BELCONNEN Arts Centre is about to turn six and the creative team has turned to the art of dance and to Winnie the Pooh’s creator AA Milne for inspiration.
“Now We Are Six”, you see, is one of Milne’s best-known poems and it seemed to hit the spot.
“When I was five,” the words go, “I was just alive/ But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever.”
Clever, indeed. Event producer and cultural planning expert, Annemaree Dalziel, has been at the centre for three months filling the shoes of cultural inclusion officer Philip Piggin while he’s been overseas on a Churchill fellowship. Now he’s back and they’re working together on a dance extravaganza that illustrates how strong the dance base at the centre is.
Piggin joined the centre in 2010, not long after it opened in late 2009, and testifies that, from the outset, the state-of-the-art building was alive with dance, initially taught by flamenco artist Tomas Dietz, but later booked out by different teachers and used for the centre’s exploratory “Dance on the Edge” programs.
It was obvious to Dalziel and the centre’s new creative program director Monika McInerney that the slap-up birthday cake should be matched by a knees-up. After all, as Dalziel says, paraphrasing composer John Cage: “Everything you do is dance”.
But so far their dance artists were almost always “doing stuff for free” and as a gesture towards maturity, Belconnen Arts Centre decided on its first paid commission to mark the Big 6.
Dalziel made the call-out to choreographers, stipulating that they respond to a sense of place and to the theme “Now We Are Six”, while also involving audiences. Oddly, no one responded to the idea of place, but the latter two points were eagerly seized upon. Dance artist Alison Plevey and collaborators Jamie Winbank and Olivia Fyfe were chosen.
Plevey will make use of verbatim theatre techniques to create “A Diary of Six”, which will include vox pops on the day. The clever technicians at the centre will create a soundtrack to people’s voices.
By contrast, Winbank and Fyfe are producing a kind of paper installation that will recall a child’s birthday party, allowing visitors to write their memories of being six.
“It’s very playful”, Dalziel says, and should fill the arts centre “with memories of what we were”.
The large foyer space will be configured into an end-stage and a thrust, almost like a catwalk, to be used by the two commissioned works, Dance Northside, Eva Damarjati of Move to Self-Love; Hilal Dance, Golds from Canberra Dance Theatre; Monaro Folk; Mudrakar Kathak Dance School; Quake Bellydance and the Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy.
Piggin can hardly believe his eyes at what has been planned during his absence. “It feels like we’re coming-of-age,” he says.
“Dance Kaleidoscope”, Belconnen Arts Centre, 118 Emu Bank, 3pm, Sunday, August 30, entry by gold-coin donation.