Ahead of their residency at the Potter as part of our Inside Out program, we sat down with choreographer and program curator Phillip Adams (Phillip Adams BalletLab) and emerging dance talent Ryan New, who are discovering that divergent backgrounds can make for fertile creativity.
According to Phillip Adams, Ryan’s distinctive approach caught his eye during a 2018 performance with St Kilda-based Rawcus Theatre, which describes itself as “a unique ensemble of performers with and without disabilities, drawing on dance, theatre and visual art disciplines.” Rawcus Theatre’s award-winning work has featured in festivals including Next Wave, Melbourne Fringe and Melbourne International Arts Festival, and the ensemble works collaboratively with the likes of Restless Dance Company, Chamber Made Opera and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Adams and New are currently in residence at the Potter to develop a new performance piece, with a view to evolving the work into a full-length show which they hope to present to larger audiences in 2020.
In the process of working together, Adams and New have developed a strong master-apprentice relationship and discovered some unexpected commonalities, including a mutual admiration of electric organs, trash rap and the work of the late great Orson Welles. “Ryan and I are fascinated with each other’s quirks,” says Adams.
When the pair first met in mid-2018, New says the connection was quite immediate. “I was doing a showing at Temperance Hall with [award-winning Australian performer, director and choreographer] Mark Brew, a disability choreographer, and Phillip came to have a look,” New explains. “At the end he came up to me and said, ‘I really love your work.’ I pretty much agreed and said thank you,” he says, laughing.
“I liked his style!” Adams adds, without hesitation. “The moment I saw Ryan move I was captivated by his presence and visceral physical embodiment of the choreography – which is really rare in a person who is an untrained dancer.”
“I was blown away by the way Ryan moves,” Adams explains, “and that conversation has led to us now working together. Like all things in the arts industry, we met haphazardly; conversations [began] and here we are about to present the end product – which is probably the last place we thought we would end up, doing a residency as part of the Potter’s Inside Out program!”
As we found in a recent Q&A with Adams, his creative process draws on collaboration through hybrid mediums of music, design, fashion, architecture, cinema, visual arts and photography, where he seeks to engage with the unorthodox, queer and popular culture –and the inspiration for the residency will be similarly diverse.
“If we look at the back-catalogue of my work, it comes with a turbulent and very provocative background of working with bodies and objects, sound and installation art,” Adams explains. “And when Ryan and I were first proposing an idea [for Inside Out] where we could work through those mediums, we went back to the beginnings of our professional relationship and the commonalities that we share.”
Adams says that the process of working with an untrained artist has opened up new possibilities within his own practice: “What binds Ryan and I is instinct, and in many ways this collaboration is about un-learning choreography. I’m really enjoying this process of un-learning and being able to learn a completely new practice and form with Ryan.”
The change in environment is also enriching the creative process, says Adams. “We’ve had incredible support of our friends at the Potter, who are so open and so willing to welcome a conversation with the performing arts,” he explains. “And that’s the beauty of having the freedom to explore within these four white walls – it allows new ideas to emerge.”