Ignition / Australian Dance Theatre

Erin Fowler (Co-Artistic Director of The Mill)

Is history linear or cyclical? Can we learn from the past and change our futures, or, are we forever repeating ourselves? Our histories, both personal and global, are constructed through reconstructions, reinterpretations, and unavoidably biased retellings of moments in time.

This was the starting point for my latest short dance work, Epoch, created on the Australian Dance Theatre dancers for their upcoming Ignition season.

Prompted by Artistic Director, Garry Stewart’s theme for the season, ‘History’ I was interested to look at the philosophy of history in general.  Is history predetermined? Are there broad patterns and cycles we can discern through study of the past; and, if so what is its ultimate direction? Or, do we progress in largely irregular ways, a group of individuals operating through our own agency?

For me, these questions had a clear parallel to movement and choreography. It was fascinating to explore loops and cycles within phrases, patterns and movements on the stage.

Time is our one constant and - much like dance - is only ever in the moment. Each performance is in fact a moment in history - a happening, an occurrence. This is what I love about dance, about live performance. The audience and the performers are part of a shared ritual in time.

Much like the way we go about our daily routines, no one performance will ever be the same. Though you could argue each performance is the same, through repeated steps and sequences, there is a magic in the aliveness of the performance, in the presence that both performer and audience bring.

Like history, the audience, our witness, will walk away from the experience and make their own version of the event. They will construct their own memories and interpretations of this happening, making their own meaning and judgments. As a maker of the work this is what excites (and daunts!) me most about the process.

In a way, this is the very purpose of the theatre. An opportunity to be immersed in an experience, a story, a sensation – and to then create your own meaning from it. However, I have noticed that contemporary dance seems to suffer from this concept.  

“What is the meaning of those steps?” the audience may ask. Or what I most commonly hear following a show “I don’t know enough about dance to be able to make meaning from it.”

But just as each individual is valid to make judgments of the world, I invite you, in the theatre, to feel valid and empowered to make your own judgments and interpretations of the work. Whatever they may be. Be thrilled, confused, be surprised. Construct your own history.

Epoch will be performed as part of Australian Dance Theatre’s Ignition Season running July 9th, 12th, 14th,15th and 16th at 8pm at the Adelaide College of the Arts Main Theatre. The season will also include works by local choreographers Thomas Fonua, Katrina Lazaroff, Lina Limonsani, and Matte Roffe.

PHOTO CREDIT: © Chris Herzfeld, Camlight Productions

DANCERS: Zoë Dunwoodie, Thomas Fonua, Matte Roffe, Ellya Sam, Felix Sampson and Kimball Wong from Australian Dance Theatre


The Advertiser - Australian Dance Theatre revives Ignition for a public season at Adelaide College of the Arts 

Dance Magazine - History is reinvented with the re-launch of ADT’s ‘Ignition’

CityMag - Australian Dance Theatre revives Ignition

Youtube - Australian Dance Theatre's IGNITION 'history'