Different inflections

Stock, Cheryl F. (2012) Different inflections. In Burridge, Stephanie & Dyson , Julie (Eds.) Shaping the Landscape : Celebrating Dance in Australia. Routledge, New Delhi, pp. 84-103.

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Australia has often been defined by its landscape – actual, romanticized, imagined – iconic images and experiences taken up by artists in a myriad of ways. This paper examines inter/intra cultural practices of three Australian dance companies and their directors, and how they inflect images of Australia in different ways. Each artist brings perspectives from their particular hybridized cultural and ethnic backgrounds as well as their formative dance experiences. In their practices, notions of landscape embrace physical, metaphorical and spiritual dimensions.

Kai Tai Chan, who founded the One Extra Company in 1976, pioneered accessible and confronting intercultural dance theatre in Australia from the 1970s to the 1990s, challenging our notions of what it is to be Australian. A Chinese Malay who came to Australia to study architecture, he stayed to create a significant body of work in which different cultural frameworks became lenses through which to explore stories of ordinary lives and experiences, revealing complexities of the human condition and larger social-political issues.

Spiritual connections feature strongly in the practice of another Chinese Malay Australian, Tony Yap. Here the landscape is an inner one influenced by a form of Malaysian trance dance known as the sen-siao (“spirit cloud”) tradition. Yap has forged a unique space in the Australian dance and theatre scene, exploring a movement language informed by psycho-physical research, Asian shamanistic trance dance, Butoh, voice and visual design. Whilst primarily a solo performer, his practice includes collaborations with Asian diasporic as well as Anglo Australian cross-cultural visual and sound artists. His work is situated in a metaphysical rather than socio political context.

In contrast, the newest company to emerge on the intercultural Australian stage is Polytoxic, reflecting a Pacific rather than Asian inflection. Key members, Fa’alafi and Efeso Fa’anana (both of Samoan descent) and Leah Shelton (of Anglo-Saxon descent), aim to critique the exoticism and cultural kitsch that often accompanies representations of the Pacific islands, with a pastiche of street dance, cabaret and contemporary techniques, blended with traditional Polynesian vocabulary. A parallel aim is to provide audiences with insights into the traditions and history of Samoa from the perspective of the artists as contemporary Australians.

This examination, spanning three decades of inter/intra cultural practices, reveals stylistic, generational and philosophical differences with a commonality of variously inflected notions of landscape, spirituality and identity.

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ID Code: 46603
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: dance, intercultural, Australian
ISBN: 9780415699846
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Dance (190403)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 Routledge
Deposited On: 24 Oct 2011 21:54
Last Modified: 04 May 2012 02:46

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