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WA Ballet triple bill season STATE: Contemporary Vision to feature Co3 in CARNIVALE.6 at Heath Ledger Theatre

Tanya MacNaughtonThe West Australian
STATE: Contemporary Vision is a triple bill of dance works from WA Ballet featuring a collaboration with Co3 Contemporary Dance Australia founding artistic director Raewyn Hill on CARNIVALE.6.
Camera IconSTATE: Contemporary Vision is a triple bill of dance works from WA Ballet featuring a collaboration with Co3 Contemporary Dance Australia founding artistic director Raewyn Hill on CARNIVALE.6. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Prior to becoming Co3 Contemporary Dance Australia’s founding artistic director in 2015, New Zealand born dance practitioner Raewyn Hill was leading Dancenorth Australia when she was invited by The Australian Ballet’s then artistic director David McAllister to create a work for his company’s 50th anniversary celebration.

The result, initially known as Fugue, premiered on May 31, 2012, and now, 12 years to the exact date, the work’s sixth iteration titled CARNIVALE.6 will premiere in a collaboration between WA Ballet and Co3 Contemporary Dance Australia, with McAllister again at the helm of the presenting ballet company.

It will appear on STATE: Contemporary Vision’s triple bill program alongside world premieres of returning Polish choreographer Robert Bondara’s Nothing Twice and Mattering by STRUT Dance co-director and Fremantle homegrown talent James O’Hara.

Hill’s creation was originally inspired by the Strasbourg dancing plague of 1518, where residents would spontaneously start dancing.

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“They didn’t really know why and there’s lots of different theories, one of them was a mould, called ergot, that grew on the wheat in the wheat factory,” Hill shares.

“They thought it got into the air, and when people inhaled it, they would spontaneously dance.

Co3 Contemporary Dance Australia founding artistic director and CARNIVALE.6 choreographer Raewyn Hill.
Camera IconCo3 Contemporary Dance Australia founding artistic director and CARNIVALE.6 choreographer Raewyn Hill. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

“There was something about this concept of endurance for me because all of my work sort of ties back into that thing of ‘dance is nothing more than energy moving through space’, be it a classical technique or a contemporary technique. So, there was something about this dancing plague that I felt connected with, where they would keep dancing until they collapsed, and then they would wake and keep dancing again.”

Since 2012, the work has evolved through seasons by Co3, Dancenorth Australia, New Zealand School of Dance and WA Academy of Performing Arts’ LINK Dance Company, which included an international tour.

“Each time I start with the last version that I made and then I look at the community of people who are in front of me, beside me, with me,” Hill explains.

“It’s about their personality and the things they bring to the work, and then I slowly adapt it, so that they find their place and their voice and their energy within the work.”

CARNIVALE.6 features ballet and contemporary dancers from both WA Ballet and Co3, Hill full of admiration in their articulation through the different dance techniques while displaying vulnerability, expertise and a generosity to go above and beyond.

CARNIVALE.6 choreographer Raewyn Hill.
Camera IconCARNIVALE.6 choreographer Raewyn Hill. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

She began the rehearsal process by exploring something she knew ballet dancers would connect with, the tarantella, a fast dance from the 15th century with a similar origin story, said to have started from a spider bite whose poison created a frenzied dancing plague.

“At dance school, we all learnt the tarantella, it’s embedded in us and then we discovered that David McAllister actually performed the tarantella in the 1980s on the Kirov stage,” Hill says.

“I asked him to teach us the version he learned that he performed in Russia. It was wonderful just seeing the ballet dancers coming to life in a traditional tarantella ballet. Then we slowly adapted that movement and the gestures from the tarantella, so it’s woven through this new version.

“Being in the rehearsal room has been incredible and kind of strange for me because I came from a classical ballet background, but it’s been a while since I’ve had contact with the ballet world. This work just holds so much history, so much of my history, so much of my dancers’ history, that it feels like a homecoming.”

STATE: Contemporary Vision is at Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA, May 31 to June 8. Tickets at waballet.com.au.

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