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March 7, 2021

Go Dance in the Lake

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Mandy Nolan spoke with choreographer Lisa Wilson about the spectacular dance production coming to Lismore City Hall.

Lisa, can you tell me why you have chosen to use the image of a lake to represent relationship?

It happened in reverse actually; it was images of a lake that came first and then the emotional narrative around a couple grew from that. I was thinking about what a work would look and feel like based at an Australian lake, after listening to a talk on Swan Lake and how many European countries had their own version of the story. I was also inspired from a family camping holiday near a lake. The extremes of intense beauty, yet chilling isolation, the stillness and solitude and primal undercurrents of what lies submerged. It led me to think about using water as a metaphor for human emotion and what happens when we break the surface tension of a relationship and dredge up what lies beneath.

How does the beginning of the relationship differ in your choreography from the end, or further on? How have you translated this to dance?

I think dance is wonderful at creating emotional states onstage, while still leaving room for the viewer to bring something of themselves to the work. The relationship starts innocently, then fractures and starts to break apart as the surface tension is broken and what lies stagnant underneath begins to surface.

How does Lake touch on notions of identity and self?

I think it touches on this as we often ‘submerge’ parts of ourselves to be with another person.

What role did your dramaturge Jennifer Flowers play?

Jennifer is such an important part of honing the intention and motivation of each scene or character. She questions me, supports me, inspires me and generally is an incredibly experienced outside eye to have when creating a work.

~ Photos Fen Lan Chuang 

What feel did you want with the music? What did Matt Cornell create for you?

I wanted a diverse range within the music, similar I guess to a movie soundtrack. Matt has very successfully created a perfect synergy with the emotional states portrayed onstage, which was everything I asked for. Mood is completely influenced by sound and for me, such an important part of creating the intention we are trying to portray.

What are the challenges in flooding a stage? How do you do it?

Mixing large volumes of water and electricity is always something that needs to be handled carefully, but we have an exceptionally experienced and professional production crew behind us. I asked our production manager, Mark Middleton, what the biggest challenge was in ‘flooding the stage’ and he said ‘just convincing venues that the set wouldn’t leak!’ We don’t want to give away the magic of theatre, but it is a deceptively simple set, comprising large wooden frames, pond liners and then filled up with water. It is only very shallow, about 4cm deep, but when lit, it looks beautiful and infinitely deep.

Is it a difficult working environment for the dancers? Do they get cold?

It is a very difficult environment for the dancers. It’s slippery, even with a textured pond liner; it’s cold; and there’s extra resistance to move through with the physical choreography. The water gets everywhere – in your eyes, your ears, your mouth etc – and can be very challenging.

Can you tell me about some of the images and ideas you have included in the show where you merge dance with video and sound?

We have video projection that covers the back wall of the space, of a variety of images, that all help support the emotional trajectory or enhance what is taking place onstage. There is imagery from a lake we filmed at, outside of Brisbane, some oversized shadows that interact and portray the characters’ hidden thoughts, a drowning video and ghostly images of the lake.

Lismore City Hall Tuesday and Wednesday 21 May at 7.30pm.



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