things to do when you’re invisible

martin del amo: interview julie-anne long, the invisibility project

Julie-Anne Long, Something In The Way She Moves

Julie-Anne Long, Something In The Way She Moves

FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS, SYDNEY-BASED CHOREOGRAPHER AND DANCER JULIE-ANNE LONG HAS BEEN WORKING ON A BODY OF WORK ENTITLED THE INVISIBILITY PROJECT. IT WILL CONCLUDE WITH A FULL-LENGTH SOLO, SOMETHING IN THE WAY SHE MOVES, AT PERFORMANCE SPACE’S SEXES PROGRAM IN NOVEMBER (SEE INTERVIEW).

The Invisibility Project, according to Long, started life as a Fellowship proposal to the Australia Council Dance Board in 2007. The seed for the project was sown a couple of years earlier however. “I distinctly remember the day when this bunch of ideas that I was thinking about connected,” says Long. “I had this little eureka moment and thought, yeah, I could put that all together. And I went home and I wrote out this whole plan and it was called The Invisibility Project.”

So what exactly were the ideas that led Long to conceive The Invisibility Project? She explains: “Initially, it appeared to me that wherever I looked in the media, there were endless articles on the invisibility of middle-aged women, and it was all about the loss of whatever one ever had. It was quite noticeable how relentless the coverage was.” Even though Long didn’t agree with the tone of the reporting, the subject matter struck a chord with her: “It was something that I could identify with, not only in my everyday life but also as an ‘ageing dancer,’ a performer who is going to put herself, her body, on stage in front of people watching.”

The media coverage of the invisibility of middle-aged women might have served Long as a hook, as something she thought would be interesting to challenge as an issue. It didn’t, however, end up being the focus of her explorations once she received her fellowship and started to put her ideas into action. “I soon realised that I wasn’t really that interested in going down that track,” says Long. “Quite early on my interest shifted to all the great things that you can do when you are invisible.”

Long’s interest in exploring notions of middle-aged invisibility has extended far beyond the two-year period covered by the fellowship. In addition to working on the projects she initially proposed, in the following years she added new ones: for example, a series of solos as part of short works programs such as Campbelltown Arts Centre’s Folk Dancing (2009) and Performance Space’s NightTime: Everyday Hero (2010). She also showed work as part of Performance Space’s LiveWorks (2010) and Local Positioning System at the MCA (2012). As a result, two characters emerged that Long will be revisiting in her upcoming solo: Mumsy, an everyday mum in ill-fitting tracksuit pants and a T-shirt that has been washed a few too many times, and Val, The Invisible, a cleaning woman in a high-visibility safety vest which, curiously, renders her all but invisible.

 Julie-Anne Long, Val The Invisible, MCA, Local Positioning Systems, MCA & Performance Space

Julie-Anne Long, Val The Invisible, MCA, Local Positioning Systems, MCA & Performance Space

Some of Long’s Invisibility outings over the last few years have shown signs of the dancer’s signature style, mixing acerbic wit and an idiosyncratic movement language with a series of pop songs from yesteryear and an array of fabulous costumes. Anyone, though, who has witnessed Mumsy’s chilling dance, completely disfigured by a mesh orange bag over her head, and Val’s forlorn wanderings through the cavernous Carriageworks and MCA, will recognise that Long is exploring a dark streak in The Invisibility Project and is far from shying away from the project’s distinctly political dimension.

As for Something In the Way She Moves, the solo show in SEXES that will be the last instalment of The Invisibility Project, what can audiences expect? Long points out that the work is still evolving but that she thinks of it as a “short story collection. My aim is to bring together all the ideas I’ve explored in the various performances and events over the last few years and to reinvigorate that material.” The show, Long reveals, will consist of six episodes. True to its by-line, “everyday dances for an invisible woman,” each episode contains a number of dances alternating with versions of domestic task-based actions such as hanging out the washing, buttering bread and bringing in the shopping.

On stage with Long will be dance artist Narelle Benjamin as her sidekick, mini-mum, part production assistant, part target of both affection and disdain from some of Long’s characters. “She’s a bit like Dame Edna’s Madge,” says Long, laughing. And after a pause, “But hopefully not as hard done by.”

Performance Space, SEXES: Julie-Anne, Long, Something In The Way She Moves, Sydney, Nov 14-16; www.performancespace.com.au

RealTime issue #111 Oct-Nov 2012 pg. 32

© Martin del Amo; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

9 October 2012
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