Northcote Town Hall’s Tent City Offering Private Dances

Pic by Jorge de Araujo
Private Dances. Pic by Jorge de Araujo

The Northcote Town Hall will be turned into a tent city this week, and no, Abbot v Rudd race-to-the-bottom refugee bashing isn’t involved. Instead, choreographer Nat Cursio will re-stage her Green Room Award-winning piece Private Dances, which saw its premier at the 2010 Next Wave festival.

As part of Darebin City Council’s Speakeasy performing arts program, Private Dances will fill the grand old hall with a variety of dramatically lit tents and an old car in a field of real grass, dotted with taxidermy.

The curated piece brings together a wealth of Australian and international talent, combining traditional and contemporary dance works alongside short films, in a combination of one-on-one performances.

Audience members will initially congregate at the bar, where maître de Simon Kingsley Hall will greet them with mouth-watering cocktails and tasty morsels, before a variety of guides lead them to the various enticing tents.

“Each time you see something, you return to the bar and probably chat with your friends then go and see something else,” Cursio says. “The conversation around the work actually happens during the show, as opposed to a conventional situation where it happens after the show or once you’ve left the space.”

Cursio relishes the opportunity to re-stage what was a highly successful piece, and allows her to expand upon the original premise. “Coming back to a work is a rare thing in terms of contemporary dance. It’s really great because it acknowledges all the work you’ve done on something and allows more people to actually engage with the project.

“I can change the content a little bit and play around with it. Last time, with Next Wave, it was all about emerging artists, so everyone had to be under-30,” she says.  “Even though I’ve kept a number of those artists, it also allowed me to use established and older artists, opening up other options in terms of the curatorial combination.”

As guides lead audience members to their tents, Cursio says it creates a palpable sense of excitement as rumours spread about which private dance is best, and the sounds from each tent mingle in the air.

Artists involved include traditional Korean dancer Soo Yeun You. “Her work is based on the private room of a Korean woman,” Cursio says. “It’s very reverent and very beautiful. There’s also an Indian classical dancer, and her style is quite rhythmic. They use their eyes, neck and head in a unique way.”

One tent showcases hip hop, while another features contemporary dance artist Atlanta Eke in a gorilla suit dancing to cheesy love tunes. Lily Paskas returns with a popular piece from the first iteration of Private Dances, Happy Pony Club.

“It’s quite a bizarre little work,” Cursio says. “It’s like a combination of yoga class and sadomasochism. It’s right out there and people really enjoyed that for its pure uniqueness.”

Regular Chunky Move collaborator Luke Smiles, who recently appeared in Windmill Theatre’s School Dance, will re-envisage the work of Gabrielle Nankivell. “He’s an incredible dancer who does quite a lot of sound design, and I’m excited to see how Gabrielle’s work transforms when performed by a male. It’s a really physical work and the tent physically rocks,” Cursio says.

There will be several 2-3-minute short films on show too, focusing on the human form, including Beastliness by NSW’s Deborah Kelly, and a work by UK filmmaker Simon Ellis. Also in the mix are two local video artists, Zoe Scoglio and Eugenia Lim.

“I’m really interested in creating experiences, and the expressive, physical body is a bit of a vehicle for this.” Cursio says. “I really enjoy pulling together all the different flavours; all these different visual perspectives. It’s also very tactile and you can smell the dancers, hear them close up, and that stuff is really exciting.”

Stephen A Russell

Private Dances, Northcote Town Hall, August 28-31