Dancing lives

Jim Hughes talks about Feldworks’ atypical new venture in Perth

Jim Hughes is preparing for a new Fieldworks production working with three very significant figures in Australian dance—Lucette Aldous (world renowned ballerina and currently Senior Ballet Lecturer at Western Australia’s Academy of Performing Arts), Elizabeth Cameron Dalman (founder of the Australian Dance Theatre based in South Australia and creator of some thirty works for that company) and Cheryl Stock (performer and choreographer and, for ten years, Artistic Director of Dance North in Queensland).

JH Lucette hasn’t performed professionally for about ten years, well maybe even longer. She had no notion of wanting to perform, and how I cajoled her into doing that, I’m not quite sure, but she’s doing it.

RT Her experience is in classical ballet, isn’t it?

JH What a lot of people don’t realise is that my early training was in classical, and I knew Lucette in London when I was training. See, I was a rebel in that area, and she was the purist. And my feeling is that she’s got a bit of a rebel in her, and somehow there’s been some recognition of the work I’ve done and the desire on her part to work with me.

RT It connects with your past too.

JH Did you see Solo when it toured early this year to the Sydney Festival? That connected me with my classical past and my whole life.

RT Will you be working with the dancers individually or as an ensemble?

JH Individually because of the short period of rehearsal, the problem of getting these three together because of their busy schedules. I’m trying to do as much work as I can before rehearsal so Cheryl has just sent me a lot of notes.

Now Cheryl Stock happens to be a very good writer. And her material is very, very interesting, including the extent that she wants to go with her autobiography, which includes a car crash.
Lucette wanted to feel confident about doing the show so we’ve started rehearsing bits and pieces. I also knew what her expectations would be, for me to choreograph in a more ‘legitimate’ way than the way I usually work with Fieldworks.
It’s been an absolute joy to work with her but it hasn’t been that easy for me personally to get the material together. It’s working out.

RT Will her performance be oriented towards classical ballet?

JH I think she sees it as a sort of contemporary classical or modern ballet, and that’s interesting because of a choreographer who’s had an enormous influence on contemporary thinking—(British choreographer) Antony Tudor. We both have a great love for Tudor. And my feeling is, if she can go as far as Tudor in terms of contemporary thinking—because he went right over, and actually has had an influence on postmodern dance—that will be very good.

RT So what length work would you expect to yield from a fairly short rehearsal time?

JH Well, I’m actually looking at something like 20 minutes from each.

RT That’s quite substantial.

JH It is substantial, but my feeling is with the contemporary dancers that being able to improvise and create quickly, it’s not a problem.

RT So this will be a new work from Elizabeth Dalman?

JH She doesn’t want her piece to be autobiographical, unlike the others. I’ve got a strong visual idea about how I’d like to work with her, using silhouette.

RT Where will the work be performed?

JH In the theatre at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, not the kind of space I’m used to. I’m a gypsy, so are Liz and Cheryl. And I’m bringing in a designer, Kristin Anderson, who’s done some great work with the Deckchair Theatre Company. Usually I do the design myself, but I need the security of a designer while I’m working with these three artists. I’m working with three stars and I never work with stars.

Funnily enough, it’s the kind of show that could give Fieldworks a reputation it couldn’t otherwise achieve and spill over into the other work we do. But I’m not doing it for commercial reasons. It’s something I want to do. It’s something these dancers want to do.

Dancing Lives, December 7-21, Academy of Performing Arts, WAAPA, Perth

RealTime issue #9 Oct-Nov 1995 pg. 38

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1 October 1995