Co3 tells Perth story in dance-theatre work The Line

Raewyn Hill and Mark Howett with dancers. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d492914
Raewyn Hill and Mark Howett with dancers. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d492914

WHEN WA flagship contemporary dance company Co3 Australia formed in 2014 as an amalgamation of Buzz Dance Theatre and STEPS Youth Dance Theatre, artistic director Raewyn Hill’s vision was to create work in WA.

“We’re moving into this next phase of growth since the foundations have been laid,” Hill, of North Perth, said.

“We’re really excited to talk about our history, our stories, our experiences, our people and our culture.”

The company will do just that when presenting dance-theatre work The Line at Heath Ledger Theatre, co-created by Hill and Co3 Australia associate artist and lighting designer Mark Howett, following their 2017 collaboration on Good Little Soldier.

The Line started with a general discussion about WA history because Raewyn is from New Zealand,” Howett, of Fremantle, said.

“I told her about the Prohibited Area for Aboriginal people from the 1905 Act, which was implemented strongly from 1927 to 1954, where you needed a Native Pass to come into the city (after 6pm).

“You needed to be in lawful employment as well.”

The discussion continued in consultation with elders and books Dancing in the Shadows by Anna Haebich and Shadow Lines by Stephen Kinnane.

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Noongar dancer and guest artist Ian Wilkes.

 

“The biggest thing about it was the interracial relationships and how they were really impacted by all the laws,” Howett said.

“We use Kinnane’s book as a bit of inspiration because his grandfather was English and his grandmother was Aboriginal and just how hard it was for them to have a normal relationship.”

Featuring three dancers and two musicians, The Line moves away from being a typical abstract contemporary work and is more a “mix of dense movement vocab with vaudeville slapstick, humour and irony to create the narrative”.

The vaudevillian elements were inspired by White City or Ugly Land, an entertainment district during the 1920s on the Perth foreshore (Supreme Court Gardens) with boxing tents, vaudeville acts and bars where both cultures could mix.

“We just hope that this work initiates conversation and sheds light on it,” Howett said.

“It’s in our need to tell stories about WA and share the true shared history rather than ignoring it or wishing it to go away.

“Nelson Mandela has this great quote ‘reconciliation doesn’t mean forgetting’, so by understanding each other’s history there can be empathy and therefore change.”

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THE ESSENTIALS

What: The Line

Where: Heath Ledger Theatre

When: May 15 to 19

Tickets: www.ptt.wa.gov.au