When the concept of Bespoke arose in early 2016 it was to challenge assumptions about what dance is and how it is experienced, how collaborations - both expected and unexpected - can enrich our artform, while providing a space for contemporary choreography and thought-provoking new work.
Starring in the opening celebrations of the redeveloped Thomas Dixon Centre, 2021’s Bespoke season seeks to build on this base with a triple bill of vibrant and diverse new Australian works including a piece by First Nations choreographer Daniel Riley, of Bangarra Dance Theatre fame.
Daniel is also a dancer, teacher, producer and Queensland University of Technology graduate from the Wiradjuri nation of Western NSW who is currently Creative Associate at ILBIJERRI Theatre Company, and Lecturer in Contemporary Dance at the Victorian College of the Art, where he additionally leads a mentoring program for First Nations dance students.
His Bespoke piece is one of three funded by the Australian Council for the Arts Major Performing Arts (MPA) grant Queensland Ballet applied for in 2019.
Rani Luther, Ballet Mistress and Creative Associate/Choreographer/Bespoke Facilitator, says she is excited to collaborate with someone of Daniel’s calibre and admires his distinct style.
“I think Daniel has a unique dance language and we are excited to see what he creates on our dancers, who are classically-trained but ever-curious about new ways to consider movement,” Rani says.
“When I spoke with him he was really excited to explore new movement with our beautiful dancers, and has great respect for the classical artform. So I suspect he will develop a unique language with a very interesting style of movement that merges the elements of Indigenous, contemporary, and classical ballet movement.”
Daniel’s work will bring to life a new commission by James Henry - a Melbourne-based composer and sound designer who writes various blends of traditional Aboriginal and contemporary genres.
Thomas Dixon Centre Head of Programming Sarah Boon warmly welcomes Daniel’s choice of composer.
“In commissioning this new work by a First Nations choreographer, we welcome the learnings and cultural exchange arising from Daniel creating work on QB’s dancers and sharing his voice with our audiences and community,” Sarah says.
“As we program Thomas Dixon Centre's activation from October 2021, we are engaging with colleagues across our sector to realise projects which bring art, artists and community together.
“We are actively exploring partnerships and opportunities within the small to medium and independent arts sector which will encourage cross-artform connections, develop our own artists and thinking, and attract new audiences.”
Meanwhile, Daniel admits to being pleasantly surprised by Queensland Ballet’s invitation to come to Brisbane to develop a new work in celebration of the reopening of the Thomas Dixon Centre.
“Having studied in Brisbane, I have known of Queensland Ballet’s work for many years and am excited to contribute to its growing repertoire. I think Bespoke is a great program to support independent choreographers who mightn’t have had the opportunity to work on, and with, the ballet body and form before,” he says.
He says he’s looking forward to the collaborative process with QB’s dancers.
“I am so excited to be in the studio with the dancers and getting to know them. Building the relationships is a big part of the process for me and having open and trusting relationships in the creative space is so important to making work. For me, the end product mirrors the process,” Daniel says.
“The open-door collaborative policy Queensland Ballet is offering is encouraging and I am looking forward to all that’s to come.”
The Bespoke piece is just one example of Queensland Ballet’s drive to explore and engage Australian art and artists in its newly redeveloped home at Thomas Dixon Centre.
PHOTO Robert Crispe