Did you know until modern history, the colour ‘blue’ didn’t exist?
Many cultures didn’t have a word for it – with arguably the first mention of it coming from the Egyptians, one of the only civilisations capable of producing blue dye.
Linguist Guy Deutscher raised one of his daughters the same way many parents do, teaching her colours by having bright objects pointed out to her – however was always careful to avoid the sky. One day, Guy pointed upwards and asked her to describe it. According to The Society Pages:
Alma, at first, was puzzled. To Alma, the sky was a void, not an object with properties like color [sic]. It was nothing. There simply wasn’t a “that” there at all. She had no answer. The idea that the sky is a thing at all, then, is not immediately obvious.
Deutscher kept asking on “sky blue” days and one day she answered: the sky was white. White was her answer for some time and she only later suggested that maybe it was blue. Then blue and white took turns for a while, and she finally settled on blue.
Blue, for a large part of history, was an anomaly. However nowadays the colour itself – and the significance it has on the world around us – leads us to take its existance for granted.
Townsville’s Ulysses Dancers’ annual showcase seeks to address that, with the carefully-curated performances themed around Blue Worlds. Artistic Director and Choreographer Jane Pirani said inspiration for the show’s pieces was incredibly broad.
“With Blue Worlds, I definitely came at the dances from the view of the environment for one section, as well as being inspired by blues and jazz music for another, and then one section is historical about the Bluestocking Ladies, a group I never knew about,” Jane said.
“They were a group of women in the 1800s – obviously from the wealthy class – who were tired of being sent to have coffee and cards after dinner rather than talking politics with the men. So then they started to do that and infiltrate, probably about 50 years before the suffragettes came to being. So there was this movement of ‘we can think too, we have a brain!’
“Those are just some of the angles I’ve come at the show from, but all of our choreographers have come at it from their own points of view.”
Emmanuel ‘Manu’ Reynaud returned from New Zealand to choreograph a piece for the show.
“I knew I wanted to make a piece about the hive-mind idea behind insects and creatures; there’s a strange feeling I get watching bees swarming or seeing termites around a colony that’s a bit gross in that they’re bugs but also nice in that every single one of those creatures has a purpose,” Manu said.
“They may be crawling all over each other, but each of them knows exactly where they need to go and why they’re doing what they’re doing, which I really like. In my piece I really wanted to try and recreate that feeling – from the movement it’s more of a feeling you get, rather than a story. I focused on the world side of Blue Worlds – I worked backwards from the work to then relate it to the show, rather than the other way around!
“I’d been working on this idea for a group of people and thought working with a group of children for the piece would work well. It’s more textural, and something exciting for the younger ones to experience because they don’t always get the opportunity to work that way on a regular basis – it’s normally ‘here are your steps and patterns, this is where you go’ – which is normal for a 12-year-old.”
Jane is extremely passionate about innovating and inspiring the next generation to create, with Blue Worlds’ list of choreographers including Jane, Manu, Cassie Steen, Shaughn Pegoraro, Tenille Cooper, Tegan Ollett and 17-year-old Lauren Crosby.
“Lauren has done a beautiful job, her piece is one she choreographed for Genée International last year. I helped her tweak a bit, but not choreograph – she’s done it all,” Jane said.
“My passion is to give the local area a chance to be creative – it’s about giving the next lot of choreographers a push. At Ulysses, you just do the best you possibly can. And inspire, hopefully! And give opportunities.”
Blue Worlds, much like the colour it’s inspired by, is innovative. It’s new. And it’s inspiring the next generation to look upwards and create.
Catch Ulysses Dancers’ Blue Worlds at the Riverway Arts Centre from 21-23 June, with tickets available here.