Community Dancer in Residence 1988
1988 is where we as Tracks Dance Company start our specific history. This year a series of joint projects brought together Tim Newth and Sarah Calver. Their work began to create a style that utilised dance and strong visuals, worked in urban and remote situations, used many diverse dance forms, with dancers and non-dances, in theatre and in outdoor settings. This was a start of what became signature Tracks work.
Prior to this there had been dance in Darwin under many guises such as Maggi’s Dance Mob (community dance and classes run by Maggi Phillips, Brown’s Mart community dance, and Feats Unlimited (a dance in Education company run by Maggi Phillips.)
With the closing of Feats Unlimited (a dance in education company that was resident in Darwin from 1979-1987), dance in the Territory took a back seat with respect to Community Arts. The contact with professional dancers, teachers and choreographers looked bleak, and the realisation that Feats Unlimited no longer existed took hold. Brown’s Mart Community Arts and Ausdance NT looked to suggestions as to what directions they could take. The main aim was to salvage a vestige of explorative, committed and informed contemporary dance in the Northern Territory – work which had been developed over the previous ten years through Maggi Phillips. The small population and relative isolation in Darwin meant that in reality there was a void of professional and informed Contemporary dance teaching. There was a need for a skilled person to be available to fulfil immediate needs, to seize opportunities as they presented themselves, and to create new opportunities.
As a result, a new position of Community Dance Artist was taken up by Sarah Calver, (a previous member of Feats Unlimited), and was placed under the administration of Brown’s Mart Community Arts. This role immediately gained positive response from the community and extended her role as teacher, leader, initiator, and creator within the various resources of the community. This Community Dancer in Residence was for only 7 months and only one person. There is a limit to what dance tours the Northern Territory, and the input from outsiders is minute. It is a recommendation from this residency that a permanent job be created that could be shared so that the remote areas of the Territory that were once serviced by Feats Unlimited can also be included, and can share the excitement that comes from working with skilled artists.
Visual Artist Tim Newth had already established a reputation in Victoria and Tasmania for his animated large-scale visuals that integrated with dancers. He was also well versed in community-based work. He travelled to Darwin to work on a show called Sky Song with artists Sarah Hopkins, Beth Shelton and Ian Ferguson, and Alan Lam. He was quickly given offers of work through Browns Mart Community arts working with Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre, and with Neil Cameron. This made his decision to stay in Darwin easy.
Predominantly working with Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre encouraging the integration of theatre and movement. Living in Isolation, The final Ingredient and Black Rainbow were all productions with seasons at Brown’s Mart Theatre.
Darwin Dance Mob was the name given to cover a range of community dance classes that had been operating under Feats. (Originally this group was called Maggi's Mob in 1976 named after Maggi Phillips who was freelancing in Darwin. It was renamed Dance mob in 1978 under the programming of Brown's Mart Community Arts.) The aim of the classes was to provide access to dance skills regardless of age, gender, race, size, or social strata. Classes were offered in various techniques and styles, and engendered enthusiasm and confidence, and provided avenues for the creation of new and original works, choreography relevant to the community, and assisting in developing a Northern Territory Identity. The Darwin Dance Mob performed at many events especially the monthly Mixtures at the Mart (a platform for local artists to showcase their work.) They also performed in Dance Feast, an element of Dance on Darwin.
Sarah organised a dance display for the Youth expo run by radio station 8DN (December 4) Held at the Foskey pavilion, (Darwin Show Grounds). Performances included: Darwin Dance Mob (Modern dance), Darwin School of Ballet (classical pieces), Palmerston School of Ballet (modern Duet), Dance Connection (jazz and Tap), Dance-Time Studio (ballroom), Corrugated Iron youth Theatre (excerpts from Black Rainbow, A work in progress), 8DN Rock Eisteddfod.
Work In Schools
Henbury Avenue Special School – 15 students and their music Therapist (Lilo Braun) – worked up two pieces.
Casuarina Secondary College. Years 11 and 12 (under the classical ballet teacher Lily Vita).
Other schools included Jabiru Area School, Driver High School, Sanderson High, Dripstone high, Nightcliff high, Katherine High, Katherine South, McFarlane primary and Darwin High. Support was offered through assistance to courses, choreographic skills, dance/theatre workshops and encouraging school groups to participate in other activities such as the Rock Eisteddfod.
The level of expertise in dance in schools is limited. Four of the teachers attended Dance Mob Classes to further their knowledge.
Dance Development Office: Sarah Calver
[Under Brown’s Mart Community Arts – Executive Officer Ken Conway]