The World’s a Stage

Dancenorth ensemble members Jenni Large and Jack Ziesing will be part of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, after the company's Kyle Page was approached to be a segment Director. IMAGE: Sarah Joy Photography

There aren’t many stages bigger, or with a larger variety of talent than the Commonwealth Games: it isn’t just the athletes that are the best in their disciplines, after all.

The Games are a rare opportunity for the host nation to showcase their innovative and most-talented creatives to the rest of the globe in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies – and for Australia, that means calling on the skills of Townsville based professional dance company, Dancenorth.

Dancenorth’s Artistic Director Kyle Page said he and the ensemble were still comprehending the opportunity.

“It’s a bit of an abstract notion at this stage, to understand you’re a contemporary dancer performing in a stadium of 30,000 people and being broadcast to up to an additional 1.5 billion worldwide. It really is a monumental, amazing opportunity for Dancenorth to share our skills and talents with a very wide, diverse audience of people across the globe,” Kyle said.

Kyle and Dancenorth’s Associate Artistic Director Amber Haines have been tasked with directing a segment of the Opening Ceremony, which will also feature members of the Dancenorth ensemble.

“This is by far the largest stage we’ve performed on – the stadium easily eclipses Dancenorth’s 192-seat theatre in Townsville!

“It’s an enormous honour to be asked to be involved in something of this magnitude, and is such an exciting space to be thinking creatively in: the scale is so different to anything we’ve had the opportunity to work on, so the dreams, cast size, opportunities and resources are all extrapolated. Creatively, I can still draw on similar inspiration to past performances, but on the platform that the Commonwealth Games provides, we’ll be able to dig deeper and delve to the very extremities of creative madness and brilliance.”

Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Artistic and Project Director for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, David Zolkwer, said that many of the creatives involved in both ceremonies were renowned not just in their own communities, but internationally.

“It’s a real privilege to be collaborating with practitioners who are so respected not only here in Australia, but also across the world. We knew from our very first meeting with Kyle that he was someone we wanted to have play a key role in the ceremonies. He’s an extraordinary talent, a passionate champion of the Arts in North Queensland and an all-round lovely guy. We’re thrilled to have him as part of the team,” David said.

Kyle said the importance of regional creativity was being recognised more than ever, with the level of talent and skill in areas like Townsville earning the spotlight.

“I think there’s an amazing lot of energy and an incredible number of people working in the creative industries in regional centres right across Australia – and the gaze of metropolitan areas is starting to turn our way,” said Kyle.

“The creative dynamic here, being closer to the natural environment with less of the big city pressures, gives so much more space for capacity to be unlocked and unleashed. It’s definitely time for people to be recognised for all the amazing work that’s being created and developed right across regional Australia.”

The Australia Council for the Arts’ 2017 National Arts Participation Survey revealed regional Australians are more likely to participate in the Arts than those in metropolitan Australia (48% vs 46%, respectively). The survey also revealed that ‘living in a regional area does not substantially affect Arts attendance, with around seven in 10 people attending the Arts in both regional and metropolitan Australia (69% and 73%, respectively).’ Despite larger distances to travel, audience participation in regional areas is still almost on par with that of our capital counterparts.

And while there is clear support for the Arts across Australia, the survey also revealed more could be done for regional creatives on a local level:
‘Regional artists are critical to a vibrant Arts sector that reflects Australia’s depth and diversity … 42 per cent of artists in regional locations say their location has a more negative than positive impact on their practice, up from 25 per cent in 2009.’

These statistics aren’t affecting Dancenorth in the slightest, following their biggest year to date both locally and across the globe in 2017: their performance of Tectonic on the Strand attracted more than 7,000 people to its fortnight of shows; their collaboration with Senyawa, Lucy Guerin Inc and Gideon Obarzanek for Attractor successfully toured the USA; and the inaugural Dance Tropics Dance mini-festival at Jezzine Barracks proved how adaptable and enjoyable contemporary dance can be.

“2017 was definitely a big year, but we’ve already got a full calendar for 2018! Dancenorth will present seven works in 18 cities and five countries this year, including a new work by Gabrielle Nankivell which will be performed as part of Festival 2018 in Townsville and on the Gold Coast,” Kyle said.

Festival 2018 will showcase a series of never-before-seen arts and culture creations across Townsville as part of the Commonwealth Games program; with everything from Dancenorth performances to street art creations taking over the city during the event.

Catch Dancenorth as part of the Gold Coast 2018 Opening Ceremony on 4 April, before they return to Townsville for Festival 2018 events until 15 April. For more information, visit gc2018.com

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