Top South Australian choreographers, dancers and musicians are collaborating in isolation to create a social-distancing-inspired series of new dance pieces that will be performed and presented in a living-room-size space of just 2m x 2m.
Welcome to The World’s Smallest Stage
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Creating a work for two dancers to perform in a 4sqm area is no easy task, but it’s not an entirely new concept for independent choreographer Lina Limosani.
As a member of Australian Dance Theatre in 2006, she was involved in a project based on a similarly small stage – albeit without the pandemic-induced social distancing – as part of the company’s Ignition season.
The World’s Smallest Stage will be streamed at an online event on 19 June and then, when live performance can resume, at ADT’s national home at The Odeon in Norwood.
“You have to approach movement in a very specific way,” she says. “It narrows down your themes and what you can explore dynamically, but that’s the challenge.
“It’s interesting to see what people will create under those limitations and how broad their minds can be.”
Lina is one of 10 choreographers who have been matched with 12 dancers to create a series of short works for The World’s Smallest Stage, a project led by Australian Dance Theatre and conceived by its artistic director, Garry Stewart, as a response to the limitations the COVID-19 crisis has put on artists.
The teams are working with 10 composers/musicians selected in partnership with Music SA, including the likes of Michael Ross (Electric Fields), Kiah Gossner and Dan Rankin (A.B. Original).
Rehearsals began last week, with each team given three weeks to create a new dance piece confined to a 2m x 2m space – ideal for watching on a computer screen. The resulting pieces will be live-streamed via an online event, then presented on a real stage of the same size at Norwood’s Odeon Theatre when live performance gets the green light to resume.
Lina is working on a duet with ADT dancers Christopher Mills and Darci O’Rourke, who live together, while musician Anth Wendt – aka Oisima – is creating the score for their work.
She admits it’s tricky collaborating and rehearsing via Zoom – precise explanations are crucial when communicating about detailed choreography – but says it is important for artists to think outside the box when collaborating remotely.
For her piece for The World’s Smallest Stage, Lina is drawing on her interest in myths and fairytales by dissecting an old nursery rhyme and looking at how its characters and their story might be explored visually.
“We’re still exploring that together in a collaborative way – we’ve only just started. I’d like to explore illusion in some way as well.”
Another of the participating choreographers is Michelle Ryan, the artistic director of Restless Dance Theatre, who is working with songwriter/producer Mario Späte (aka Badcop) and dancer Michael Hodyl.
Michael has been with Restless since 2012 and is a familiar face from shows such as Intimate Space, In the Balance and Zizanie. Michelle is taking inspiration for their World’s Smallest Stage piece from Michael’s fondness for a certain pop star, as well as his Polish, Chinese and Russian heritage.
“Michael has a really vibrant, fabulous personality, so for me it’s about allowing that to come through and shine. We’re having a bit of fun,” she says.
“Originally I had ideas of props but it’s too small a space so I’m just focussing on Michael’s amazing fluidity and movement quality, with the cheekiness of him channelling a pop star.”
Restless works with dancers both with and without disability, and its members have adapted well to the COVID-19 restrictions, taking part in weekly training sessions via Zoom and rehearsing for a project later in the year (check out this awesome clip overlaying Sia’s “Saved My Life” with one of their pieces of work).
Meanwhile, Michelle says The World’s Smallest Stage is an important opportunity to bring members of South Australia’s dance community together during social distancing.
“In a time of isolation and uncertainty, it is important to connect and to be creative at how we do that and it brings me great joy that this project will provide that opportunity.”
The other artists involved in the project include independent choreographers and dancers, as well as members of the ADT and Kurruru Youth Performing Arts.
ADT executive director Nick Hays says funding from Arts SA’s arts organisations collaboration grants has made The World’s Smallest Stage possible.
“Covid-19 has been incredibly disruptive and damaging for all of us in the arts but it has allowed us to re-establish our relationships with the wider arts sector and start innovating and creating together rather than separately.”