Arts / Quantum’s dance of two decades

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Choreographer Steve Gow works with his dancers on the anniversary production “Two Zero”. Photo by Lorna Sim

ALREADY rejoicing at the news that Quantum Leap’s production “This Poisoned Sea” has been shortlisted for an Australian Dance Award, its umbrella organisation, QL2 Dance, is preparing to celebrate 20 years of a wonderful adventure into dance.

Artistic director and founder of both QL2 and Quantum Leap, Ruth Osborne, and assistant director/choreographer, Steve Gow, are cooking up a performance called, well, “Two Zero”.

While Osborne has been off at the World Dance Congress in Adelaide with a crack team of 10 hoofers, meeting dancers from 29 countries, Gow has been equally busy in Canberra with another crack team, jollying them along, enticing them into leaps and bounds for the camera, but all the while counting them into the highly disciplined moves for which the Leapers have become known.

It’s not strictly a dance school, but with performance projects for dancers aged 8-26, choreographic development workshops and residencies, QL2 Dance aims to building a deep understanding of dance.

The auditioned youth dance ensemble, the Quantum Leapers, have danced in Jamaica, Thailand, Singapore and Scotland, to say nothing of Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and regional centres.

In “Two Zero” there’ll be three new works choreographed by QL2 alumni Sara Black, Steve Gow and Eliza Sanders, two pieces remounted by choreographers Alison Plevey, Dean Cross and alumnus Daniel Riley from past performances, a re-imagined past dance from 2006 and a new work from Osborne herself.

Gow is himself a Quantum Leap alumnus, who studied at QL2 from 2002 to 2006, then moved interstate into the world of hip-hop dance, becoming a grand finalist on “Australia’s Got Talent” in 2011 with dance crew, Instant Bun and winning a swag of first prizes in breakdancing contests around the world in “an amazing dance career”, says Osborne.

Quantum Leap dancers going ahead in leaps and bounds. Photo by Lorna Sim

In her absence, Gow keeps a watchful eye over the whole developing work. Each segment, he tells “CityNews,” will have its own theme and, rather than exploring the darker emotions that have informed past works such as “This Poisoned Sea” (the environment) or “Reckless Valour” (war), this time the aim will be “to reach out to Quantum alumni”.

It’s obvious that Gow keeps a pleasant but tight rein on his dancers as he counts the beats, but he says: “In teaching style I’m not super-strict, there needs to be light-heartedness and we don’t want the dancers to have a negative experience”.

After all, many make their lifelong friends through QL2, “it becomes a bit like family and it’s an amazing platform, no matter what direction life takes.”

Talking to Osborne by phone to Adelaide, the sense of excitement is palpable.

Originally trained as a dancer from age eight at the famous Bodenwieser Dance Centre in Sydney, she found “it was all about creativity and the development of the individual, very much a case of the artist being nurtured as a person, not just as a dancer”.

Osborne went on to establish the Contemporary Dance Centre in Perth, and became artistic director of STEPS Youth Dance Company for 10 years before moving to the Australian Choreographic Centre in Canberra as manager of youth dance practice in 1999 and that’s how the 20 years is calculated. When the Choreographic Centre lost Australia Council funding in 2007, artsACT still wanted to fund a youth program and QL2 became the core organisation.

Under her watch, Quantum Leap has performed annually in a professionally-mounted production at The Playhouse, but one of Osborne’s proudest achievements has been the encouragement of young boys to dance, for which she has won awards.

“Boys’ work is fantastic, but it’s a bit down at the moment, but I’m hoping for a resurgence,” she says.

To her, the biggest plus is that so many of her dancers have gone out into professional training then come back to create work with Quantum Leapers.

Bangarra Dance Theatre dancer Daniel Riley is a case in point. He’ll be released by the Sydney company to come here for two days to join his colleague, the artist-dancer (and QL2 board member) Dean Cross to put the finishing touches to the recreation of an earlier work created with the Leapers.

Then there’s Eliza Sanders, still young but stepping up as an independent choreographer, and Sara Black, who won a Helpmann award and danced with Chunky Move in Melbourne.

“It’s wonderful to have all the dancers back, bringing their knowledge and thinking about what they learnt when they were in Quantum Leap,” she says. “It’s a kind of magic circle.”

Two Zero”, Quantum Leap, The Playhouse, August 9-11. Bookings to or 6275 2700.

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