Dance for the Time Being


‘dance for the time being’ is an elaboration of the aesthetic potential of the unstable body. It explores the relationship between doing and being and is a performance text shared by all participants (dancers and associated artists). It draws together my ongoing interest in intercultural perception, audience empathy and embodied practice.

The initial residency at the Kone Foundation was a catalyst for the development of my subsequent research into the aesthetics of instability and its potential usefulness to movement practices. Managing instability suggests a radically different notion of control of the body in dance from the instrumental approach of ballet and contemporary dance.

Further residencies will develop the research and form part of the creative development of our ongoing performance practice ‘dance for the time being.’ Residencies are planned for Indonesia, Japan, Europe and USA.

As the dancers are exposed over time to the various ideas and experiences contained within ongoing studio practice, regular performances and the discourse of the community of other artist participants, a slow physical rendering of this information will shape and delineate their dancing. The evolution of the work is a direct result of the continuous development of the dancers‘ practice. In these terms performance is not treated as a finite event – its relationship to audience and its physical environment is intentionally porous and suggestive of the intimacy of haptic space. Its form is shaped by the physical space and conditions in which it is created. The constantly evolving choreographic material will be developed to explore the intimate relationship between practice and performance. One learns to perform by means of performing just as one learns to dance by dancing. Outside of the milieu of ballet, professional dance in the West has not understood this necessity for frequent performance experience or the need to support the agency of the dancer as a performing artist.

The engagement in a regular, sustained performance practice is a vehicle for the development of future choreographic artists. ‘dance for the time being’ is in continuous development and forms the basis of our theatrical presentations, studio showings, durational performance and academic symposia.

The use of pedestrian movement in early post modern dance was socially inclusive and built communities of artists. As well as being a reaction to the highly stylised techniques of both ballet and historic modern dance, it was more generally a 1960’s elaboration of “democracy’s body”. Its use of “pedestrian movement” did not explore the quotidian – the forgotten in the everyday that gives us our sense of the everyday. My practice elaborates the quotidian body as distinct from the pedestrian body. It is based on the unstable running body and its skeletal structural evolution over millennia (the historical forgotten), rather than the standing or walking body of industrial modernity. Further more, the running body has not been subjected to political, social or cultural interest or control. In my practice I am questioning the foundations on which dance and movement practices in Australia, USA and Europe have been built.
I am interested in the empathy we feel for the unstable body of the runner in full “flight” and the way that the audience knows in its bones how this movement feels. Understanding is always contextual, but this unstable running body creates its own context, a kinesthetic bridge, which can be read across diverse cultures. The running body is inherently unstable and the aesthetic dimension of instability functions as a catalyst for audience empathy.

I seek new imaginaries for practices of dance   for this art form. A The runner’s body is already in motion and has an innate ability to adapt very quickly to different terrains and changing physical environments. This adaptability to new terrains and the ever-changing landscape of the future is where the potential for new imaginaries of movement based practice lies.

Performance Practice:
All dance and somatic techniques that I am aware of are concerned with stabilising the body. ‘dance for the time being’ is concerned with developing a shared physical practice for dancers based in technical insights into the body that I have termed “managing instability”. After many years of researching movement-based practices from interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives I have attempted to understand and articulate commonalities.

Human locomotion is based on falling in relationship to the line of gravity. In walking this falling is internal to the structure of the body, and facilitated by the dynamic instability of the body‘s weight distribution. In running, the gravity line is external to the body that attempts to save the head from potential damage by continuously attempting to re-align the torso directly below the head through a quick appeal to the legs (running). Our ability to run has been determined through the evolution of homosapiens as a species and I am interested in developing a dance practice that utilises this uniquely efficient evolutionary ability. How we stand and walk is culturally specific, but we all run the same way i.e. with the same deep contra-lateral muscle efficiency.

I am interested in the empathy we feel for the unstable body of the runner in full “flight”. I am not interested in running as such, but in the virtuosity of the running body that is less marked by the particularity of social and cultural difference. (We stand and walk in culturally specific ways, but we all run the same way.) Much of the movement vocabulary developed for ‘dance for the time being’ will investigate bodily instability, its relationship to running and as a catalyst for audience empathy across cultures. This work is an attempt to make a community of the individuals who constitute both audience and dancers: a temporary collective – a community for the time being.

Choreographic Practice:
Choreographic development is central to this endeavour and there are no significant choreographers who were not also significant dancers. In my teaching and choreographic practice I focus on the development of dancers as individual creative artists. I utilise professional contacts in Australia, USA, Europe and Indonesia to access artist networks in order to facilitate the creative development of dancers as dancers. Through my teaching and choreographic practice I explicitly support the development of the dancers who work with me, thus nurturing future choreographic practice.

‘dance for the time being’ is primarily concerned with the development of sustainable dance practices. The dancer’s persona, awareness and authorship of self (“presence”), is perhaps more essential to the performance of dance as an art form than to the notion of performance elaborated in any other performing arts practice. The dancer is always author of her dancing and presence and this constitutes a large part of agency. It is this sense of agency that the dancer will elaborate in future choreographic practice.

Dance needs the agency and expertise of curators and producers who are also practicing professional dancers in order to realise the potential of dance as a developing art form. (Dance as ritual is one of the oldest community practices but as an individual art its provenance can be traced for little more than a century.)

Most dance practices train and choreograph the stabilised body. This rigidly controlled body is essential to the virtuosity and technique of ballet and it is this technique that is utilised in most practices of Contemporary Dance. The discipline and control of ballet is a difficult state from which to move or explore movement outside the balletic lexicon. By contrast the dynamic instability of the body’s weight distribution in the action of running, orchestrates ease and efficiency. This allows gravity and momentum to be fully utilised. This unstable body is already in movement and this fact facilitates ease, efficiency and the related capacity to explore virtuosity as well as the potential to develop new movement vocabularies. The choreographic elaboration of the unstable body is unique to this work and has the potential to literally create a new form of dance.
Who are the artists involved and what are their responsibilities? Russell Dumas (Choreographer)
Artists/ Dancers:
Jonathan Sinatra, David Huggins, Satu Rekola, David Young, Beth Lane, Megan Payne, Dr Sally Gardner, Ulla Koivisto, Tom Rawe, Jennifer Way

Associated Artists:
Dr Christine Babinskas, Dr Philipa Rothfiled, Dr Elizabeth Dempster, Dr Sally Gardner, Reyes de Lara, Rohesia Hamilton Metcalfe (Archivist and Web design), Simon Lloyd (Design), Ysabel de Maisonneuve (Textile Design), Margie Medlin (Lighting Design)
The Associated Artists and all design consultants will play a crucial role in critically shaping the work although not all will be present for all development stages. Critics and Associated Artists will be invited to attend studio showings during all stages of development.

The flexible design and form of ‘dance for the time being’ make it easily adaptable to diverse performance situations, and optimises opportunities for touring. During a period of two years we intend to pursue possibilities to show the work in Australia, USA, Asia and Europe. For touring purposes ‘dance for the time being’ can be shown in configurations of 1 or more dancers.
In September and October of this year we will show early editions of the work in New York City (USA), Hanoi (Vietnam) and Christchurch (New Zealand).




Design Consultants  

Associate Artists