Choreographer FRANCES RINGS tells ZENOBIA FROST how to translate the shimmer of a salt lake into human movement.
ZENOBIA FROST: You mentioned this is your first full-length work with Bangarra, but you have worked with the company many times before. What was your process for developing a full-length production?
FRANCES RINGS: The experience has been great — challenging. I wanted to investigate the significance of land and country to indigenous people. Finding a place, like Lake Eyre, was a turning point of the research and development. The question was: “How am I going to embody this country with my work, with dance, with theatre?” We met with an Arabana elder from the area. He wears that country; he sees the detail. He’s got what’s been passed on to him through generations. You see this living history he carries with him. It’s just magic.
ZF: How did your time around Lake Eyre colour the final work?
FR: Having him on board as a cultural consultant for the work was an important step. But the turning point was when I went back to the lake. The first time, it was full of water. We were struck by the scale of it, especially since we were thousands of kilometres inland. When I went back the second time the landscape was so dry, salted and vast. It was an endless, white saltpan. But it still resonated with this amazing power. After I returned from that trip when I saw the different lives of the lake, its transformation, that’s when the story started to arise and take form. The question, then, was how you deliver that — bring it out in the bodies of the dancers.
ZF: Your creative process seems very much tied to the land. Is this the way you’ve always worked?
FR: I grew up in South Australia in a regional area. I remember when I was little we would camp in the bush, and I would just create an entirely different world. It wasn’t the bush that had snakes and spiders. It became a world of adventure. I still do it. When I went to the lake I’d sit there and stare at the trees. They’d start to resemble old women to me. They were caretakers of the lake. I channel this into theatre and dance. If I were a painter, I would probably paint them. Or if I were a writer, I would write science fiction. But I am a dancer and a dance maker. So I translate this into movements and bodies.
ZF: It sounds like Jennifer Irwin (costume design) and Jacob Nash (set design) have done a beautiful job of bringing that to life in Terrain.
FR: They have done an amazing job. It’s really beautiful — their interpretation of landscape, very stylistically done. It’s difficult to translate those amazing qualities (the light, the shimmer of the salt, the different colours of the constantly changing lake) into backdrops and costumes. And they have done an amazing job of that. It’s a very simple work in that sense.
ZF: I like that. It’s easy to overdo it.
FR: You see a lot of works these days that use a lot of technology. This show is sort of old school. It’s pure dance, backdrops and beautiful costumes.
TERRAIN runs at the Playhouse, QPAC, from 3 to 7 Oct, 2012. http://www.qpac.com.au
ZENOBIA FROST (@zenfrost) was, until recently, the arts editor of Rave Magazine. She is a founding member of OffStreet Press and is fond of strange myths, incisive verse, theatre, graveyards, tea, and editing.