First published on 2 Mar 2013. Updated on 17 Mar 2013.
There are two secrets hidden in the title of Anouk van Dijk's new work, 247 Days.
The first is that, in van Dijk's experience, it takes roughly 247 days to develop a full-length dance work from scratch. The second? That by the time this latest work debuts at Dance Massive the Chunky Move artistic director will have been living in Australia for exactly 247 days.
What it all means is that 247 Days will be van Dijk's first fully antipodean dance work, one using ideas she started working on, as she says, "basically the moment I arrived in Australia".
Back in October she premiered the award-winning An Act of Now at the Melbourne Festival, which further developed a series of site-specific projects first conceived in The Netherlands.
"I'll continue that series in various other works while I'm here," she explains, "but this is something else: my first properly Australian work."
As such, 247 Days is about representing "moments in time". For van Dijk, on a personal level, this begins with her own situation here in Australia.
"What can I say about being here as a new immigrant?" asks van Dijk. "Can I already say something? I'm interested in how this new situation that is around me influences what I do and what I make."
But it's also about exploring what this moment means for her dancers. They're all between the ages of twenty and twenty-seven, and though they're from a variety of backgrounds, they're all young Australians, third-generation, second-generation or first-generation. One is the child of refugee parents. Another has parents who recently moved back to India, although she decided to stay in Australia.
"What's beautiful," says van Dijk, "is that they're discovering certain things about who they really are, things that set them apart from others, and at the same time that they're really aware of what they share – certain kinds of music, certain ways of living, certain perspectives on what is politically correct."
Her interest is in very extreme sensations, people on the brink of discovering something about themselves and about the world. This is something she sees in her troupe of young dancers.
"It's something I really want to use, that energy in the piece," she says. "It could be very high energy, very low energy, very intimate or outgoing and daring and provoking. It's the first time for a long time that I've worked with people in such a similar age group. Somehow I think it will really influence what I'm making because the force of the people on stage in my work is always really important."
247 Days is also a chance for van Dijk to deepen her relationship with the cast from An Act of Now. The new work includes dancers Leif Helland, Lauren Langlois, Alya Manzart, Niharika Senapati, and James Pham.
"We can continue the dialogue that we started then, which is really good for us to form a common language and for the dancers to get used to my physicality."
Joining them will be Helpmann-nominated dancer Tara Soh.
The project began in earnest with a photo shoot in December, with van Dijk and performing arts photographer Jeff Busby and more than 60 people between the ages of five and sixty.
"All the moments, the photographs, I selected were very extreme moments of people losing control," explains van Dijk, "becoming extremely dizzy, getting their senses together. It can happen to a young child or a middle-aged person, and all these people go through similar kinds of intensities. That's what we all share, an ability to deal with extreme physical states."
After selecting thirty photographs, van Dijk then started working with the dancers, studying what was happening in the picture, asking what might have come before and what might come after.
It's a rare for audiences to see two major new works premiered by a choreographer like van Dijk and a company like Chunky Move in the space of less than six months.
"I've done that in the past. But it's not happening every year that things are so on top of each other," she agrees.
247 Days will be featured at the Malthouse as a part of Dance Massive.
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