people was thrilling. The aporia of hybridity continues globally, and we continue to struggle with alternative definitions of hybridity as a catchall word for ‘neo-ethnic’ dance or as a term for understanding process. However, it was clear for everyone at the conference that what is important is not how cleverly we might put dances together in art making, but the quality of the exchange, and the respect for the culture we choose to share, or which we already hold in common.

Annalouise Paul is an independent choreographer. She has been creating works around identity and transformation using traditional and contemporary dance and live music for twenty five years in Sydney and London. APIDC 2011 was an opportunity to deepen her choreographic research and develop networks for her intercultural company, Theatre of Rhythm and Dance.  

Channels, No. 2 December 2011

Newsletter of the World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific

Editor: Bilqis Hijjas  Publisher: Australian Dance Council—Ausdance Inc.

Flamenco Red at ‘Puss In Boots’ Australian Premiere, Fox Studios!

Flamenco Red at the Australian premiere of ‘Puss In Boots’ at Fox Studios on Sunday! Flamenco dancers and musicians performed on the stage and the red carpet opening of ‘Puss In Boots’ by Paramount Pictures. In amongst the celebrity crowd were Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek plus Director Chris Miller and Dreamworks producer Jeffrey Katzenberg walking the red carpet.

It was so exciting to dance with Antonio!  Below are some highlight photos and link to Spotlight Report showing video excerpts from the day including Antonio Banderas and Annalouise Paul dancing together!  For the full clip go to Flamenco Red on the website!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Game On’ Dance Hub Review by Jemma Nicoll

game_on

GAME ON: Arts Radar

‘The Studio’ Sydney Opera House, August 14

By Jemma Nicoll

What do you get when you cross an Indian musician, a 1000 year-old instrument and one young Australian dancer?

An utterly stunned audience.

Cultures collide as the ancient rhythms of Bobby Singh go head-to-head with Contemporary technician Miranda Wheen. It’s indeed “game on”, as this unique dance-music duet display what is at first a tense, awkward attempt to relate despite being worlds apart.

Hats off to Singh and Wheen who take complete credit for captivating their audience from start to finish. With only basic costuming and the occasional dull spotlight, Game On is a testament to choreographer Annalouise Paul’s extraordinary ability to unleash power from raw movement, rhythm, and at many times, silence alone. A power that kept me mesmerised on the edge of my seat for an entire forty minutes.

She describes the work as “a three-way conversation” between dancer, musician and audience, and the murmurs of a satisfied crowd confirm it. We’re uncomfortable when Wheen and Singh meet and do not seem to get along. We’re challenged at their cheeky interactions as they strive to “out-perform” one another. We’re thrilled as cultural walls begin to crumble; can Contemporary dance in the 21st Century actually compliment such a historical art form?

The duet has concluded their premiere season in Sydney, with the hope to share their message through a national tour later this year.

For more info go to Game On at the Theatre of Rhythm and Dance website

CPAN Interview with Annalouise Paul

MEET OUR PROFESSIONALS  Annalouise Paul

Today we meet professional choreographer and actor, Annalouise Paul.

How did you start your performing career?

At nineteen I decided to become a dancer and started training in Sydney taking classes in beginners ballet, contemporary and Flamenco to develop my technique.

How long have you been performing? 

I completed my formal training at twenty three at the Laban Centre for Dance and Movement in London and have been performing as a dancer and actor ever since.

How is independent dance different from the commercial world? Would you recommend dancers or performers to try both?

Vastly different! They differ greatly in the type of work they require and provide. For example Independent artists are working with their own concepts and ideas that they are passionate about, often regardless of the pay involved. Commercial work still involves passion for performing but as an artist it involves more of an interpretive role as rather than a creative or collaborative contribution. In saying this, it doesn’t make you less of an artist and I would encourage anyone to explore both worlds! I strongly believe that as performers the key is not to limit yourself and definitely try a bit of both.

Who have you worked with and what impact have they left on you? 

I’ve worked with artists such as Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Placido Domingo, and choreographers like Bill T. Jones and the common link with all of these artists and major stars is that they work the hardest and in any occasion I had to work with them, they were the most gracious in terms of appreciating the work that I contributed

How did you get to where you are now today? 

I started my training in Sydney then moved to continue in London where I worked in a mixture of independent and commercial projects. In London, as an emerging artist, I had the opportunity to work in various operas and develop contemporary dance choreographies with the support of arts councils. After that I moved to Los Angeles to study acting and continue to work commercially as a dancer and choreographer. Eventually I started to land small roles in shows like Days of Our Lives,feature film I’ll Do Anything and various commercials. After spending 12 years on the road, traveling to various countries and working abroad, I decided to return to Sydney and bring my choreography here. An injury in 2002 led to a break from dancing, after which I was introduced to FORM (formerly known as Western Sydney Dance Action).

My accumulation of experiences from Sydney, London and LA, drew in me a desire to fuse everything together and so I started focus on the creation of new dance works that included live music and narrative and propelled me to develop my own company, Theatre of Rhythm and Dance. Just recently I returned from Spain where I did professional development and also attended the International World Dance Alliance Conference in Kuala Lumpur, where this year’s subject was Dance Hybridity; a concept that is very relevant because of the current political climate surrounding Multiculturalism.

What advice would you give to cultural performers starting out in Western Sydney? 

Approach councils and different organisations like FORM and CPAN so that you know what opportunities are out there, and how and when they are available. Always do your research to find work and opportunities to collaborate with others or develop your own work. Approach and be involved with advocacy groups like Groundswell so that you know what the bigger picture is and what contribution you can make to it. Generally though, the best advice that I can give to performers is when you start to build your networks, see them as relationships, not just people who can give you a job.

Annalouise is an actor and choreographer. She began dancing at 19 years old in contemporary and flamenco dance and soon after moved to London staying for five years before moving to Los Angeles to study film acting and pursue work for a further seven years before settling home in Sydney where she now resides. During her time overseas she worked on A-list feature films, music videos, television, commercials and opera and worked with artists, directors and choreographers such as Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Placido Domingo, James Cameron and Bill T. Jones. As an actor Annalouise has embodied a multitude of cultural ethnicities, characters and accents and her love for storytelling lies at the heart of her own arts funded works, practise, research  and the formation of her company Theatre of Rhythm and Dance and Flamenco Red. Annalouise has a long history of working in arts education schools and in tertiary education and on projects with grass roots communities exploring richly diverse cultural content that can be offered in the creation of uniquely Australian works. Her recent initiative Groundswell Creative Thinkers Creative Solutions aims to consult and work with Government in the formation of a peak advocacy body for NSW and multicultural arts policy for development of cultural diversity across Australian arts and media.

To find out more about Annalouise Paul visit her website http://www.annalouisepaul.com.au and to find our more about Groundswell look at  http://groundswellctcs.blogspot.com/


‘Game On’ moves to The Studio, Sydney Opera House

AUGUST 4, 2011

NEWS FLASH!  

Game On was scheduled to tour to regional schools in NSW in August 2011. Due to unforseen circumstances and monster quick-change of planning and production management by Arts Radar, Game On premiered at Australia’s most prestigious and iconic venue the Sydney Opera House in The Studio. The work received great press and public response and three shows fully booked out the artists and creative team were more than thrilled to change courses in the end. All’s well that end’s well! 

 

GAME ON  A NEW CROSS CULTURAL DANCE-MUSIC DUET BY ANNALOUISE PAUL

Game On is a humorous but fervent banter between two contemporaries. Indian musician meets contemporary dancer on stage for a jam, so what does it really take to know another culture? Is it about music vs. dance, east vs. west or simply watching and listening? But as artists go, winning audience affection takes over and playing by the rules becomes anyone’s game.

An interplay between two finely skilled artists, Aria award® winner Bobby Singh on classical Indian tabla and contemporary dancer Miranda Wheen.
Choreography and Concept Annalouise Paul
Musical Dramaturgy Peter Kennard

Saturday 13 August @ 8pm
Sunday 14 August @5pm
Monday 15 August @ 3pm

The Studio, Sydney Opera House

RSVP is essential as seating is limited. rsvp@artsradar.com.au
Presented by Arts Radar.
This show has been supported by Arts NSW, Arts ON Tour, INAPAC, Ausdance DanceWest Residency and Macquarie University.

NO MAN’S LAND – AN EXPERIMENT IN MOVEMENT

NOVEMBER 3, 2010

No Man’s Land – An experiment in movement

A Moving Experiment

June 11, 2010

By 

Annalouise Paul is a pioneering dancer and choreographer who has danced for Michael Jackson, Antonio Vargas Co., Simply Red, Los Angeles Opera, Sydney Festival and Australian Dance Awards at the Sydney Opera House. She was assistant choreographer on True Lies working with Arnold Schwarzengger and director James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar, Terminator). Annalouise has been the recipient of Arts NSW, Australia Council, Greater London Arts and Critical Path to research and develop her own choreographies. Annalouise has collaborated extensively with Bobby Singh for several years on these works. Bobby is one of Australia’s well-known tabla players, a student of Pandit Nikhil Ghosh and Aneesh Pradhan. Bobby Singh has received numerous awards and performed with musicians all over the world and in many festivals.

I watched two shows in 2008 Isabel, a collaboration between Annalouise Paul and Bobby Singh who explore the story of Queen Isabel through flamenco dance and tabla rhythms and Game On, a flirtatious game between dance in movement and tabla rhythms between Miranda Wheen, an agile contemporary dancer and Bobby Singh amongst other musicians at the Parramatta Riverside Theatre. Impressed with their work  I have been trying to arrange an interview with Annalouise Paul for some time now and was finally able to connect with her recently. Annalouise Paul presents her views on inter-cultural work and experiments and her shows Game On and Isabel :

Sydhwaney: A lot of fusion work remains in a ‘no mans land’ if you know what I mean ?

Annalouise Paul: Yes, well ironically I feel the genre itself is in no man’s land, particularly in NSW there are few, if any platforms for intercultural works to be developed or showcased so they can begin to grow. There are pockets of Indians, Belly dance, flamenco, Cubans, Africans, Asians etc all working separately but not really any place we can ever see them work together.

I would love to curate a season at a theatre or some other venue that could house all these cultural forms and showcase NSW artists. All other states, VIC,WA,SA,etc have a multicultural arts body that not only advocates for their local artists but presents showcases with opportunities to  raise awareness and actually build new audiences with communities.  We don’t. We need to keep proving ourselves to venues and presenters before we can even create the work, it’s a Catch 22.  But I have been talking with a few venues lately about this idea so maybe we’ll see something spring up later this year or next.

Sydhwaney: What are you doing now?

Annalouise Paul: I have been developing new ideas for shows to gain funding and working to get my last two works out on tour, Isabel and Game on and forming my company and website, Theatre of Rhythm and Dance. I have also been invited to guest lecture and choreograph at Macquarie University later this year. I will choreograph on the students and hope to introduce some cross-cultural ideas and themes with live music , so we might see more intercultural works out there in a few years.

Sydhwaney: Game on is an interesting mix of styles. The artists, Bobby Singh on Tabla, dancers Miranda Wheen go on a challenging journey of movement and rhythm. I am interested in talking about this show. “Game on” .. what is it about ? when is it on ? what is the aspect of dance that is being portrayed in it.. or is it free form and meant to be seamless

AP Game on has recently been confirmed for a schools tour in 2011, which is very exciting. Game on is a duet between one contemporary dancer (Miranda Wheen) and an Indian musician, ( Bobby Singh) in a meeting of the minds. It’s all about exchange. They exchange ideas, cultural knowledge, improvise and dance to Indian and flamenco rhythms, all the while paying games on who’s leading and following, that kind of thing. This eventuates in a story that somehow could be their personal stories, but it is, left unclear so the audience is left to question what part is fact or fiction and the ‘game’ then becomes three way between them and the players and not unlike a reality TV game where the audience become part of the game in some way, part of the critical decision making.

Game on developed from Critical Path research in 2005 and 2007 looking at how contemporary dance is altered by using traditional rhythms. Many people felt a new genre was forming. The exchange was amazing and many ‘games’ were played between the dancers and musicians that a work simply had to come from it. Game on is a unique work, using innovative ideas and artists that are not only so talented and easy to work with, they are willing to keep exploring and finding new territory, it is a joy for the audience to watch them.

I guess that’s a big key I have learnt to solid ‘fusion’ collaboration – you need to have people around you who are like-minded. When it comes to cultural dance music and theatre I believe we need artists that want to preserve and maintain and the ones that want to explore and innovate. Both are relevant. But either way, you have to want to dig deep, maintain the authenticity of the culture and respect for protocols.

Sydhwaney: I want to you to talk about the idea of Isabel. When I watched it last year,  I was immediately touched by the depth and intensity of your performance as Isabel. May be a part of me that is used to watching  a story being told as in traditional Indian dance forms like Kathak and Bharathanatyam felt satisfied. Where did you get your inspiration from, how did the show develop, your idea of its choreography, mixing it with tabla sounds …Aspects of it.. the storyline of course…

AP Thanks Sumi, that’s wonderful that you still have such a vivid memory of it! Isabel was extremely well received in the 2008 season. It was performed in a double bill with Game on in the umbrella title Conversations in Rhythm + Dance. It has been short listed for touring but  to date because we lack a  NSW rep many out of state presenters were interested but reluctant to take on a show that cant be vouched for, no matter what the press say…another testament that we need a dedicated multicultural organisation in NSW!!

Isabel was in a way my calling card so that funders, arts community and peers could witness me as a performer doing my own work.  It told the story of Queen Isabel of Spain in 1492. I am obsessed with the idea of ultimate power , and I guess it is an allegory for someone like George Bush, Hitler etc  What kind of mind must it take to  justify murder and persecution of others in the name of God, religion or some higher order?  I started researching flamenco and discovered Queen Isabel. Then I uncovered my own ancestry, which I had never really done before on my father’s side. It all came together in a short space of time and it all just made sense. My father was Sephardic Jew and connects directly to this time in history when Isabel expelled the Jews s from Spain, formally the Spanish Inquisition.  Over centuries they migrated through the Arab countries and then onto India where my dad was born, in Kolkata.
As the story goes, which is fiction not fact of course, Isabel prepares for her coronation and in doing so her mind starts to play tricks on her. Her conscious over takes, feelings of guilt, remorse set in, her inner voice challenges her to look at her actions; murder; looting; destruciton that aided her rise to power and victory.  The facts are in 1492 she conquered the Arabs, expelled the Jews and funded Columbus to find the ‘new world’, which of course was the Americas. She saw to it that Spain became a world leader and Catholic, even though all these cultures and others had been living in harmony for centuries.

I would love to develop this into a full-length work that might comprise of other characters and bring one some other cultural forms. This version was simply flamenco and Indian, we chose rhythms that matched the feeling of characters mood and could have an onstage exchange to show her growing madness. By the end Isabel is quite ‘mad’ she is impossible to control and her need to succeed overtakes all reason, she shuts out her humanness in order to see her  (God’s) will be done.

Creating a role like this was a great challenge but also right up my alley.  I am a flamenco and contemporary dancer but also a trained actor.  I trained in Los Angeles in film and TV and later on theatre. All my works revolve around the dialogue that happens on stage between dance and music in a theatrical story or premise. It really is theatre. Back to intercultural (fusion) and no mans land … I’d like to share this with you, a quote from a gorgeous book “Classical Indian Dance Tradition in Transition”.    The final page reads:

“Nothing should be taken as good or acceptable merely because it is old. Nothing should be treated as bad because it is new. Great men accept the one or the other after careful examination or deliberation. It is only a fool that has his mind led by the belief of others” –Malavikagnimtra of Kalidasa, Act 1 Verse 2

Sydhwaney: Well, certainly Kalidasa sums it off very beautifully. Thank you !!