Archive for the 'Training' Category


Dancer Auditions



Expressions Dance Company (EDC) is now seeking expressions of interest from male and female dancers wishing to be considered for an audition for a professional position in the company. The company is seeking to fill 1 male and 1 female position from the start of 2018.



EDC, led by artistic director Natalie Weir, is an award-winning Queensland contemporary dance company with an ensemble of 6-8 dancers. Previous Natalie Weir productions include Behind Closed DoorsWhen Time Stops7 Deadly SinsCarmen Sweet, R&J and where the heart is. Weir’s signature choreographic style requires strong ability in partner work and character interpretation.

Weir says, “We’re like a close-knit family here at EDC, not just the dancers but also the office staff. We have an environment of total support and passion for what we do.

Being an EDC dancer is all about collaboration. Not just because we often work alongside amazing musicians and other arts companies, but because I like to embrace the creativity and artistry in every individual when making new work. Each dancer brings something unique to the ensemble, which is so inspiring as a choreographer. So with every new addition, the company grows and evolves. It’s like a living, organic thing.”

EDC is seeking dancers with a solid understanding of contemporary and classical partner-work and the relevant strength to meet the demands the company’s repertoire. Tertiary training or equivalent vocational training is a pre-requisite. They are looking for dancers with professional industry experience who have strong contemporary and classical technique as well as a range of creative skills including improvisation, task work, ability to explore character, convey emotion and develop/sustain expressive movement qualities.


“I am looking for dancers who have generosity of spirit and flexibility in both body and mind.”

Natalie Weir, AD EDC


Applicants should have strong communication skills and the ability to work effectively in a team environment. EDC values flexibility in body and mind, ability to apply various movement techniques, openness in collaborating and generosity.


Register your expression of interest online by 8 September 2017.


Successful applicants will be notified via email by 20 September 2017 and invited to attend the audition in Brisbane on Wednesday 27 September at your own expense.



an artist’s statement


artist’s statement 2017


everything is delicately interconnected…






You might remember that I went back to school this year.


In March I started a Master of Professional Practice (Performing Arts) at USC, but at The J, Noosa, since there are no performing arts facilities on campus at Sippy Downs. We won’t discuss that today.



The assessment for this week, to create an Artist’s Book within which we share our Artist’s Statement, would have to be one of our most challenging tasks yet. I just danced nearly naked in Japan, started weekly physical training sessions with Zen Zen Zo, started running again, and chose a monologue that breaks my heart to deliver, but this Artist’s Statement! To actually pause and recognise what it is we do, the way we create our work, and why…


My contemporary creative practice continues to evolve. As performer, director and producer, I’m enjoying exploring new forms and content of a different kind, a darker kind, which I’ve stayed away from in the past, or have been advised to stay away from. (Can you imagine being told today not to go near mental health issues, domestic violence and ideation?). I’m less concerned now about what others consider to be too dark or dangerous or disruptive. The shadow aspects of human nature reveal a more interesting version of the truth, which we crave. The ancient stories hold the lessons we don’t see in reality television, social media memes or smash hit musical comedies.



My practice is undertaken in a commercially viable context, admittedly teetering at times between what might easily be sold and the stories demanding to be told. Inspired by some of our most innovative dance artists and directors, including Frantic Assembly, Nicholas Hytner, Katie Mitchell, Marianne Elliot, Margi Brown Ash and Natalie Weir among other giants, my work is immediate, intimate and highly evocative, inviting the audience to engage on a sensory, and emotional and intellectual level to work out their place in the world in a new and unique way. Drawing from contemporary dance, butoh, original compositions by the likes of Max Richter, Philip Glass and Leah Barclay, and ritualistic storytelling and performance elements after deep research into the Ramayana, Buddhism and the myths and stories of the cantidoras, I bring the performers and audience together to experience the life of the “other”, hidden within. I offer actors and audiences the opportunity to get out of their own way to experience the less-shared moments, to see in themselves what’s possible and deplorable; the pallid skin and quiet nakedness of terminal illness, the dismantling of a relationship, the subversion of sexual preference or pleasure, the long-term impact of self-loathing…


The investigation of both content and form occurs collaboratively, organically, on the floor from a place of emptiness, a place in time and space in which anything is possible because we welcome it.


The performers already have the answer; their first instinct is closest to the truth. As director, I entrust the performers with the transformational task of telling the story, scaffolding their discoveries within an open intuitive process, and shaping a sensory experience for actors and audiences fusing visual, auditory and physical elements to heighten our awareness of the world. The process is fluid and flexible, and informed by our personal and broader views of our part in the story and our place in the world.


Small great things are the result of collaborative creative thinking, boldly dreaming and fearlessly doing.



The golden eclipse week has offered the ideal context in which to consider my artistic practice and the way I wish to continue to develop my approach to collaboratively creating performing arts pieces that have lasting impact on actors and audiences.


If the experience is not sensory, insightful and transformational, why have we made the work? And for whom?


I continue to reframe my world, to look with new eyes on the ordinary, to listen to old stories for new meaning and uncover the hidden aspects of human nature, to add a voice to the darkness. I’m humble enough to keep learning and bold enough to take a leap. By making this Artist’s Statement public I’m committing to my evolution and my continued efforts to make the long-term goal worthwhile. My practice should continue to contribute to the transformation of artists and audiences on multiple levels, or what am I doing?



Informed by my training, my teaching practice, my performance experience and personal experiences of live performance, and by the work and differing philosophies of a vast network of industry professionals and creative friends, as well as being aware of my privilege, my practice focuses on the immediacy and urgency of the storytelling. In a world that is increasingly complex and demanding of our attention, I hope my artistic practice offers actors and audiences a thread.


Artist: Kirsty Whitlock


Artist: Lynn Skordal


XS Entertainment is a catalyst for creative change with a history of daring and disruption, and as performer, director and producer, I’m a conduit, able to be completely emptied – as Akaji Maro describes, a butoh “skin bag” – ready to channel and configure the ensemble’s ideas during the devising process, or come to the table overflowing with ideas and ways into the work using sound, light, visual art, literature, movement, and our connection with the darkness that otherwise remains undiscovered.



Richard Grantham & ZEN ZEN ZO Present DUSK

RESTRUNG 2017: The Viola Cloning Project & ZEN ZEN ZO


Saturday August 19 2017 at 3:45pm & 9pm 


Hit pause on your fast-paced hectic life, and take a moment to slow down, breath, and be present at DUSK


Restrung 2017 delivers an all-star line-up of more than 50 international, national and local artists to explore the spaces between genres – classical, electronica, folk, jazz, rock, pop, minimalism and more.


The three-day program includes The Viola Cloning Project and Zen Zen Zo’s DUSK, and Collusion and Queensland Ballet Academy’s Muscle Memory: Reflex.


Third in the series of Restrung festivals, the program offers a joyous explosion of strings-driven music, dance, theatre and art that challenges musical and artistic boundaries: a roller coaster ride through the arcane, the forbidden and the gorgeous.




DUSK is the third collaboration between renowned Australian composer and improviser Richard Grantham (aka The Viola Cloning Project) and leading contemporary performance company, Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre.


DUSK is a moving meditation, a danced haiku, an opportunity to inhabit the “space between” (day/night; sound/silence; movement/stillness; life/death)


a regenerative space of unfolding potential…


Performer, Travis Weiner talks about



There are 2 aspects of the show itself I can tell you about.


I’ve performed in all of Lynne’s shows since I started with the company in 2014 and this is probably the simplest but the most physically and mentally demanding choreography I can remember. That’s partly because some of it is just hard work and partly because Richard’s original composition can’t be broken into beats of 8. When we dance to his music, which is also in parts just him jamming, we have no musical beat to keep us in sync with each other. So almost the entire show is us kinaesthetically responding to each other. It’s an exciting challenge.


From a creative perspective it’s more complicated to explain what’s unique about this show. We were talking about this yesterday and we all see Richard as this god-like maestro summoning us as otherworldly spirits. I would say he deserves such a role. He is a very talented musician, and I wouldn’t say so lightly. The music he is able to create with literally one instrument and a bunch of pedals at his feet is mind blowing. It’s like he takes the concept of a one man band and turns it into a one man orchestra.


Our challenge was to create a movement score that kept Richard in focus for the majority of the piece. After watching Richard create his music I don’t think we would be able to steal too much limelight if we tried. His performance is simply fascinating.


Working with Zen Zen Zo is always a challenging experience because of the nature and standard of the work, but also very rewarding. Anyone who has trained with the company knows how exhausting an experience it can be. When it comes to a show the bar is set even higher and understandably so. Sometimes we look at each other and go, “can we actually do this for that long?” And then we do. I would say to anyone it is worth coming to see Richard play, even if he was on stage alone. But also to anyone who missed Zen Zen Zo’s sold-out In the Company of Shadows season last year, here is a second chance to see the performers from that show take to the stage again.



In the Company of Shadows from on Vimeo.


Bring a wine or a green tea and enjoy an afternoon or evening of mindfulness in the presence of these extraordinary artists.


DUSK is an exploration of the liminal, the space between, the threshold which facilitates transformation. The dancers move like shamans or spirit walkers between the light and dark, life and death, music and silence, weaving a shadowy web through the bitter-sweet original score of Richard Grantham’s live looped performance.



THU 17–SAT 19 AUGUST 2017

Two-Show Festival Pass (full)$110*

Two-Show Festival Pass (conc.)$100*

Three-Show Festival Pass (full)$150*

Three-Show Festival Pass (conc.)$135*

*An additional fee applies to each booking transaction. Single tickets $3 / Multiple tickets $6.



Composer: Richard Grantham

Directors/Choreographers: Lynne Bradley & Jamie Kendall

Lighting Design: Simon Woods

Design Consultant: Rachel Konyi

Costumes: Bill Haycock & Kaylee Gannaway

Performers: Richard Grantham with Jamie Kendall, Gina Tay Limpus, Aurora Liddle-Christie & Travis Weiner





ONE DAY MORE to support Sunshine Coast and Brisbane artists dance (nearly) naked in Japan


In case you have been hiding under a rock, or unaware of our campaign, or ignoring all cries for help across our social media platforms, let me fill you in:






We are 10 students from the Master of Professional Practice in Performing Arts (MPP), an innovative postgraduate course offered for the first time in 2017 by the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), created by Zen Zen Zo’s Dr Lynne Bradley.

We have received an exclusive invitation to join Japan’s highly acclaimed butoh dance company, Dairakudakan, for 10 days in July-August during an intensive summer camp in Hakuba, Japan. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Australian artists to train and perform with butoh Master, Akaji Maro and an ensemble of 40 dancers.

We’d LOVE you to help if you can, to cover the cost of our travel and training.

We need your support to train and perform with Japan’s best butoh artists.



Renowned for their visually exotic, highly physical and confronting work about contemporary issues in an apocalyptic world, Dairakudakan dancers and Master butoh performer and director, Akaji Maro, will work with us over 9 days of intensive performance training before we join company members on stage in a culminating performance, choreographed and directed by Maro.


This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gives us access to contemporary Japanese training and performing that has evolved from a highly respected ancient art form, rarely seen or taught in Australia.



Your contribution will go towards the ensemble’s travel and training costs, helping to give 10 talented performing artists access to a unique international training and performance opportunity, and the chance to establish and nurture valuable relationships between Australian and Japanese performing artists so that future collaborative work can be considered.


Upon returning from this trip, at our own cost, members of the MPP Dairakudakan ensemble will continue training with Australia’s leading physical theatre company, Zen Zen Zo, and work collaboratively to create opportunities to share our knowledge and experience of butoh, Japan’s exquisite performance art, with Australian artists and audiences.





Backyard Double Bill


Backyard Double Bill

Anywhere Festival & Backyard Theatre Collective

Toowong Bowls Club

May 12 – 21 2016

Reviewed by Jackson Kellaway

anywhere2016 Backyard Double Bill printed program

I love going to see shows in Brisbane’s Anywhere Festival. It’s always a real surprise to see how the directors are going to use the space with which they have chosen to work. Anywhere Festival forces audience members to go to places they may never have been before. I remember exploring an antique shop during intermission of a show last year.

First cab off the rank for me at this year’s festival was Backyard Theatre Collective’s Double BillThe Picnic and Saying Goodbye to Ally, at Toowong Bowls Club, where I’d never been before.

The Picnic is a piece written by Tremayne Gordon and directed by Kristen Maloney. Previously performed at The Festival of Australian Student Theatre (FAST) it had a sold out season and for good reasons that became clear to me on the night. This piece is set at a picnic that has been organised by Ash, however; she doesn’t show. The strangers, who are all friends of Ash, are now left to test heir own patience and to see who will crumble or, in this case, who will cake.

As soon as the audience walks into the room the stage is live with two characters, Kat (Tess Middleton) and Maggie (Gemma Elsom) standing in the middle of the space with huge awkward smiles on their faces, an awkward stance and wearing ponchos covered with cream. The two stand there until the audience has been seated and it’s time to start. Throughout the piece we begin to see the actors meet each other and reflect on what all of us have been through when we first meet mutual friends. We see these strangers become friends, enemies, lovers, all in 45 minutes. 

The Picnic is a delightful show. The use of butchers paper and even the movement of chairs is used in place of props, which is clever and effective. The audience interaction is great and I wish I’d had the chance to wear my poncho. The short vignettes give the audience insight into each individual character; a small touch, connecting the audience that little bit more. The piece features clever writing by Tremayne and fantastic artistic direction from Kristen.

Kristen also wrote and directed the second half of this double bill, Saying Goodbye to Ally. This piece is definitely a contrast to the previous, and goes to a darker, more sombre place. It is a modern day take on the Euripides’ story of Alcestis who gave up her own life so her husband could live longer. However, surprisingly this piece shines a light on suicide. Kristen has written cleverly, using humour in such a way so as not to marginalise the audience or leave them depressed. It balances on a knife’s edge throughout. She does a good job of ensuring it is well balanced for the entirety of the show. With minimal props and staging, the artistic approach is well executed. All actors play their characters with heart and passion. The standout is Bowden and her portrayal of ten-year-old Alice. Her energetic personality stops short before the older sibling in you comes out and tells her to go to her room. Tremayne Gordon’s different ‘hood voices’ are clear, accurate and surprising. With playwriting and acting up his sleeve it will be exciting to see where Tremayne’s future will take him.


anywhere festival’s biodrama day11 – grotowski laboratory



(Mobile Active Recreation and Creative Community Art Space)

Preparing for La Andariega: Ancient Memories

from notes taken during #biodramadharma day11: Grotowski Laboratory


by Xanthe Coward

Sunday May 16 2016




MARACCAS’ 17-day Intensive


Read Part 2 here


Read Part 1 here


Sunday morning is another gorgeous sunny day, typical at this time of year on the Sunshine Coast. Days like this are why we live here. I wonder if we will work outside again but no, the morning promises an intense physical workshop requiring a flat floor and as little clothing as possible. That’s right. The focus today is the body’s physical form and it’s limitless potential for movement, or at least…exploring risk-taking to get as close as possible to understanding what our limits are. 

Alex is a Colombian born and trained actor. His Laboratory process is influenced by Jerzy Grotowski; Alex worked for 4 years with Fernando Muñoz, who trained with Grotowski. In terms of the legacy and the concept of the Laboratory, he makes it a personal journey, it’s about the inner self; the person who is inside is observing ourselves. It’s a journey and it’s an investigation. It’s important to be able to commit: it’s the commitment as an investigator. For example, if we’re going to explore an elbow movement the commitment is to focus on finding the meaning of one movement for two hours. It’s kind of a meditation…exploring and trying to understand (ourselves). 

What is the theatre giving us? What is important? It’s helping us with the drama of existence. It’s not about the play, the performance, the costumes, the makeup; it’s helping us to connect with an essence of who we are, why we are. And how the movement is connected to ritual…

– Alex


In the Sacred Circle today, Linda is acknowledged. What have we learned form Linda? Denise offers, “Curiosity and the energy you bring.” Lilly continues, “Your wonderful sense of eternal youth – your beautiful innocence and purity and joy – a real willingness to give everything a go even though you’ve never done this before… Your sense of questioning, integral to this process and the ultimate outcome of the show, because of that questioning; bringing the inner child (asking why?).”

“Your sense of play and jokes,” adds Dan. Olga tells Linda, “There is room for laughter” and “Those who seek, find.” Mary thanks Linda for the laughter, which brings a new perspective to things (the totems). “The laughter and acknowledgment… You are a light in the black, beauty in the darkness…serenity in dealing with very heavy emotions.” Jonas has had to find the right English words to express this. There is laughter…it’s kind, connected laughter.

Linda thinks and tells the group that what she has learned from herself is that it’s okay to step into the unknown. “Trust and take that step. I just have to breathe. The most valuable thing I’ve learnt about myself is about the self awareness and knowing who that being is, which relates to breath. My aspiration is to be aware of every breath. To know myself with every breath. The most amazing thing I’ve learned about myself is that that is possible.”

Lilly invites everyone to speak their Sacred Name and hands over to Alex. He jumps to his feet and says, “Let’s try to wear as less clothing as possible.”

This is going to be hardcore, exploring the plasticity of the body and the centre, the core. I’m glad I’m watching and not doing again. I’m a little bit scared for everyone…

This is how the Grotowski Laboratory goes. I’m going to give you a heap of what Alex actually says. Don’t imagine there are too many pauses between instructions and actions and the following instruction…there is barely time for the actors to pause, to take a breath. This is the most intense acting training I’ve seen to date.

let’s embrace this space and start walking. be aware of the space. we can start having some eye contact as well. let’s be aware how our spine is, our shoulders. we’re going to go in a bit more of a rhythm. let’s try to be aware of our weight, how we place the feet on the ground, faster…and faster…and faster. try to get into all the empty spaces.

we’re going to create a little bit of risk. add more speed and play with levels. vocalise if you feel (“let the voice coming out”)

add more speed, more risk. try not to touch anybody, be very aware of the space. how close can you get without touching the person? how much risk can you create?

Alex claps and everyone freezes.

start to lift one of your feet, very slowly, then transport the weight to the other side.

run again. try to eliminate the sound on the ground. don’t forget to breathe.

freeze. repeat the weight transfer, slowly, slowly.

he claps. keep running. too much sound on the ground.

form a circle. knees bent and core strong. create a rhythm, a simple beat, which we can keep for a while. lighter on the feet. arms reaching, stretching above head, one hand holding the other, change arms. increase the speed. stretch the arms across the chest one by one to stretch out the shoulders.

Mary and Lilly keep their torsos so still – they have in common their Zen Zen Zo training. And Denise, the dancer, so controlled, elegant, her upper body still.

Alex is strong and grounded and relaxed at the same time. He is picking up his feet, not shuffling, lifting them, keeping the upper body relaxed and strong. Such simple, focused movement, full of control and power.

keep the rhythm and moving in the circle, bending forward into tabletop with hands clasped behind backs, stepping more and more slowly, then rising upright and increasing the speed. faster, faster, change direction.

find a wall, step away from the wall facing away from it. lean back to let your head rest against wall, and curl the spine down against wall, vertebrae by vertebrae to a seated position – a strong core – and roll up again.

Alex claps. Everyone goes back to running in the space, creating risk and aware of where everybody is in the space.

Alex claps. return to the wall. lean your head back and roll your head back against it, roll down to seated position and roll up again to push away from wall, dropping into plank position on the floor and rolling up from the floor through downward dog.

Alex claps. back to the risk!

Alex claps. back to the wall!

next time, drop to the floor in plank position and lift right leg, shift back and forward to change legs through three-legged dog, shift back and forward, to smell the floor rolling back up through downward dog to the wall.

Alex claps. back to the risk!

His little baby, Gabby is here. She is 17 months old and too beautiful for words; an old soul with the calm, quiet, bright-eyed spirit of a cheeky old lady who’s seen it all before. She stays aside, out of the way with Billie. She is sitting on a chair, watching, at times rubbing sleepy eyes, just like Poppy has done since she was the same age, always interested, always watching, absorbing, always there, inadvertently learning so much more than most adults know, about humanity, making connections, communication… At times she needs acknowledgement from Alex, or from Lilly, and she accepts a smile or a kiss on the top of her head before returning to the edge of the space.

Alex claps. back to the wall! you know what to do.

back to the risk! keep your eyes wide open. eye contact. more risk. get to your limit. very, very fast, as fast as you can.

back to the wall! let your voice go out if you need it to.

back to the risk! (There are exultant, exhaustion defying voices now, whooping and shouting). less sound on the ground, more voice exploration now. faster, faster, lots of controlled risk.


Everyone is either pale, almost sickly white, or flushed pink with effort and exhaustion. But there is only a moment to take a breath and a sip of water, if you can be sure you won’t throw up yet (another’s voice in my head tells me, “Throw up after!” and I say it aloud to Mary, who laughs, exhausted and exhilarated). Alex demonstrates Diagonals and Jonas follows his lead. Jonas is just as strong and lithe and quick (and sweaty!). Amazing. And this is just an introduction, without further investigation or application…


They move from one corner of the room to the other, stepping on hands and feet facing the ceiling, lifting one hand in front of their faces for each step and breathing, “hah!”. The core stays up, it’s like reverse table top before going into a backbend. They repeat this, raising the opposite hand and leg for each step. The core is strong and stays lifted.

Olga does a variation. Is it supposed to be the gentler version? She is squat-stepping with hands clasped in front of chest. This movement too is ridiculously demanding.

Now they are jumping forward with hands stirring in front of the pelvis, the pelvis rotating, feet staying hip width apart. The core stays strong. Then stepping left to right, archers arms to match. Then open arms, wide legs, and round-kicks stepping widely forward. “keep the rhythm!” Alex says, not a bit out of breath.

Next, they are “climbing” across the floor (scrambling but not, because the movement is slower than that, and so controlled, and so, “climbing”), keeping the torso off the floor whilst keeping as close to the ground as possible, moving forward on forearms and feet only, commando style. There are groans now, the effort too much. Still, only Linda and Billie, and much later, Mary, take any time out.

Alex asks, “How comfortable is everyone with rolls?”

The yoga mats come out. Everyone is shiny with sweat. Nice. Alex checks that necks are supported as individuals roll. Jonas continues to do everything Alex does in the same relaxed, controlled manner. Little Gabby checks in with Alex; she gets a kiss and in one swoop she is lifted off the yoga mat and up onto a seat, with a drink of water and a snack.

Now they are rolling and coming out of each roll, reaching arms out, and reaching one arm back between the legs before rolling forward. Slowly, slowly. And now rolling backwards. Jonas glances behind him before each roll. He almost flips and he is ready to leap into the rolls to get some height and distance and momentum. There is no formal check in or checking to see if everyone is okay, but still, no one is throwing up yet, so they continue.

Next is a shoulder stand going into each roll – keep a strong core – balance – control (control the coming out of it and finish with a roll). There is laughter. And the breath. And intense focus. Everyone is testing their limits.

Now there is a check in. “How is everybody feeling?” More laughter. “Tired!” “Awesome!”

let’s raise the energy a little bit again. let’s create some risk. when I say “uno” bring the knees to the chest (jump!), and “dos” we do the front (forward) roll and “tres” we do the backwards roll.

As Olga hears this she laughs, “My god!” and runs again, smiling and laughing and trying to catch her breath. She might be going crazy.

faster, faster, now maximum speed!



find a partner. face your partner, feet wide and knees bent. the partner will touch you with their foot – it’s not a kick – and you receive it. apply pressure with your foot and the partner will move back in response to the pressure. “if you are the person receiving the touch you have to be strong but mobile.” try to go higher. “I think we think it hurts but it doesn’t hurt” – Lilly

be flexible and strong to hold it, and then go backwards with the touch.

deliver a little bit more pressure and you take the hit and use the pressure to take you into a backward roll. controlled. you basically sit and roll backwards to get out of it.

Next, the partner jumps up, pushing up with his/her hands, onto the receiver’s shoulders, and as the receiver responds to the pressure, they simply drop down to lie on the floor. It’s not a push, and you land over the receiver, feet either side of his/her chest. The next level is to then end this move with a forward roll over the receiver, who follows with a backwards roll to get out of the position.


The body has to adapt to the floor. “It could take a year of bruises.” A Russian teacher once told Mary, “It’s just a body. What’s wrong with you? You’re so precious!” Alex says, “Once you develop that relationship with the floor you can do so much.”

Then, “Let’s put everything together to create one sole choreography:

start still, make eye contact, both find centre, both eagle kick and then jump and drop and roll out of it.” Denise says, “Maybe you think it’s not possible to slow it down but to me it’s possible.” Denise and Alex work on the slower, more controlled version of the movement. They are completely in tune with one another and they pull off the movement several times.




The session wraps with a small circle, tight; the close connection between these guys about to become even more apparent. Lilly starts in the middle and Alex introduces a familiar trust game. “Build a little bit of trust, allowing yourself to fall and your friends will catch you. Take her all the way to the ground. Friends, take a limb and massage her. Lilly, just enjoy it”. The group works together to roll Lilly ever so gently onto her belly to continue the massage. Gently, gently… “Put her back to standing position without allowing her to do any of it. Lift her all the way up (slowly, raise her up), with straight arms, and walk around the space with her. Place her back to standing and give her a big hug.”

It’s someone else’s turn. I take my leave and head to another rehearsal.

The weekend, indeed the entire creative process leading up to the show, is about learning to communicate story and emotion; discovering ourselves (our fears, our perceived limitations and our potential), and discovering what our bodies and minds are capable of; building trust, and building connections through the intimacy of touch and the acknowledgement of each individual existing in the same space, to tell the same story. This ensemble is learning the value of bringing focus and energy and skill to the space, embracing vulnerability, and drawing on ancestral knowledge and the energies of the elements and the earth to feed back to the world something we don’t stop often enough to consider…

This ensemble is unravelling our human experiences and opening up, preparing to connect with us, to share with us, La Andariega: Ancient Memories.


anywhere festival’s biodrama day10 – la andariega: ancient memories



(Mobile Active Recreation and Creative Community Art Space)

Preparing for La Andariega: Ancient Memories

from notes taken during #biodramadharma day10: The Viewpoints

by Xanthe Coward

Saturday May 14 2016


“theatre isn’t necessarily for everyone, in the same way that football isn’t necessarily for everyone. My attitude to the latter is pretty much the rest of my family’s attitude to the former: I’ll happily watch it on the odd occasion, but it isn’t really my cup of tea. And that’s fine. But theatre should be there for everyone: equally available and accessible to all who might – and might not – gain something from it. That means making theatre buildings as welcoming as possible; it means making theatre affordable and easy to access; it means letting people know that it’s happening and that they might be interested in it; it means avoiding lazy, offensive assumptions about different demographics and what they might want to see; it means opening up a dialogue with potential and existing audiences; it means talking about theatre in a way that makes it sound interesting and fun rather than elite and exclusive.

It’s that last point that I’m particularly (sometimes agonisingly) preoccupied with. There is of course work still to be done when it comes to theatre spaces, their accessibility, and who and what gets represented on their stages. But the surrounding discourse feeds into the same set of structures and ultimately influences, in however invisible a way, who gets admitted or shut out by those structures. How is theatre being discussed? Who is discussing it? What is being discussed and what is being ignored? What assumptions is that discussion – knowingly or unknowingly – founded on?”

– Catherine Love


“Theatre needs to be discussed in a way that makes it seem available, rather than shut away behind a barrier of big, reverent words.”

– Catherine Love

The Inaugural MARACCAS’ 17-Day Intensive continues…

Read Part 1 here

On the weekend the group had moved into the Black Box Theatre space at the Old Ambulance Station, Nambour. I pass a whiteboard on the way in; it’s the “Parking Lot”, for holding ideas. Questions and thoughts about enlightenment, catharthis, cleansing and rebirth; notes about the arrangement of chairs in the space; humour – relief – the inner child, and later, after the first Viewpoints exercise, Olga adds “stress or relief?” I say hi to Mary and then speak with Linda, an artist from Cooran, who explains her work – it’s amazing – and her initial intention of coming in for 5 days of the Intensive. After that she decided to “jump in” and join the performance ensemble.

When the session begins with a Sacred Circle I stay out of it, observing only. I feel the group is too far into the process for me to join them and my interest is in how the work develops from here. I love the ritual of the process itself, the connections, and the deeper understanding that comes from simply stopping, listening and acknowledging. Saturday’s Sacred Circle is for Olga – Lilly reminds us, “we each talk with Olga and let her know what we learn from her.”

Jonas begins. “You have amazing energy, you keep the fluidity, you’re very compassionate and pure, not only today but through the whole experience.” I miss something uttered in Spanish and there is laughter and – this from Olga – “Don’t mess up with Olga!” and, after more laughter about a conversation that took place last night, “We are here in a Big Brother house…”

Lilly says, “You have this incredible sense of groundedness; it’s joyous. I see you as the mama bear of the group. You see communication and you allow it and you create space for other people to experience freedom.” Dan says that what he’s learned from Olga is to speak his voice, to stand up for what he thinks is right, and “to keep pushing in the direction of your goals even if it’s uncomfortable.” Dan has worked with Olga at Playback Theatre.


And what has Olga learned? “When I give myself permission to create and I don’t hold back I have a great capacity to jump over anyone… My totem came out to be the snake. I have to explore my camouflage.

I’ve learned a different meaning for the word compassion, which is more human, which comes from small gestures…and I can see connections: the threads, how all the strings keep on pushing and pulling; the complexity of human relationships. and the great things that happen when you take away pre-judgment…

It’s really nice to be able to repeat things, make it better (in this process). And how good food tastes…”

Everyone says their Sacred Name in a confident, powerful voice and Deanna introduces the session: an introduction to The Viewpoints.

The group begins with the basic exercises, listening intently, following Deanna’s every word. It’s mostly new work – remember, in here not everyone is a trained actor. But the energy in the room has changed. Everyone is ready to do the work. The group forms a circle and the actors use peripheral vision to start walking, equidistant apart, tuning into impulses and stopping or changing direction or jumping when the impulse takes them, and following the lead of others. 

Deanna reminds everyone to continue correcting the balance of the circle, stay tuned in and maintain the same pace. Next is the exercise called Lanes (exploring limiting factors in order to work more closely as a group), and after so much circle work it must be refreshing to work in straight lines! The options – the gesture range – include stopping or jumping or sitting or to lie down upon impulse, breaking up the movement forwards and backwards. Everyone explores pace and kinaesthetic responses i.e. “Think about how other people in the line are affecting your movement” (let the movement of others affect you and make a choice about how to respond). Deanna prompts everyone to explore duration e.g. hold the sitting position or jump 10 times.

Through restriction comes the exploration of certain elements.

– Deanna

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And here, suddenly, is the shift in energies. It happens in every rehearsal room, hopefully at every rehearsal! The individual energies have all come into the same realm and the group energy is focused. I watch as everyone drops their insecurities and embraces real confidence, really trusting the impulses. Moments of slow, controlled movement are broken abruptly by the impulses to run forward or jump. At one point the group runs forward towards me, fast! It’s confronting and unnerving. The individual energies continue to shift and balance out, but the collective energy and the level of focus remain the same. The sound of feet pounding the timber, the shuffling and the silence and stillness are all very satisfying. At times the floorboards creak. Deanna instructs everyone to “find an ending.” Eventually there is stillness and silence and a straight line again.

It’s interesting to detach…to turn your brain off and become a vessel for movement.

– Lilly

Linda notes that during the exercise she was aware of silence followed by a sudden orchestration of sound. “A certain feeling could be created in the room, like suspense, so it was a really powerful evocation of…something.” Lilly muses, “There’s an element of leadership but being able to follow as well. The dynamic is of being able to lead and to receive.” Dan adds, “I found myself grabbing control, having control and then releasing again.”

Whether by chance or by listening, are we coordinated? There’s a very strong sense of responsibility. I can do whatever but it doesn’t fit in with the group. I can be a leader but that doesn’t fit in with the group.

– Olga


There is no break. Deanna goes on to introduce the 7 Energy Levels, which she takes us through one by one…

#4 Neutral (lying on the floor; no energy)

#1 The body is very heavy, breathing is slow, very deep. To make any movement is really difficult. To lift a limb it feel like the limb is full of lead.

#2 The body is still not easy to move, breathing is still slow, but you can pull yourself along the floor if you have to. You might try to get up but you fall back down before reaching your feet.

#3 The body feels lighter but it’s hard to take control of your movement, as if the wind has more control than you do over your movement; air comes into your joints. The body floats through space. You are off-balance, mostly slow. Big long exhalations.

#4 neutral (standing) The spine is straight, the head is straight, feet are shoulder width apart and arms hang loosely. Breathing is steady. You’re feeling relaxed and ready for what may come. You’re alert and aware, and relaxed. From here we can create any emotion.

#5 The breathing becomes more rapid and tension becomes apparent. Shallow breaths, a quicker pace; anticipating something: stress or anxiety. Add gestures (wring hands or shake out the tension). Whatever that feeling does to your body, let it inhabit you. Maybe other people start to agitate you in the space…

#6 The breathing is fast and shallow, fight or flight energy, fear, terror. N.B. Not a faster pace.


#7 feel the energy of Level 6 energy while frozen. This is dynamic stillness (if you unfreeze you can go back to Level 6 energy in an instant). Keep the moment of being alive, being “in action” in your head.

Deanna taps shoulders to allow performers to step out of their frozen position to take a look at what the dynamic stillness looks like in the others. She calls out, “Level 6” and “Level 7” – switching between Level 6 & Level 7 is exhilarating and exhausting…and I’m only watching! Deanna takes the group back through the energy levels until the bodies sink into the floor, relieved. Deanna prompts the debrief discussion – any discoveries?

Lilly says, “We can play with those higher energies for the city scene.” Dan agrees, suggesting the group consider using the essence of both exercises – the lanes and the energy levels – to build the city scene. Jonas notes, “The exercise is really valuable for seeing the energies still there when we detach and look. Your breath is what filters the energy and brings it up to the next energy.” Linda discusses the importance of the performer’s gaze. Deanna agrees: on the other hand, high energy levels require (breaking the gaze and) looking all around because the awareness comes up and out. Linda observes a major benefit of having an ensemble on the same page when it comes to energy levels. “It could be a shorthand to what’s required in a scene. Somebody might be feeling stressed and giving Level 7 energy when what’s required is Level 4.”

Is neutral energy not alive?

There is some discussion about Level 6 energy. Olga sees the potential for Level 6 energy to be used for someone in love and Deanna counters, “It’s orgasmic” (and not just enthusiastic). We understand that excited, high stress can be positive or negative energy.

The breath is the key. The body follows the breath.

Someone remembers that Zen Zen Zo’s Lynne Bradley talked about commitment. Commit to the gesture and the audience sees the 100% commitment in that moment. The audience doesn’t see how much or how little experience you have.

Next, Deanna takes the group through a laughter exercise:

Breathing in and taking arms out (outstretched), clap hands and vocalise, “HA!”

Walk across the circle, making eye contact, “HA HA” then “HA HA HA” then “HA HA HA HA”, clapping to match.

Make the “HAHAHAHAHA” sound like a motorcycle starting. Greet people with the motorcycle sound.

Deep breaths to come back to neutral.

Gesture becomes a cup of tea. Lighten the sound. Greet others between sips of tea.

Deep breaths to come back to neutral.

Gesture becomes both hands on the belly for a big Santa Claus, “HO HO HO HO” (or as a gorilla)

Deep breaths to come back to neutral.

Vocalise a siren (“orchestra”) of laughter, conducted by Deanna. This inspires whirling and twirling around the space, laughing in the upper register, and snorts and “strange” laughs.

Deep breaths to come back to neutral.

I wonder if there is anyone outside, on their way to Woolworths, hurrying by when they were in no hurry at all, and wondering what on earth is going on inside the Black Box Theatre…


There is full commitment from this group. Everyone is here to get out of it what they will, even if they’re still not sure what it will be. With the new addition to the daily routine – sharing what each individual has taught everyone – everyone might find out something new through what someone else reveals.

Jonas steps out to confer with the Indigenous elders and advisors. There are still some traditions and acknowledgements to get right. The rest of us move outside, roadside, onto a patch of grass in the sunshine, working on images created using bodies in space, and gesture and proximity. And perception…





What do we see in each picture? What do we “read”? What will the audience get from it?

We are here to give a message…at the end of the day the goal is to make that message to the others.


Back inside, there is some concern about the performance space. “Where are the spaces where the energies can leak out (and come in), and where is it possible for those messages to be weakened?” asks Linda. Lilly explains, “It’s the circle that creates the container for the work to take place…we’ll delineate the circle and the doorway where spirits and energies can come in and out of that space. Being aware of that circle as a sacred space and being a container, a vessel, for those energies. That’s the device… There’s a power in the gesture of making it a safe space.”

Lilly takes a call from Jonas and advises the group that David (Gubbi Gubbi) will not be coming in after all because his energy is not in it today. David and his brother, Mark, will come tomorrow to assist with choreography and talk with the group about the possibility of them being involved in the performance.

There is a discussion about the chairs. The chairs in the Black Box Theatre are rows of 5 square plastic chairs, which doesn’t allow for the curved audience the group wants. The performance space will continue to change so the discussion is added to the Parking Lot. The conversation turns to clarifying the meaning of the work. Having joined the core group later in the piece, Linda is still working out what it all means for her. She says, “The intention of BioDrama is to somehow connect the ancestral beings and we’re here on the Sunshine Coast. It’s like a timeless meeting of ancestral beings but how does that relate to the Coolum story? Is that the port through which we meet the ancestral beings?”

Lilly reminds the group that the show and the process of creating it has a lot to do with acknowledgement. Kerry (Gubbi Gubbi) spoke about acknowledgement. It’s about the reconnection with ancient wisdom – acknowledging and remembering – “and the story that we chose came up spontaneously in our communication with Kerry. For me it has a lot to do with the cleansing and reconnecting with nature that I feel needs to happen. In the world, we’ve reached a level of ‘grotesque’ and the cleansing is necessary,” explains Lilly.

It’s the story of the cycle, of the river – the river of life – the story of birth, reminding us that the river not only brings us life but a reason for fighting, that duality; not only the good thing or the bad thing but all things and you eventually find the cleansing, the rain…

– Olga

Lilly: “There’s the cleansing. Olga continues, “And the stories don’t finish here. It may find something that’s negative and it will rumble and it will become positive. It’s the cycle of life. We need stories that we can understand. They’re all metaphors for that cycle of the river; that cycle of life.” For Dan, the story is still evolving. He says, “I’ll wait and see how it unfolds.”

Lilly leads a discussion about the shape of the performance. There will be the initial acknowledgment and welcome, with mother earth in the centre and the umbilical cord of life. Each person has a line to speak, to connect and acknowledge, “and we have permission from the Indigenous people to work with these traditional stories, and it’s really important that we have an elder to do that welcome. Then we begin.” The story of Maroochy and Ninderrry and Coolum will be shared.

On Friday the group had sketched the units of performance to create a storyboard. There are 5 main story segments, which is a simplified version of events. Lilly is wary of the message becoming convoluted. Olga simplifies the message (the story) further, breaking the images up into just 3 narrative acts: the beginning, middle and end.


There is some discussion about aesthetic choices. For example, will the same grief motif be used a second time, rather than changing Maroochy’s grief and asking the audience to recognise different forms (different representations) of grief. The decision is to keep it simple and repeat the recognisable “grief” gesture and sound.

Lilly reiterates an important point learned from David in the original discussions about which story to tell. This is new to me. She explains that despite the need for some light comic relief, the Indigenous story of the two frogs cannot come into it because the one Dreaming story is already being told. Unlike our Anglo penchant for mash-ups of fairytales and the like, our Indigenous people prefer the traditional stories to stay unmixed. In fact, it would be disrespectful to try to combine them, undermining the entire cultural exchange.

Dan suggests skipping through the city scene to add some lightness and Olga talks about comic relief and awareness of the inner child, and what about the clowns? There is some confusion about the ‘clowns’. Lilly clarifies, “Definitely not the image of a (circus) clown, but bringing in that essence of childhood play. It could be leapfrog but we would avoid the frog story because David has expressed that.”

There must also be some sort of debrief with the audience because it’s always such an intense experience for them. “With a debrief you give them closure and you get closure as performers.” There might need to be a physical way of involving the audience in the rebirth/catharsis… Erica describes a performance in which she and Maddy were involved, culminating in a dance with the audience. Holding hands is always a good idea… A hand-holding tribal dance sounds like the upbeat version of the sort of ritual that might open the show. Lilly suggests that when children are added to the performance, dancing and playing, they can bring the performers back to life after the grotesque segment and bring the audience into their dance by holding hands…

Deanna wants to get up and try some things…

I remember some of the tangible things I’ve taken away from (mostly indie) shows over the last few years –

  • an unsealed envelope containing paper for letter writing
  • a paper crane
  • a cupcake
  • a boxing glove keyring
  • a seed

A seed. The seed of a native Australian plant seems to me the ideal gift to offer audience members. I think the council or a local nursery would be more than happy to sponsor…but it’s not my show. I continue to consider these elements of ritual and involving the audience and the “social theatricality” of Biodrama. And I remember reading Catherine Love’s discussions about “catering” for certain demographics, and who is included and excluded from certain forms of culture… 

Dan reminds the group that harmony is the answer to the disruption of the city. Linda tells the group that the thing that’s missing for her is the build up of suspense. “It needs this brooding sense of something awful…” Lilly thinks the the energy of the storm will be evident in the music.

Olga clarifies what the group will work on for the rest of the day – connecting to content, connecting with each other, clarifying the story and marking the movement. This is the ensemble at work, and as I tell Lilly later, during a different conversation, it’s working beautifully.

I promise to return the following day to check out the Grotowski Laboratory…


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