A Delicate Situation

If a high school careers adviser hadn’t said to her when she was 17, “Do what you really love” Lina Limosani could have been a gymnast. Instead, she became a dancer and choreographer with an international reputation.

If a high school careers adviser hadn’t said to her when she was 17, “Do what you really love” Lina Limosani could have been a gymnast. Instead, she became a dancer and choreographer with an international reputation.

Now a slim, infectiously enthusiastic 40, she studied dance at Victoria’s Box Hill TAFE, loving the classical, hating the contemporary. Her ideas were about to change. In 1994 she went to England expecting to teach, but came across a foundation dance course at the then Swindon College which led to other UK university courses. Then it was back to Australia, the West Australian Academy of the Performing Arts, the Victorian College of the Arts, and in 2000 Australian Dance Theatre (ADT).

Garry Stewart had just taken over the company. Wisely he continued earlier ADT artistic directors’ encouragement of choreography by company members, and Limosani, who had already created short works as a student, contributed several pieces, mostly lighthearted, to ADT’s ‘Ignition’ seasons. She gained confidence, “probably because I was working with fellow professionals,” she says. “Once you start working with professionals at that level, the ball game changes and you develop much more as a choreographer”. She speaks of others who went on to become notable choreographers — Tanja Liedtke, Antony Hamilton and Larissa McGowan among them. As a group they were “on the same pathway, inspired by each other, all on edge, taking risks”. Reviewing her own Blind Spot in 2003 I remarked on its “imaginative ideas and good structural development”; This Time (2004) was a “fun piece” with “timing right on the button”, and The Penny Drops (2006) was “carefully detailed” with “intricate, funny moves”. She received the 2003 Adelaide Critics’ Circle Award for an Emerging Artist, an award that turned out to be prophetic.

Leaving ADT, she worked with several independent companies and universities, but itchy feet took her overseas again, helped by grants from the Australia Council and the Ian Potter Foundation. She danced with the David Hughes Company in Edinburgh and was especially influenced by the Scottish physical theatre director Al Seed, whose horrific (and much praised) interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Mask of the Red Death, choreographed by Hughes, was considered “nasty in the nicest possible way” by The Guardian (you can see it on YouTube).

Working with Hughes and Seed changed Limosani’s thinking again, and when she gained an AsiaLink grant in 2008, she spent three months in an artist residency at Rimbun Dahan some 40km from Kuala Lumpur, beginning work on a darker theme. This time, she used a Malaysian myth of the Pontianak (pron. pontiana, a vampire ghost of a woman believed to have died during childbirth), to relate the story of a woman coming to terms with death. When it was performed in Kuala Lumpur, some people did not want to see pontianaks on stage, particularly as one of the four dancers was pregnant (the baby was later born unharmed, and the mother survived). But the work, A Delicate Situation, had some success and was nominated for three awards.

On the move again, Limosani went back to humour with The Tighter You Squeeze for ADT in 2009, and was soon off to Europe for more work with David Hughes and a choreographic residency, now a yearly event, with Fontys University’s Dance Academy in Tilburg, Holland. There have been other residencies as well, in Portugal and Scotland, and selection as one of six for the Swiss International Choreographers’ Project in Zurich, and performances in Munich.

Then a close friend died of cancer. Limosani took seven months off, even questioning the whole world of dance, pulling out of all her overseas work. But she found herself once more “pushing myself out of my comfort zone,” she says.

Working in another country such as Holland or Malaysia means that she has to “react culturally in a different way”. This has fed into A Delicate Situation, which is now less about the Malaysian myth of the Pontianak than with Western attitudes to death, dying and what may be beyond. In 2012 she returned to Malaysia supported by an Arts SA grant and taking with her Carol Wellman-Kelly who had become closely involved with the work, which had an in-progress showing in August of that year as part of the Adelaide Festival Centre’s ‘Inspace’ program. Two years later it represents a melding of the 2008 and 2012 versions. The Malaysian myth is more subdued, and the story is of a western woman coming to terms with the inevitability of death. There are now two, not four, characters, and technically Limosani feels she has found a balance between the dancers and the theatrical elements of the piece. She wants to “give her audiences room to ponder on their own experiences”.

A Delicate Situation

Space Theatre

Thursday, May 22 to Saturday, May 24


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