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September 23, 2021

Dance Your Self

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The Australian Dance Theatre bring their stunning new work Be Yourself Redux to Lismore City Hall this week as part of the ongoing program of culture and arts curated by NORPA.

Mandy Nolan spoke with artistic director Garry Stewart.

Garry, what was the concept for the latest show?

Our show Be Your Self looks at what is the nature of the self. When we refer to our ’selves’ what are we really talking about. Are we our bodies, our minds, our emotions? We are all of these things operating in concert with each other in the most complex ways imaginable to form the extraordinary thing that is the self. In Be Your Self we pull apart this concept of the self and try to discover what it is.

How do you work an abstract idea into the body?

Because we are talking about the self, then the body is the best place to start. We are all identified by our body and what we look like physically.

I am curious about the concept of ‘Self’? Is it the root of all evil (narcissism, capitalism) or is it the pathway to empathy and compassion?

I think we are looking at the self in a much bigger context than the narrowness of narcissism etc. We are asking ‘When you refer to your self what are you really talking about? What is that thing, the self? Where does it reside? What does it comprise?’ This isn’t something that we give much thought to on a day-to-day basis but it’s been fascinating to look deeply at this question and seeing what we discover. Often our feeling and emotions are most heightened in relation to other people. So in Be Your Self there are many moments when the dancers behave in relation to each other, not just by themselves.

How do our bodies hold stories of who we are?

Without the body we have no self, no feelings or emotions. It’s not just our brains doing it in our head, but our whole body takes part in the narrative of who we are. All of the senses of the body including vision and touch are central to our experience of the world.

So without the body there would be no self. Would a brain in a vat in a laboratory experience the world as we do? I doubt that very much. Our selves are our bodies.

What spoken word did you use and how do you deliver?

A lot of the text I co-wrote with two physiologists. It’s fascinating to bring this language into the work; it’s not only highly informative but it’s highly entertaining and quite humorous. Some of the text talks about the complex neurochemical processes that occur when we feel emotions. There’s also text that delivers extraordinary facts such as how many times we blink in our lifetimes, how many litres of tears we cry, how many kilometres our blood flows through or body in one day etc. We are drawn with fascination into thinking about the extraordinary machine that is the body.

What should we expect for your show in Lismore?

We have the most extraordinary ensemble of dancers, who are quite phenomenal by any standards. The Times (London) described ADT as ‘one of the most hazardous explosions of movement seen in London in years’. The physicality of our dancers have to be seen to be believed. Be Your Self has toured throughout Europe as well as Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, so it’s certainly been run in and is ready for the people of Lismore who, I am certain, will love it. Be Your Self Redux, which is our touring version of the work and is what will be presented in Lismore, is a wild ride and quite unlike many other dance works Lismore audiences may have seen before.

Masterclass with ADT is on Thursday from 2–4.30pm at the Dance Studio (ground floor), Lismore City Hall. $30 (no concessions). Max 30 participants. Bookings essential. Bookings: 1300 066 772 (9am–4pm weekdays) or www.norpa.org.au

ADT present Be Yourself Redux on Friday 7.30pm & Saturday at 2pm & 7.30pm at NORPA – Lismore City Hall. For bookings call 1300 066 772 (9am–4pm weekdays) or visit www.norpa.org.au.

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