Winter Dawn —

Time and water inspire Joseph Stewart

Dance Dialogues offers an ideal platform for our dancers to nurture their choreographic talents. Company Dancer Joseph Stewart was asked by Li Cunxin to create a short piece for the Summer season. He shares some of his creative process with us here.

“I begin by researching stimuli for the piece. I collect from varying sources, such as literature, paintings and even conversations. For this work, I’m focusing on the concepts of memory and time, and using water as a driving metaphor. 

“The stimuli inspire my choreography and create a mood for the work. They also help the dancers to make a connection with the work during the choreographic process in the studio. As I tend to create non-narrative work, the stimuli serve as an anchor when exploring and creating the movement. I like also like to share the stimuli with audience members, as knowing where the work came from will allow them to better connect with it.”

For this new piece, Joseph has looked to the beautiful Impressionist paintings of Claude Monet for inspiration. He is particularly drawn to the two works pictured here: Cliff Walk at Pourville (1882) and The Manneporte, Cliff at Étretat, Sunset (1883). “I find Monet’s paintings of cliffs very emotive,” says Joseph. “I love his choice of colour palette and the way his technique can really evoke a feeling of movement.”

Joseph is also inspired by the poem Out of Time by acclaimed Australian poet Kenneth Slessor. Here is the third and final part of the poem:


Leaning against the golden undertow,
Backward, I saw the birds begin to climb
with bodies hailstone-clear, and shadows flow,
Fixed in a sweet meniscus, out of Time,
Out of the torrent, like the fainter land
Lensed in a bubble's ghostly camera,
The lighted beach, the sharp and china sand
Glitters and waters and peninsula -

The moment's world it was; and I was part,
Fleshless and ageless, changeless and made free.
"Fool, would you leave this country?" cried my heart,
But I was taken by the suck of sea.

The gulls go down, the body dies and rots,
And Time flows past them like a hundred yachts.

© Kenneth Slessor. All rights reserved

“One particular line, ‘Fixed in a sweet meniscus, out of Time.’ I found especially poignant,” he comments. “Slessor’s discerning use of words has a beautiful way of igniting the senses.”

Talented young designer Bronson Atkin will work with Joseph to style costumes for the piece, and he is also loaning one special costume to the Company for the performance season.

Li Cunxin has said that he wants Dance Dialogues to be a ‘creative crucible’ for emerging choreographers. Joseph is seizing the chance to create this work for QB’s studio series, and will further develop it to present at the Anywhere Theatre Festival in May. In its second incarnation, the dancers will actually be performing in water!