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October 4, 2016

Australian Dance Theatre brings us Objekt

Developed in partnership with German company tanzmainz, Australian Dance Theatre's Objekt spans more than two continents - it also takes in the breadth of humanity's perception and relationship with the body.

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  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Pictures: Jessica Clark

Australian Dance Theatre (ADT) artistic director Garry Stewart followed an unusual creative process when developing Objekt – the company’s newest show, which is set to make its Australian debut this week.


Objekt has its Australian premiere season October 5 – 8 at the Adelaide College of the Arts’ Main Theatre. Tickets are available here. It will then go on to tour through Europe with tanzmainz and through Australasia with ADT.

Flying into Germany to collaborate with tanzmainz on the work, Garry found himself with a far different rehearsal schedule than his norm.

“Mainz is the name of the town… and in this little town with 250,000 people, I think they have a quarter of a million people go through the theatre every year seeing opera, theatre, dance, everything,” says Garry.

“So while you’re rehearsing the company is doing many other shows in the theatre that you’re rehearsing in. It’s not like here where… we have this rehearsal period that is very protected – it’s more like a research period.”

Despite creating Objekt in this different setting, and working with tanzmainz’s cast of 16 dancers he had never met, Garry has created a work that is not only affecting in its emotion but also ambitious in its scope.

Focussing on the various modes of the body as an object, the work moves from being poetic to being political in the course of its 70-minute run time.

“The first part of the work is sort of this really beautiful depiction of bodies in the space,” says Garry, “where the dancers are completely covered – their costumes cover their face – so they are sort of completely stripped of their identity, but as the work progresses we see more of them physically and more of them emotionally.

“So the next part of the work is looking at the body as object through the components of the body – kind of like the limbs and the joints and the things that make up the body as a machine-like object.

“Eventually it moves into a more sociological and political kind of place where it is about subjugation and oppression – the ways in which we can treat each other as objects in a negative sense. So it moves out of abstraction into something that has political issues underpinning it.”


After his rehearsal period with the tanzmainz dancers, Garry premiered the work in Germany where it was performed over a several week season, with sold out sessions towards the end of the run.

Now, Garry is back in Australia preparing his ADT cast for its Australian premiere – which will feature the company’s core team of nine dancers, as well as three senior dance students from AC Arts.

While some small changes and developments have been made to the work since rehearsals began in Australia, it remains largely the same as its German counterpart – and the original set, designed by Garry, has been shipped over to Australia for the season here.

“In terms of the design it was very enjoyable – I designed the work,” says Garry. “I worked with a costume designer and I worked with someone from the house to help me realise the work, but I did the set design.

“I really enjoyed it because I always imagine all my works in their totality – often I collaborate with others but in this one I did much more and that was a really great thing to do and I think in future I will be taking the role more fully.”

For the soundscape, though, Garry has worked with long-time collaborator Brendan Woithe to create a highly atmospheric score.

“All of the conversations that I’ve had with anyone, with the designers, with the dancers, with anyone involved with the work – I have with Brendan too,” says Garry.

“He’s a very smart guy and he can take those ideas and respond – put them through sound, but not in a way that is didactic and illustrative but more in ways that are atmospheric and create an ambience the scene can sit within.

“But it is a fairly big sound in this piece – it’s 50 per cent of the work, and that’s the thing about dance, music plays a huge role.”

For a work this expansive – everyone plays a big role – including the audiences who will witness the journey of twelve bodies as they transition from objects to agents in this coming season.


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