This month marks the launch of Dance Hub SA, a new independent dance body committed to creating a space where dancers and choreographers can hone their creativity.
When Leigh Warren and Dancers moved into the mezzanine of what is now the Lion Arts Centre in 1993, the space was already set up as a fully functioning dance studio. Warren and his company were given the top floor of the mezzanine; on the lower level already lived the Adelaide Fringe, which had established a studio space available to anyone who wanted to rehearse there. “It’s hard to imagine something like that in existence now,” says Warren.
Fast forward 27 years and the studio space has finally come full circle. No longer the residence of Leigh Warren and Dancers or even LWDance Hub (as it transitioned to five years ago), it’s now the birthplace of Dance Hub SA, the state’s new home of independent dance. The rebranding reinforces the organisation as South Australia’s peak advocacy and support body for dance, and firmly establishes the Hub as a community space for artists and choreographers, both emerging and established. And, just like the Fringe studio all those years ago, Dance Hub SA’s doors will always be open for anyone looking for a rehearsal space to let loose in.
For Warren, who’s handed management over to Adelaide-based dancer and choreographer Amanda Phillips, it’s a welcome change. “Everything needs to evolve, and now the Hub finally has its own identity,” he says. “We’ve needed a place like this for so long; somewhere that cultivates new ideas, encourages all that fresh energy that comes in from the bottom. And with Amanda leading the charge, I can watch and support from a distance.”
One of Phillips’ goals for Dance Hub SA is for it to become the bridge between formal education and the real world. “There’s not really a traditional trajectory for someone with aspirations to become a choreographer,” Phillips says. Warren agrees: “There are exceptions, of course, but generally you start as a dancer and then you do your apprenticeship working with a company. But since there’s not that many companies anymore, that’s harder and harder, so it’s meant people have had to change pathways.”
Phillips knows first-hand how challenging Australia can be for emerging artists. “As a young choreographer in the 90s, I did residencies in Taipei and my Master’s in London,” she says. “Going overseas felt like the only way to progress, because I think in Australia we’ve pigeon-holed how someone might become a choreographer.” Dance Hub SA, she says, will give choreographers the time and space needed to really experiment, to see what works and what doesn’t work. “It will give them a place to explore what they can do as a choreographer and performer.”
That isn’t to say that Phillips and Warren want to keep choreographers confined to SA – quite the opposite. “Dance is a world art and it’s really important that they go overseas and explore and shift their perceptions, but it’s equally important that they have a community to come home to, and people to share those experiences with,” says Warren. “I’ve watched the State Government invest money in young people and then get grumpy that they all want to go overseas. But they will come back if we invest in the right resources.”
Flagship programs will include the Mind The Gap residency program, a partnership with Tasmania’s premiere dance company TasDance. There will also be a studio-based Artist in Residence program, which will host 16 artists in 2019. “Artist in Residence is our biggest program, and feeds everything that we want the new Hub to achieve,” says Phillips. “You get studio time, or you can put on a performance or you can do neither, because we don’t believe that everything has to have a defined outcome. We also want to encourage research, which is vital for the art form to grow.”
Also launching this year is an international exchange program that will welcome inaugural artist Wu Chien-Wei from Taiwan’s Tussock Dance Theatre in October. “Chien will do two weeks as an international resident here at the Hub,” says Phillips. “He’ll do some solo practice, plus work with some of the artists from the young artists’ program. This year there’s nine young artists and they’ll be doing a performance workshop showing in December.”
Ultimately, Warren and Phillips want Dance Hub SA to play a part in breaking down some of the stereotypes associated with choreography. “I think sometimes people forget there’s choreography everywhere,” says Warren. “In TV advertising, films, the music industry. There’s all kinds of levels and all kinds of occupations that movement experts can go into – even helping footballers to turn quicker.” Phillips agrees: “We exist to nurture talent, nurture possibility, nurture new form and creation.”