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Interview with Choreographer Michael Hennessy

Thursday– Saturday at Lismore City Hall. Tix are $20–$49 from norpa.org.au

Dancing Out Dreams

In a world that’s not built for you, can you dare to dream of life, love and a rightful place within it all? Choreographer Michael Hennessy spoke with The Echo about the upcoming show Oh How I Dreamt of Things Impossible at NORPA this week.

It looks like Sprung!! has really evolved into a very exciting dance troupe – how have you navigated the process – how much do the dancers inform the journey?

I have treated the company as I would in working with any dance company; through training and creating works with the company. The training has been very important as it is with all dancers. A dancer has to have the physical stamina, technique and agility to be able to perform the choreography. We train two days a week as a group, and I work with some of the dancers one-on-one.

The dancers are integral to the process. We share our stories, and our ideas, through dance – they are the inspiration. When I first started thinking about this project it was called ‘Wonderland’ and I thought of it as a highly stylised piece, where I described it as Tim Burton meets Ballet. I even started choreographing it; it wasn’t bad, but I’ve been working with the company for seven years now and I am still moved and astounded by their work. So this new work came from a simple question ‘Where does all this stuff come from?’. Our dancers have such a rich movement vocabulary, and they are such unique individuals, and I said to myself ‘People have to see this!’.

How did you work this into the choreography and the music?

Fred Cole is the composer and Fred has composed an original full-length score for this work. It is stunning! Fred has worked with the company before and he wanted to create all the music for this piece. Fred and I had also worked together in the early years of NORPA. In a section called ‘Windows’, Fred has created a score for each individual dancer based on them and their musical interests. ‘Windows’ was created online when we were all Zooming. They were in their living rooms and bedrooms creating dance while we were watching them through their little Zoom windows; it’s an insight to [the dedication of] our dancers.

Dance Is a medium for expressing dreams – dance is primarily visceral and visual, so dreams are often a source for inspiration. I asked the dancers what some of their common dreams were, and then asked how they would present them in movement… not an easy task. Again we were on Zoom and they dropped into it like they were in their dreams, it was amazing! And it is included in the work as ‘Dreamscape’.

How do each of the dancers make their contribution? Do they get to choreograph or come up with the concept or feeling for their piece?

The work is very much about the dancers and their stories. Tara’s solo is about growing from a young person to an adult, using the growth of a plant as an analogy, and the importance of her family and friends. Zac’s piece is called ‘Metal Man’, he identifies with his strength and power. Alice’s is ‘Things Seemingly Unattainable’ where she dances with a balloon as metaphor for things just out of reach. Max’s work is ‘Man in the Moon’ where he asks ‘Will I be in a relationship, will I find love?’. Kane, as a young boy was hospitalised a lot and had many surgeries. He talks about lying in bed and not being able to move, so he had to make himself move and think about getting better. Tallula was born deaf, but now has cochlear implants. I asked her how she related/responded to music and she placed her hand on the speaker and began following the pitch of the music and then performed the most beautiful dance; it’s about embracing her deafness. Sinead’s piece is about identity and who you are. She says ‘it doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not – I dance it out’.

Why should people go to watch this performance?

We are a local dance company with seven extraordinary dancers who will share aspects of their lives with you. The work is uplifting and moving with high level production; this is a professional show expressing the difference between the body we see, and what lies inside.

Thursday– Saturday at Lismore City Hall. Tix are $20–$49 from norpa.org.au


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