Up close and personal with Craig Bary re FORM Dance Projects’ In Difference for Riverside Theatres, Parramatta.
This dance movement narrative is tackling the personal and the political via a mix of the intimate, the interpretive, and the lived experience. What does all this mean you may ask.
Craig Bary and his team, made up of Josh Thomson, Tim Ohl, and Kristina Chan, wanted to look at creating a dance piece to examine all modes of romantic relationships – relationships of all walks of life – and the inequalities bestowed upon them. For numerous relationships perception, prejudice, and politics are external forces which can impose and impact upon the personal, i.e. the same sex marriage debate.
“It’s not just a work about what it’s like to be gay in a straight world, but also what it’s like to be straight in a straight world. We all face challenges that underpin our sense of equality. I’d love for people to see that we all exist in one community not splintered fractions”, says Bary.
With a subject matter that can be quite confused, confusing, and even confronting for so many – an area that seems so difficult for some to come to terms with and interpret – people being unsure where they stand and why, it seems wholly appropriate to examine and express these emotionally and politically-charged issues by way of an abstract and impressionistic language such as dance.
We discuss the show’s inception. What was the starting point for this particular production?
The starting point was talking about our own relationships. We have known each other for many years, and worked alongside each other in different situations, so we all have a beautiful connection and instinct with each other. I wanted to look at marriage equality, as it is an important theme in my personal life, and to use our personal relationships to explore what is so different about these relationships.
What do you see as the benefits of the medium of dance?
My medium is dance and physical theatre, so I was never looking at delivering a work that would be a linear a/b story, but rather scenes and vignettes depicting certain situations or scenarios. I feel that dance in this realm is a perfect way of engaging an audience and allowing them to bring their own experiences in as they view the work. Not dictate. But ask our audience how they feel; what they think; why they think the way they do. The ability for dance to allow for this is exciting and challenging.
I am interested in how we as dancers engage our audience. My focus is to invite them in, to share in the experience, and make connection to their own history.
Do you see any progressions in the public sphere in regards to these inequality issues? Perceived or otherwise?
You only need to look at civil rights movements over the past 50 years to know that in time there will be a social conscious shift in what a majority of people feel about these issues. In fact, that has already happened here. I don’t think it is the public we need to convince. Rather it is the movement of the government on these issues that would finally allow for the beginning of a wider acceptance and acknowledgement of equality. These shifts don’t just mean I can marry my partner of 8 years; it is so much bigger than that. It means that in time society will accept this as a part of the normal make up. That young people are less at risk of getting attacked for being different, or self-harming through bullying – which is often passed down through an ignorance and fear.
What I find the most draining is watching the political games played with my freedoms, that I’m not even sure the politicians know why they are doing it anymore!
We discuss the reality of tangible answers to such problems. The possibility to change ‘opinion’:
I don’t know if you’d ever be able to have tangible answers to every problem, simply because of the freedom we have as individuals to think and feel what we truly believe in, and I don’t know if your focus should be to change someone’s opinion. But what you can do is start to educate people about the realities not the ideologies. By creating equality, you then have the opportunity to talk openly, ask the hard or embarrassing questions, share stories, experiences, and feelings. There is too much division and not enough civil discussion.
Examining what’s different – can we illuminate what is the same? Can this create room for greater Connection (between the differences)?
I do hope that is the case; I think we will see much more into what is similar than what is not. I think people are getting a little caught up on whose bits go where, rather than the people behind those bits.
I think it is important to note that this work celebrates the diversity of our relationships and doesn’t pit one against the other, but simply looks at: “what really is the difference?”
With the performers bringing personal knowledge and experiences to the fore for the development of this piece – what has that experience been like? Difficult? – Liberating? – Cathartic?
Cathartic to say the least! This work has been on a slow burn for the good part of 3 years. Plenty of personal knock backs, and funding knock backs, to overcome. It has seen the shift in our own personal relationships and also shifts in our group relationship, which has really shaped the work. Bringing into the dynamic the ups and downs of what any relationship can go through in that time has really created what you are going to see on stage. It has been confronting, deconstructing, reconstructing, and healing all at the same time.
Can the show provide an outlet for audience members to likewise express and discuss such issues?
I would love for this, I know FORM Dance Projects offer an opportunity to sit and discuss the work in an open forum after one of the shows, there is audience feedback forms, and I encourage the audience to not rush off but stick around and chat with the artists in the foyer after the show. I want to hear feedback and opinion from all sides of this story.
Is it the show you expected, the show you intended, when you first set out to create it?
What is different? What is the same?
It never is. As an individual you go into the room with a concept or idea, you share this idea with other artists and they take you to places you hadn’t considered, that to me is the best thing about collaboration. Yes, the essence is always there, but the outcome is better than you imagine.
What type of show and performances should people expect?
You can expect stunning dance and performances from four exceptionally talented and experienced dance artists. Artists who know their craft and can share an intimacy that you wouldn’t find in too many other areas. You can expect to go on a journey of highs and lows, to be asked to look into yourself, to be provoked, and possibly challenged.
Enough talk now… Let’s dance!
Peter Maple – Theatre Now and Talking Arts
Original publish date, February 14, 2017.