TAFE SA’s Dance students have been challenging their perceptions of performance with a project themed around isolation and working from home.
Small Dances for Small Screens is a six-week project requiring students to choreograph and film a short dance work in the confines of their home using just a smart phone.
The second and third-year students from the Bachelor of Creative Arts – Dance, a TAFE SA/Flinders University dual award, have been mentored by the professional dancers at Australian Dance Theatre (ADT), who have recently done something similar.
ADT teamed up with Film Studies at Flinders University to learn how to make a short film while in isolation during COVID-19 restrictions and the results – eight short films – have recently been screened online.
Film Studies honours student Alice Reardon assisted the dancers with the project, and she has been working with TAFE SA’s students as well.
Dance lecturer Lisa Heaven says ADT wanted to share their new-found knowledge and the project seemed a great way to engage dance students while they were studying at home due to the pandemic.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity for the students to expand their skills, learn from young, professional mentors and have creative input into a performance,” she says.
“They are covering off on course requirements, for the second years it’s a production outcome and for the third years it’s a secondment outcome, and in addition they’re getting skills that might not be embedded in our course but
are so useful and they get to enjoy some creative licence.”
Dance student Caroline De Wan says the creative freedom has been a really enjoyable part of the project and “aligns so strongly” with how she wants to work in the industry.
“I’m happiest when I can create my work,” says Caroline who had already gained some professional choreographic experience before she joined the course at AC Arts in 2019.
She says she has appreciated the feedback from her ADT mentors Chris Mills and Darci O’Rourke and has found isolation an interesting theme to explore.
“I’ve been in the backyard at night experimenting with the flash and other things on my phone,” she says.
“My work will explore surrealist themes. I‘m looking at expanding the mind past rationality.”
She says the project has also instilled time management and leadership skills and she’s learnt a lot about herself in the process.
Third-year student Gemma Ivens says she’s developed as an artist because of the project and found it challenging to look at her home as a workspace and a place to create art.
“It’s such a challenge to negotiate your space and your surroundings in a different way,” she says.
“When you’re confined at home you can’t be as physical or move as much but you can still find other means of creativity which I explore in my film,” she says.
Gemma, who has been mentored by ADT dancers, Gabrielle Nankivell and Harrison Elliott, says she’s enjoyed the creative freedom of the project and learnt new technical skills.
“Filming has been challenging because you have these ideas but when you try to show them on film it doesn’t always look right. It’s hard to capture the 3D element of dance but it’s good to be able to focus people’s attention
on the elements you want them to see,” she says.
“I’ve gained lots of knowledge about dance on film and using dance as a different platform – I’ve always thought of it as something you do on a stage.”
Lecturer Lisa Heaven says the isolation project has enabled students to experience a different form of creative expression while still using their dance skills.
“I keep saying to the students that they need to see COVID-19 as an opportunity to think differently. This project may not be on a stage, but it provides a performance outcome,” she says.
Images: Dance student Gemma Ivens working on her film project