Artistic Director Anouk van Dijk teams up with Aussie dance company Chunky Move
Anouk van Dijk's latest work, An Act of Now, a world premiere and her debut as Chunky Move's artistic director, is the third in her series of site-specific projects exploring space, both real and psychological, and the way in which individuals and communities draw a sense of meaning from their environment.
"The moment you put the audience outside of the theatre," she says," the whole meaning of dance changes. For example, dance can suddenly seem really fragile or volatile, depending on the environment."
The first two pieces were staged in The Netherlands, van Dijk's home soil, in locations she describes as "very Dutch": one on a dike on the scenic island of Terschelling, the other in an old building in a derelict shipyard in Amsterdam.
"The work went from this really resonant natural landscape to basically a rundown industrial site. Even though I was using essentially the same ingredients as out there on the dike, the meaning had changed: it felt somehow connected to history."
Now settled in Melbourne, she's keen to explore the possible meanings implied by her new surroundings.
"The Sidney Myer Music Bowl holds a lot of memories for a lot of Melbournians, for live music and big events," she explains. "I thought it would be interesting to create a very different experience on that site."
Thus, on arriving at the Music Bowl, the audience will be led down through the vast outdoor space into the backstage area, and then up into an intimate smoke-swathed chamber established on the stage itself.
This tension between the nearness of the performance and the vastness of the space beyond speaks directly to a recurring theme in van Dijk's work: the relationship between freedom and confinement.
"I think that you need some kind of confinement to find your freedom," she says.
Australia is an interesting context for her to explore this proposition.
"This is really the place to learn about the tyranny of space, or of distance," she says. "It's already something I feel in the society here, something that determines certain patterns in society, certain rules and regulations."
She points to examples of micro-regulation – compulsory bicycle helmets and elaborate insurance forms– that suggest a community reaction against our relative isolation, a reaction that enables us to live in the face of so much freedom.
"For my daughter to go on an excursion at school there are all these papers that I have to sign, all kinds of consent forms. There are a lot of extra concerns about safety."
Not that she's saying there aren't real dangers out there: Australia has already given her plenty to think about on that front.
"We just found out that of the ten most venomous snakes in the world, seven of them live in Australia," she says laughing. "And they all look the same and they all look harmless."
Nobody tell her about the spiders.
An Act of Now is presented as a part of the Melbourne Festival.