With only 2 weeks until Liveworks kicks off, we sat down with acclaimed choreographer Sue Healey to discuss the process behind developing her new experimental live-streamed work, Live Action Relay.
In creating Live Action Relay, what are you excited to explore in your practice that you have never tried before?
This work feels completely fresh to me. I have not considered making a live broadcast before, (perhaps because I am too much of a control freak?), preferring instead to have control of an edit suite when making a film, or to work within the theatre setting. This project definitely throws me in the deep end, but strange times demand stranger practices.
I will be calling the shots, as four moving cameras capture the dancers moving across a vast space of extreme terrain. It is edited and broadcast live, with music simultaneously being created by Ben Walsh, who will also be in situ, responding to my visual edit. The dancers will also be in an unusual situation - they won’t have their usual cue systems to rely on, they are separated from each other and must move across a space that is both grand in scale and difficulty. So, what you will see on your device is an immediate editing of the choreography and sonic response to this extraordinary landscape.
Although each element in this work is part of my usual practice—exploring a location in intense detail; choreographing dancers; framing the action through the lens of a camera; integrating sound; editing the moving image—this project feels like a massive experiment in how it all comes together and is witnessed.
So much could go wrong, but it will be exciting no matter what happens!
How do you hope your work Live Action Relay will bring people together across distance?
The fact that I can invite an audience from around the world, to witness a performance, is an incredibly freeing experience. The need for a theatre space and all its trappings, in a particular city or country, is transcended.
I devised the idea for this work during lockdown, desperate to think of a way that could keep me making, collaborating with other artists and showing work in spite of COVID. Lockdown made me realise just how intrinsic this is to my well-being. As a choreographer I must keep moving and finding ways to bring others into my work—and it is not enough to just make the work—the assembly of an audience to witness it, is a crucial part of the process. This work will bring the audience from wherever they may be into a stunning landscape in NSW and offer something that simply could not be done in a theatre.
How is this work challenging you to layer choreographies of movement, space and sound to create a live-shot but virtually-realised performance piece?
The act of editing a film is for me, a very private experience—involving many hours of solitude with my computer before revealing it to anyone. However with this project, I have to rely on split second decision-making with no going back and no ability to finetune, as we broadcast live. This makes for high stakes delivery, but the excitement is in the unpredictability and the energy of on the spot decision-making.
I have an amazing team of collaborators (cinematographers, dancers and technicians) who will help me facilitate this. We will be utterly dependant on technology to enable this process to run smoothly and I will have to pray to the weather gods for sun not rain, but it is a very exciting puzzle to solve.
I hope that the location and our attention to it, will give the audience a chance to reflect on the importance of liveness and offer an extraordinary way of seeing the moving body in a landscape.
What kind of perspectives on dance can filming from a drone open up, that might not be possible in a more conventional live performance experience?
The drone dramatically extends and alters our perceptions of space. As technology improves so does the potential to reveal movement in extraordinary spaces and from perspectives that are usually beyond our reach. I don’t use a drone as a visual gimmick, but rather to push me into new choreographic territory. I am able to play with scale, both intimate and expansive, with 360 degrees of mobility around the dancer, in ways that are simply impossible in a theatre with a static audience.
These are things that drive me choreographically and the sky is the limit when you have the dexterity of a drone camera (and a highly skilled pilot). I have made four films with drone pilot/cinematographer Ken Butti, which has prepared us for the challenges of this project. It is definitely an experiment, but one that I am sure I will revisit.
Don't miss Live Action Relay by Sue Healey, online at LIVE ON-THE-LINE, Friday 23 October at Liveworks.