Great Southern Dance: New Dance for New Times – A New Tasmanian Contemporary Dance Company
Great Southern Dance (GSD) is a new, agile Tasmania-based Australian professional contemporary dance company presenting dance performance in new ways for new times. GSD is bringing highest-calibre professional dance to communities across Tasmania and beyond. GSD is project-based and has spent the past two years launching small beginnings from an experienced base.
The dance of GSD combines site, landscape and story. In their projects, full-bodied response-to-site from the dancers is in response to the natural and built environs. The primary intention is to integrate dance, architecture, history, and landscape to create development opportunities for the arts, for professional artists and to present dance for the community.
GSD integrates choreography with architecture and landscape in ways that invigorate shared meaningfulness of sites. This is achieved by collaborating effectively with community partners to bolster the cultural relevance and social reach of the art – such as relationships with Port Arthur Historic Site and City of Hobart. Community access to professional arts practice is facilitated by making accessible film content for broadcast alongside live performance. The artistic team is well-versed in large-scale performance installations and theatre productions that incorporate choreography, film, music and light.
GSD’s first full production in-theatre work Human Ba La La (HBLL) will be presented at the Theatre Royal Hobart, Studio Theatre April 1-9. Great Southern Dance will present an original performance that harnesses and integrates the power of dance, film, music and design. The production’s absurdist title deliberately sits in contrast to the inertia of built terrain and the weight of history. It is a creative lever to unhinge us and playfully tackle the blind spots and bad faith that sit at the base of the stories that society tells itself. The work features four exceptional dancers live on stage, who will also feature in the films projected onto vertical screens and the floor which are an extension of the dancers’ internal worlds.
Dancers will be captured during two creative development phases conducted on Tasmanian historic sites. In development, Human Ba La La has previously been deliberately site-specific. The films bring natural and built terrain into the theatre, harnessing visual and narrative power to live dance and theatre. The films provide a foundation for the dancers to dynamically share contemporary life mingled with Tasmanian history.
The films also include the music and presence of music artists including original Tasmanian rapping, song, didgeridoo. Composer and poly-instrumentalist, Dean Stevenson coordinated this element. Soundscapes will be developed from the sites filmed, and live drumming will provide dynamic back and forth with the dancers on stage, sounds and songs by Tasmanian artists, and the sounds coming from sites.
Installation design is the crucial element that binds the dance, film and music together. Architect and designer Paul Wakelam has worked in set and installation design since 1994. This production is visually intense and physically thrilling. This new work starkly contrasts the compelling and weighty foundations of Tasmanian landscape and history with the ephemera of dance performance coupled with the sounds of local artists.
Human Ba La La (HBLL) has had two site-specific phases to date. Creative Development 1 took place in January 2020 at Hunting Ground, a uniquely restored historic site in the southern midlands of Tasmania. Artists worked intently on filming connections between body, site and landscape with particular focus on regulation and dysregulation of the human autonomic nervous system.
Further creative development was enabled in April 2021, by the City of Hobart (Rivulet Residency) and Port Arthur Historic Site (Site-Responsive Dance & Film Project). GSD created a second series of short visual narratives filmed within Tasmanian historic site and landscapes. Both the 2020 and 2021 series of films will be used in Human Ba La La to bring natural and built terrain as a powerful thematic element to the work.