By Grace Edwards
Adelaide-born contemporary dance artist Lisa Griffiths and New Zealand-born contemporary performing artist and guest teacher Craig Bary collaborate with multi-media designer Adam Synott in their long-awaited work, Side To One. This new work features as part of the Adelaide Festival Centre’s inSPACE program, to be held in late July. Dance Informa’s Grace Edwards discusses dance, friendship and the existence of soul mates with the choreographers.
Tell us about your work, Side To One
The work is about two people destined to connect. Some people call this love or chemistry, and would call them soul mates. Side To One explores the vital human need for connection and is a true story inspired by our friendship and dancing together.
Do you believe in the concept of soul mates?
I do believe in connections that go deeper; I also believe you can have this connection with more than one person, but in different ways. With Lisa, I feel we have always been destined to come together in this creative way. We feel very much like family now too. We have an unspoken understanding of each other.
I certainly believe in soul mates but they can come and go. In our case, Craig and I have had a long journey together.
How do you work together in the studio?
We are peers who share a great deal of skill and experience, so when we choreograph, we sometimes create phrases separately in the studio before coming together to learn each other’s sections. Then together, we extend the material further. When making duet work we simply experiment and see where a movement idea may move us – sometimes into a dance lift, or one supporting the other suspended. We find these places by trusting and listening to each other, always keeping our connection and an awareness of each other’s bodies. If we fall, we fall together, again finding a new choreographic outcome.
We have also spent many a night with our heads near computer screens writing and rewriting concepts, ideas and grant applications, and refining what we discover in the studio. It has been a long and sporadic process of development spanning a few years. Each time we come back together we see what still inspires us and we develop those ideas, or throw them out and find new ones.
Many dance artists see choreography as a form of movement-based research. How do you view choreographic practice?
Choreography has no rules in regards to process, but it is always about using movement as a medium. I have learnt that it is important to question why you use a movement. You need to question your motivation and be honest about what you want to say. Then let go and trust your instinct.
I think we take what we are and what we experience and put it into an art form that resonates with ourselves. For Lisa and me, that art form is dance, and also music and imagery.
How has the process of creating this work differed to that of other works?
I have made a few works now, but when we started this process this was my first work in development. As dancers both performing and creating our own work, the process is very exhausting but also extremely true and instinctive. It is not the same as looking into a work and seeing the whole picture and being able to manipulate it externally. You need to trust how it is feeling and how that will read to an audience.
I have really been able to take risks in our partner work, as Craig and I have much experience and trust. Since the movements come from our own bodies, the process is not delayed by transferring the movement onto other dancers’ bodies.
How difficult has it been juggling your time between choreography and performance as independent artists?
It has been tricky for both Craig and me to juggle work. As we are both still performers for other companies we have had to find time here and there to work. We have also had to keep in mind the availability of our collaborators and studio space. Side to One has only been made possible through our friendship, respect and patience for each other’s life and busy careers. I do, however, hope to create a new work next year with Craig dancing in it to experience the perspective of creating from outside the work.
It has been difficult to juggle our dance careers as well as make this work. I think that is why it has been a longer process than normal, but the experiences that we have outside of our work further serve to inform the work we make together. Side to One has gone through many transformations as we have grown as artists. It’s very rare to see a work take the time to develop like this and really grow alongside the artists. It will be interesting to see if an audience can feel this.
What inspires you to create and perform?
Both Lisa and I are inspired by artists and collaborators around us, and the simplicities and complexities of life. The ability to share with an audience that which I see and which affects me as a person and artist is what constantly drives me to dance and make work.
I love the challenge of combining other mediums such as projection and set design to support the story and complement the dance. I think this comes from the fact that the people around me are gifted with particular skills and I feel compelled to utilise these.
Performing and creating is about sharing an experience. The older I become the more I want to understand people and why we behave the way we do. My art form keeps me physically active and hearing your heart beat whilst dancing makes you feel alive. My performances make me strive for perfection; it does not exist, of course, but in the process I feel I do become mentally stronger. Creating work keeps me questioning life; it keeps me switched on to what some people may find mundane but what I see as daily miracles and achievements.
Side to One will run from July 27th-30th at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Space Theatre.
Photos: Chris Herzfeld