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Canberra Today 5°/7° | Friday, July 1, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Jumping Jack hits the ground running

From “Three”… “Three works. Three choreographers. Three spellbinding stories”. Photo: David Kelly

THE Australasian Dance Collective takes The Playhouse stage later this month with a program of Australian premieres called “Three”, billed as “Three works. Three choreographers. Three spellbinding stories”.

I caught up with one of the “three”, rising Brisbane star, Jack Lister, as the company, formerly known as Expressions Dance Company, prepared to tour.

Formerly associate choreographer and dancer with Queensland Ballet, where he created work for the company’s “Bespoke” seasons and a co-production with Birmingham Royal Ballet, “A Brief Nostalgia”, Lister jumped ship to the Australasian Dance Collective in 2020 and hasn’t looked back. 

Knowing that ballet dancers are usually bent on leaving the ground while contemporary artists are more likely to be hugging it, I asked him if the move from ballet to contemporary dance was unusual, given that there are contemporary dance schools all around the country feeding into companies such as ADC.

“Everyone’s path is really different. Within ballet it’s not uncommon, but we’re talking about vastly different worlds with different techniques, so I didn’t just jump in, I really had to learn on the job and it’s really what I wanted – to shake up my career at age 26,” says Lister.

A couple of decades ago, 26 would’ve been considered old for a dancer, but no longer and as Lister says, “it’s great to see dancers dancing into their 40s now”.

To him, the exceptional great thing about being with the dance collective is that he gets to work with different choreographers, composers, artists and people who have been brought in as associate collaborators.

“It has extended me artistically, it was what I wanted… we were doing a lot of other people’s productions, but I’m interested in the creative process and in this company I’m dancing and choreographing too,” he says.

He’ll be performing in his own part of the triple-bill, “Still Life”.

“It’s based on an idea that’s been at the back of my head for years and now I’ve got the chance to realise it in a work that’s been inspired from the Memento Mori [Latin for “remember that you must die”] still life art movement from the 16th and 17th centuries,” he says.

“It’s a reminder of our mortality, laden with symbolism… images of wilting flowers and decaying fruit come to mind, things that are on the way to decay, symbols of impermanence.

Choreographer and dancer Jack Lister… “I really had to learn on the job and it’s really what I wanted – to shake up my career at age 26.”

“But it’s really about what it is to be human and although the movement originated in the 16th century, it’s still relevant, because it’s human. It’s this question of mortality.

“The symbols in the Memento Mori movement were to do with our own transience and dance is exactly that, transient.

“But another symbol in the artworks was hour-glasses, which got me thinking about timelines, big ideas to put into this dance work.”

Lister says he doesn’t have a visual arts background but spends a lot of time in galleries when he needs to find clarity, saying: “A gallery for me has always been a pretty sacred space and it helped me to make this work into a meditative piece of dance onstage – an abstract sort of art gallery.”

Contemporary dance is notoriously hard to describe, but Lister articulates his work eloquently, telling me that “Still Life” is a series of scenes which all boil down to the same idea. 

“Audiences will see a white wall that sits in the middle of the space… the dancers are seen as human beings, coming and going, sometimes with the physicality of a snuffed-out candle, sometimes moving very fast, sometimes in timelapse, but at other times completely still,” he says.

“The white wall is man-made, but the variables are the human beings and that speaks to life, it’s quite beautiful.”

“Three”, The Playhouse, June 24-25.

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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