Article: Dancehouse : Alive 20 Years
In 2012, Dancehouse celebrates 20 years of shaping contemporary Australian culture. As an anniversary gift to Australian dance, they present Alive! 20 Years – 20 Choreographers. A celebration of the legacy of Australia’s premier centre for independent dance, Alive! will showcase 20 of the most significant works that Dancehouse has inspired, incubated and lured into being since 1992. If it were possible to take the evolution of an art form, cast it in resin and marvel at its trajectory, it would look something like this.
In 1992, a group of Australian dancers plotted to ferment a revolution and change the fundamentals of how dance was nurtured, made and presented in Melbourne. Inspired by their travels around the world and their experiences at dance studios in New York, they got their hands on the key to an abandoned council-owned building in Carlton, started to pull out the weeds, and refused to leave. ‘It was a bit of an activism,’ recalls Hellen Sky, one of the co-founders. ‘This place was very derelict in the beginning.’ She remembers a seminal moment, crouched in the filthy, garbage-strewn backyard that is now a lovely garden ‘just digging into the earth, finding a place and thinking, well, this is where it is beginning really, we have to find the ground and then plant the seeds and then see what grows.’
And how those seeds have flourished. Securing support initially from the City of Melbourne and later from the City of Yarra, the three went on to establish a legendary space that acts as a catalyst and an incubator for challenging and daring new movement work. Dancehouse now stands as the only venue in Australia dedicated solely to dance, and one of very few globally to have survived for such an impressive stretch in the independent sector.
Its impact has been extraordinary. Dancehouse has presented over 1000 performances, 4000 workshops and ushered more than 20,000 audience members through its doors. Alive! presents a selection of works that hold particular significance and resonance for the four Artistic Directors who have steered Dancehouse through its 20 years. Leading established dancers and choreographers will present work alongside emerging artists. The works vary from contemporary dance to film to improvisation to physical theatre and all that lurks in the intriguing space between genres. They’re inspired by themes that range from country and western music, the impact of HIV, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Calisthenics. They will be hilarious, heartrending, silent, cacophonous, inexplicable, mundane, poetic, enthralling and definitive of an era.
Alive! is a crystallisation of the vast creativity and vigorous exploration that typifies the artists who have been nurtured by Dancehouse for 20 fruitful years. For three nights only, several generations of artists who have spent the last two decades calling this house their home will raise their glasses, their toes and the roof.
In 2012 Dancehouse launches into its third decade with impressive new Artistic Director, Angela Conquet, at the helm. As she absorbs the extraordinary legacy she is inheriting, Alive! will present a tantalising snapshot of Australian artists: what we were, who we are and how we hope to be, all on one stage, in one evening of spell-binding performance. Anyone who cares about the evolution of the performing arts in Australia should take this moment to savour the past, relish the present, and toast the future.