Keir Choreographic Award

Award winner Atlanta Eke. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti, 2014

This biennial Australian choreographic award is dedicated to commissioning new work and promoting innovation in contemporary dance. The Keir Choreographic Award will provide significant support to the contemporary dance sector in Australia. The aim of the award is to increase the profile of and cultivate new audiences for contemporary dance within Australia by commissioning and presenting new choreographic works in a competitive context.

Through an assessment process, eight selected artists were commissioned to develop their work. Commissioned artists received a fee, a production budget and in-kind space proportionate to the scale of their project.

The commissioned works were presented in a four day season at Dancehouse, Melbourne. The jury selected four of these works to go forward to the finals, presented at Carriageworks, Sydney. A $30,000 cash prize was awarded to the winner selected by the jury , while $10,000 was awarded as People’s Choice by the audience at Carriageworks. See our News Page for details of the four finalists and winners.

The 2014 Semi Finalists were:

Sarah Aiken – a Melbourne based dance artist who graduated from VCA with a Bachelor or Dance in 2009. She has pursued a wide range of experiences to develop her practice as a dancer, teacher and maker, drawing inspiration from choreographic and somatic practices, travel, conceptual and visual arts. Aiken is a recipient of Australia Council for the Arts, ArtStart, and Ian Potter Cultural Trust Fund. Choreographic work includes Set (Lucy Guerin Inc. Piece’s for Small Spaces, 2013), Now Something Really Final (K77, Berlin 2012), JurassicArc (Dancehouse, Melbourne Fringe 2012) and DanceMusic (Dancehouse 2010), as well as a range of collaborative and interdisciplinary projects across music, film, fashion and visual arts.

About Sarah’s work for the Keir Choreographic Award – 

Sarah’s recent work has dealt with representation, exploring metaphor at its most obvious and often at its most absurd. Her piece will be a development of this ongoing research, navigating the body and objects in relation to the myriad of actual and socially constructed meanings that exist. The Body interacts with objects, costume and abstract and representational movement. By considering how we value and revalue the inanimate, the work brings attention to how we read the animate body.

James Batchelor – a performer, choreographer and installation artist from Canberra now based in Melbourne. His choreographic practice hybridises performance and visual arts, working site specifically to create dynamic and multi sensory environments. He has developed and presented works in Australia, France, United Kingdom and Thailand and has been supported through grants from Arts ACT, Arts Victoria, Australia Council and City of Melbourne. He is the 2014 Dancehouse Housemate and is currently devising a new series of work called Island combining dance with architecture.

About James’ work for the Keir Choreographic Award – 

James’ piece is a hybrid dance and visual arts performance, aiming to determine how movement and structural design can evolve and develop simultaneously as a live performance piece. The process will investigate how the body inhabits its environment and responds to physical boundaries of space. The audience will witness a dialogue between movement and structure as the performers and the visual artist respond to the dynamic process as it unfolds.

Tim Darbyshire – graduated from Dance at Queensland University of Technology (2003). His education has continued through programs including DanceWEB (Scholarship recipient in 2006 and 2009), Formation d’artiste Choregraphique at Centre National de Danse Contemporaine (France 2006-2007) and Victoria University’s Solo Residency program (2008). In Europe he has worked for choreographers including Vera Mantero, Emmanuelle Huyhn, Nuno Bizarro, Shelley Senter, Meg Stuart, David Wampach, Marianne Baillot,  Antonio Julio, Christine de Schmedt and Eszter Salamon.  Since 2009 Darbyshire has developed his projects through several residencies including the Dancehouse Housemate program. In 2012 he presented More or Less Concrete at Arts House in Melbourne. He recently undertook an Asialink Residency in China and is currently collaborating as a performer on Matthew Day’s MASS (working title) and developing his work Stampede the Stampede, which will premiere in Dance Massive 2015.

About Tim’s work for the Keir Choreographic Award – 

Tim’s piece will examine grey areas between thought, representation, dialogue and emotional manipulation of the audience. His artistic team will work closely with texts from poetic, academic and theatrical realms and will experiment with dialogue techniques used in cinema and theatre such as spoken word, subtitles, voice-overs and dubbing. These explorations around text will coincide with visual and choreographic languages drawn from the sport of fencing, exercise classes such as yoga or pilates, body languages and recognisable facial expressions which have been developed through theatre and cinema.

Matthew Day – was a teenage ballroom dancing champion. He studied Dance and Performance Studies at the University of Western Sydney and at the Victorian College of the Arts, before collaborating with students at the School for New Dance Development, Amsterdam. Day has been artist is residence and presented his work extensively in Australia and Europe. He is currently based in Melbourne.  Day is interested in the potential of choreography to imagine unorthodox relationships and propose new ways of being human.  Utilising a minimalist approach, Day often works with duration and repetition, approaching the body as a site of infinite potential and choreography as a field of energetic intensity and exchange.  He draws heavily from the visual arts, in particular painting and cinema that challenge traditional notions of image, object and body.

About Matthew’s work for the Keir Choreographic Award – 

Matthew and team will work on a solo interpretation of the Rite of Spring where all the different elements and intensities of the score are mapped onto his body to imagine a kind of schizo-body, one that is capable of becoming many things at any one moment in time. Using Stravinsky’s score and the few remaining fragments of Nijinsky’s choreography, the research will focus on the tension between discontinuity and fragmentation on one hand, and the forces of repetition and continuity embedded in this work on the other. 

Atlanta Eke – has presented her experimental work throughout Australia and Europe in a variety of formats. In 2010 she received the DANCEWEB scholarship at ImPulsTanz Festival, Vienna. She performed for Sidney Leoni in Undertones at Tamz in Ausgust Berlin and Marten Spangberg’s Page 74, ImPulsTanz Festival, Vienna. In 2011, she was a Melbourne Next Wave Kickstart Program recipient and was commissioned by Lucy Guerin Inc to produce a new work for Pieces for Small Spaces. Eke has recently been nominated for a Green Room Award for her performance in her work Monster Body that has been presented in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Stockholm and Birmingham.

About Atlanta’s work for the Keir Choreographic Award – 

Atlanta’s piece aims to operate as an allegory of how to be ‘present’. To be in the ‘here and now’, is often to be corrupted by traditions from the past and strategies aiming at success in the future. The work will explore the paradox of how the ‘present’ is a point of transition from the past to the future as well as a place for the permanent rewriting of both past and future. It will do this through exploring the tension between a performance and the documentation of a performance, by making them one in the same. 

Shaun Gladwell – is a contemporary artist working within a wide range of mediums. A key concern of Gladwell’s activity is the way human beings critically and creatively respond to their immediate environments. His artwork engages emerging languages of movement such as skateboarding, BMX riding, break dancing and parkour. An ongoing concern of Gladwell’s practice is to consider these activities and others as forms of dance. Most of his artworks are generated from a direct involvement and ongoing personal relationship to urban movement and he often performs in his own work.  He has exhibited extensively throughout Australia, Europe, Asia and the Americas and his work has been included in many international exhibitions.

About Shaun’s work for the Keir Choreographic Award – 

Shaun’s piece is directly informed by his experience as the Australian War Memorial official war artist in Afghanistan in 2009. The piece will analyse and meditate on the gestures of soldiers operating under pressure within the field and in training. The piece will also subtly incorporate forms of ‘Attan’ dance found in Afghanistan and specifically the Warziro and Khattak (in which performers dance with their weapon). The work will paradoxically attempt to articulate the ineffability of war and associated trauma through movement. 

Jane McKernan – is a choreographer, performer and member of The Fondue Set. Recent projects include a research residency through Critical Path based on ideas of group movement; a Dance4 residency in Nottongham, UK; One Thing Follows Another, a collaboration with sound artist Gail Priest; Opening and Closing Ceremony, a site specific dance solo presented by Performance Space; and a collaboration with US choreographer Migual Gutierrez and The Fondue Set presented at Carriageworks. McKernam was the 2011 Robert Helpmann scholar and spent six months in Europe working with Kate McIntosh,  Antje Pfundtner and Wendy Houstoun. She also took part in the Matchpoint Asia Pacific exchange and presented her work at HAU, Berlin. McKernan edited the first edition of the Critical Dialogues Journal.

About Jane’s work for the Keir Choreographic Award – 

Jane’s piece is an exploration of the concept of unison. It will have an emphasis on ‘liveness’ and the live transferal of choreographic information between four dancers. It will work with the notion of a ‘group body’ but with a sense of agency for the individual dancers. It will seek to destabilise the established understanding of unison in dance, and instead focus on making an agreement. 

Brooke Stamp – maintains a rigorous practice as a performer, choreographer and teacher, while continuing the development of her own solo practice and interdisciplinary collaborations throughout Australia and overseas. She has been collaborating with Phillip Adams BalletLab since its inception and most recently presented her inaugural commission project for the company, And All Things Return to Nature. Her solo works includes Orbit Score for Yoko for Lucy Guerin’s Pieces for Small Spaces (2009),Venus Devotional 2010 at the MCG as part of the 2010 Next Wave Festival, Mataverse Makeover, curated by Theo Baumann for the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival’s 2012 cultural program; and Unified Field for fifteen VCA students (2011).  With Luke George, Stamp curates a dance discourse event First Run at Lucy Guerin Inc.

About Brooke’s work for the Keir Choreographic Award – 

Brooke’s piece examines the legacy of modern dance in current live performance practice. It will act as a ‘conceptual re-embodiment’ of the important transition guided by prominent early modern dance pioneers such as Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham. This work will dissect her innate instinct to move forward and ‘tear away’, as they did, from the burden of information embedded in her body and practice, which is paradoxically bound by these women’s legacy.

The 2014 Judging Panel is:

Becky Hilton – an Australian choreographer and director who has performed in and contributed to the work of artists such as Russell Dumas, Stephen Petronio, Mathew Barney, Michael Clark, Tere O’Connor, John Jasperse, Margie Medlin, Lucy Guerin and many more. She has an established teaching practice and teaches in training institutions, for festivals and companies, both nationally and internationally. She was the 2010/11 recipient of a Fellowship from the Dance Board of teh Australia Council. More recently, she has worked with Xavier Le Roy as part of Kaldor Project 13 Rooms and installed Tino Sehgal’s work at the Art Gallery NSW.

Phillip Keir – trained as a theatre maker in the UK, the UK and Germany. As a student he took dance class at the Merce Cunningham School before working as an intern with the Wooster Group and appearing at The Kitchen in New York. After working as Associate Director at the Sydney Theatre Company, he created NextMedia, an Australian publishing house specialising in popular culture magazines.  In 2004 he established the Keir Foundation with a focus on the supporting of new commissions in the areas of performance and the visual arts and human rights in the Asia-Pacific region.  The Keir Foundation has supported dance from its inception, including works by Tanja Liedke, Kate Champion and Meryl Tankard.

Matthew Lyons – is Curator at The Kitchen where he has organised numerous exhibitions, performance projects, concerts, screenings and events since 2005. Outside of The Kitchen, he organised the group exhibitions Dance Dance Revolution at Columbia University and Character Generator at Eleven Rivington Gallery, NY.  His writing has appeared in ASPECT Magazine, Flash Art, PERFORMA 07: Everywhere and All at Once, and Work the Room: A Handbook of Performance Strategies. As a Contributing Editor at Movement Research Performance Journal, he edits the Six Sides, Typologically Distinct: Black Box / White Cube series which he initiated in 2009.

Josephine Ridge – is one of Australia’s most experienced and internationally respected arts identities. She is currently the Creative Director at Melbourne Festival. From 2003-2012 she was at Sydney Festival as General Manager, followed by Executive Director and co-CEO. Josphine has had extensive experience in a varied number of roles across the arts, as Deputy General Manager of Australian Ballet, Deputy General Manager of Australian Chamber Orchestra and Marketing Manager of Playbox Theatre Company.

Marten Spangberg – is a choreographer living and working in Stockholm. He has been active on stage as performer and creator since 1994 and has since 1999 created his own choreographies, from solos to larger scale works, which he has toured internationally. From 1996-2005 Spangberg organised and curated festivals in Sweden and internationally. He initiated the network organisation INPEX in 2006, has thorough experience in teaching both theory and practice and was director for the MA program in choreography at the University of Dance in Stockholm 2008-2013.  In 2011 his first book Spangbergianism was published.

Presented by Carriageworks Sydney and Dancehouse Melbourne. Supported by the Keir Foundation.

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