Holding Ourselves Hostage: an interview with Gemma Dawkins
Kupka Pianist Alex Raineri had a brief chat with Gemma Dawkins amongst preparations for our collaboration on the 'Human Detained' showing at the Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Art next Friday October 30th.
Alex Raineri: It's been awesome working with you so far and I can't wait for the show on October 30th! I'm interested to know more about your artistic background and what else you're up to currently?
Gemma Dawkins: I'm really looking forward to it as well! I work mainly with MakeShift Dance Collective, devising works for festivals, events and other non-traditional spaces. It's been a little while since we created a work for a traditional theatre space so I'm really enjoying getting back into that framework. Now that I live in Sydney I've been working independently as a choreographer and movement advisor. My latest project is a photography series that I'm helping to 'choreograph' - which is very interesting for someone who works with moving images rather than still ones!
AR: 'The Human Detained’, in its various guises, is a strikingly vast thematic concept which aims to link together the various segments of the show together. Within the full group of artists involved, we've each had markedly different reactions to the thematic impetus, ranging from literal representations of current political issues, to it having a much more abstract influence on the narrative of the works. In a couple of sentences, could you explain how the approach our group has taken towards this theme will manifest on October 30th?
GD: Luckily we were all quite clear that we weren't interested so much in a literal or political approach, but rather more intrigued by broader concepts around detainment and stagnation. We are examining the ways in which we hold ourselves hostage - whether consciously or otherwise. We are also having a fun time with props...
AR: What does being a dancer in the 21st Century mean for you? From a musicians perspective, it seems that the world of dance is similar to music in that the influence and popularity of competitions seem to promote attention being placed onto the fastest, most athletic and virtuosic performance, without much considered intellectual engagement with the artistic value of the content. GD: Absolutely. The more our understanding of the human body develops in terms of anatomical intelligence, the more we are seeing focus on an almost Olympic style of dance. There's definitely a loss of expression, subtlety and finesse there, as amazing as some of the physical feats are. Having said that, there are also a number of choreographers and companies taking dance outside of its previous habitats and putting dance in all kinds of contexts that are thrilling and complex. One thing I love about dance in the 21st century is the collaborative element and the way that lines between dance, visual art, theatre, installation and experiment are constantly being blurred.
AR: Taking a step away from this show, what are some of the most powerful performances or shows that you've ever seen?
GD: Last year I saw Hofesh Shechter's company perform Sun and it was one of the most visceral, heart-in-your-mouth things I've ever seen. I always love to see Akram Khan, and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's work Rosas Danst Rosas was totally challenging and at the same time totally absorbing. Closer to home, watching Dancenorth perform Underground was a seismic moment for me as a dance student trying to understand what Australian dance meant, and where it fit. That just perfectly summarised it for me. But ask me again in a few months - I'm going to see Pina Bausch company at Adelaide Festival and I'm counting down the months!
AR: What are your top five favourite things? Desert island list?
GD: This is an impossible question! Can I take the whole of Spotify and its library with me? I am. I'm also taking a book library. I'll require an endless supply of avocado toast, coconut oil because it fixes everything, and a pen and paper.