Strut / Maxine Doyle with Sarah Dowling Workshop

I’m Andrew, a participant in the Strut Dance / Maxine Doyle workshop running for two weeks right now. We’ve finished up on day 3, and I’m in a hot magnesium salt bath nursing my various bruises, grazes, and what feels like a pulled left rhomboid …

There’s 13 of us in the group. We start class at 9:30 which goes until 11, then we have a short break before launching into an exploration of various creative processes for physical theatre.

I’ve got a “go hard or go home” attitude, so it is little wonder why I’m so beaten up. It’s also the first time I’ve ever done any professional development workshop for physical theatre or dance… and IT IS BRILLIANT!!!

My background is as a composer, and I’m here in Perth on quite a prestigious residency for composers, but whilst I’ve been here I’ve been exploring and extending my art… a bit of life modelling, a bit of vocal training, a bit dance training…

When Strut advertised this workshop, I immediately wanted to participate. I’d heard of Punchdrunk (of course) and was gravitated to the idea of developing my writing skills for physical theatre and dance by participating, as well as developing performance skills for when I hit the stage.

I have never in my life felt so liberated. This workshop isn’t just extending my practise; it is propelling my transformation along a line I’ve been exploring this year - that of coming from a premise of expression, rather than technique.

I’ve got that idea down pat when it comes to music - I mean, I’d studied at the Sydney Con, and used those compositional techniques for years with my ensemble Chronology Arts as well as for various commissions - technique was just fine, but I wanted to connect more with my music so started removing the thought of emphasis on technique, started exploring performance, and used those ideas as vehicles of transformation of my music.

I don’t have a dance background… sure I’ve composed for dance and produced and co-produced some in the past, but never trained a plié in my life - I don’t know my Fondou sets from my Tondou sets at all.

But all that doesn’t matter in this workshop.

For the past 3 days, Sarah Dowling has been exposing us to some of the incredible techniques she has used in her career, which has extensively been at Punchdrunk. Although I had an inkling of the meaning of immersive theatre from an audience perspective, I’d no idea of the artistry and development behind it.

I mentioned the bruises and grazes because, well, this isn’t necessarily about pretty dance (thank god - see my earlier plié comment). It is more about the expression, theatricality of it. The techniques are secret, and damn right so they should be, they’re phenomenal and we’ve only got enough time to dip our toes into them.

Expression is not always beauty. Sometimes it is ferocious. Sometimes it is a volcano of anger. Sometimes it is love turned to obsession. Sometimes it is the depths of depression, the addiction to blasting (injecting crystal meth), the love for an abusive “partner”, the despair of winning at a cost, the depths of wanting to die. On the other hand it can be rejuvination, reincarnation, vigor, innocence, sensualities, security of kindness and love.

I’ve been exploring the darker sides and retouching on those aspects has caused a variety of colourful bruises on my skin. In pole dancing we call them “pole kisses” (the bruises between the thighs from sitting on the pole, for example), but here I see each of these marks as a lesson in both movement and the theatre of it. Going “all the way” has a toll on the body (particularly on mine, as I’m just in the rudiments of my physical training and am only beginning to learn how to fall without hurting myself!).

I can’t wait to apply some of these lessons to my own projects - some of which incorporate movement, visual art, music, text, interactive media…

My whole view-point on what’s possible in expression is changing… after only three days. There’s another 7. I can’t wait to tell you of what happens next!