Originally choreographed in preparation for a live performance in April, the team at WAAPA has adapted to COVID-19 conditions and is now streaming this stunning contemporary dance piece choreographed with alumni of the iconic Pina Bausch’s dance company.
The WELL performance program was developed on LINK 2020 over January February and March and was slated for performance at the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre opening April 1st. Sadly due to the COVID-19 pandemic all performances were cancelled. The program consisted of two new works, one by German Choreographer Rainer Behr and the other a collaboration between LINK Artistic Director Michael Whaites and WAAPA’s Head of Dance, Sue Peacock. Whaites and Peacock’s work was/is a meditation on the notion of what WELL is in an historical and contemporary context; a state of being and at times a place for community to gather to collect water, reflect, contemplate and rejoice. Of the process and LINK’s responsiveness to the Government’s advice on spatial distancing, Michael Whaites says, “We were having to respond to changes to advice on a daily basis during this period, whilst at the same time continuing to establish the conceptual framework in collaboration. It was tough to put it mildly. It was lucky Sue and I work so well together that we could reconfigure and adapt the material we had developed with the dancers. Some of the material was solo orientated but some was in close proximity so we had to rework those sections to ensure dancers didn’t touch.” Original music composed, performed and recorded by Louis Frere-Harvey.Video produced by Raz Media
Posted by Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) on Friday, April 17, 2020
Unfortunately the full version has been removed from YouTube, but the short version displayed above is still available.
The 30 minute piece is choreographed by LINK Artistic Director and Tanztheater Wuppertal alumni, Michael Whaites and WAAPA’s Head of Dance, Sue Peacock. With acclaimed national and international dance credits to their names, both are highly regarded and have put this piece together with the double meaning of Well at the forefront of their minds. That is, as a state of being and as a place for communities to gather to collect water and reflect on themselves and each other.
Well originally consisted of two new works performed one after another. The other piece was choreographed by guest artist Rainer Behr, permanent member of Pina Bausch’s company Tanztheater Wuppertal. Behr has been described by German dance magazine Ballett International as a “master of reductionism, of the most sparing gestural language to elucidate the big and the small things in life with a sure touch”. Although this piece was still performed, it had to be excluded from the stream due to copyright reasons.
Well started out quite different to its final form. COVID-19 measures were tightening as the pieces were being developed and Behr, Whaites and Peacock had to adapt the choreography to appease government restrictions on close contact. You will notice that although the dancers move in harmony, they don’t actually touch at any point. According to Artistic Director Whaites, this was no easy feat,
“It was tough to put it mildly. It was lucky Sue and I work so well together that we could reconfigure and adapt the material we had developed with the dancers. Some of the material was solo orientated but some was in close proximity so we had to rework those sections to ensure the dancers didn’t touch.”
The original music was composed by WAAPA BA Music graduate Louis Frere-Harvey, with a style of music described by Anton Mazandarani from WAAPA as “Flumey [referring to the electronic artist, Flume], but more contemporary dance sort of vibes”. Considering the minimalist, contemporary style of Well, the accompanying music fits seamlessly.
Well’s production demonstrates how creativity can power through in tough times. With so many performing arts companies halting or slowing production due to the current pandemic, WAAPA and LINK have shown adaptability by keeping calm and carrying on in a new form.