Presented in 2017 by Malthouse Theatre and Chunky Move in association with Asia TOPA (Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts) and Dance Massive,  ANTI—GRAVITY is embarking on its European premiere! This week Chunky Move is touring this highly immersive and intricate work to the Netherlands for Spring Festival, Utrecht. We sat down with our Artistic Director Anouk van Dijk to hear more about the tour. 

Firstly, tell us more about Utrecht, Spring Festival Utrecht, the arts and its dance scene? How is it similar and different to Melbourne?

It’s very related actually to Melbourne. But Utrecht is a tiny city, it has a very rich culture of productions houses for theatre, for dance, for visual arts and film. There is a University that does a lot of academic research in the arts. There’s is a really good dramaturgy program in the University in Utrecht. So we will also meet the students and the professors of the University while we are there. Spring Festival has a bit of a history. It used to be called just Spring Dance Festival and in that time there was another festival in the city that produced more performance and theatre and those two festivals have merged into Spring Festival. It really celebrates the crossroads between performance art and dance. A work like ANTI-GRAVITY fits really well because the festival is really interested in presenting works that are in deep collaboration with another art form or work across different disciplines and thinking. In the festival you will see highly physical dance works, all the way up to very performative and abstracted works, often very visual and the human condition is very much at the centre of the artistic direction of the festival.

Tell us more about ANTI—GRAVITY ?

So ANTI—GRAVITY was created in 2017 and premiered at Dance Massive and was a very adventurous collaboration of the company with Ho Tzu Nyen a renowned visual artist from Singapore whose a really hot ticket right now. All the festivals and museums all want his work, he’s like a shooting star. It was a collaboration with Asia Topa so it was a real attempt to start a dialogue with Singapore in this case around the creation of art, thinking about the purpose of art for an audience and how is it different from an Asian perspective than a Western perspective. ANTI—GRAVITY has become a work that sits somewhere between installation art, dance, theatre, moving paintings, rock concert and a medieval painting. It sits very strangely in between times. It’s not from our time, it’s not from past, not from the future, not from the present, but its all at the same time. Remounting the work again that’s how I reflect on it myself. Sits in this very unusual space where we reconsider what is weight, what is gravity, how do we create images with the rudimentary forms of the world? Earth, rocks, water, sky, air, wind, all those rudimentary forms. Then there’s the machinery of humanity working with nature. I would say ANTI—GRAVITY has become a clash between modern times and nature somehow.  

How did the relationship with Ho Tzu Nyen come about?

I found Ho Tzu Nyen’s work online by accident because I was googling some concepts. I saw this amazing imagery from Ho Tzu Nyen and I started to look into his works and him as an artist, read articles and interviews. I thought wow this is a very visionary man, I would like to meet him and learn from him and connect with him and thought wouldn’t it be amazing for the company to connect with him and for the dancers to have this other injection around what is our view of the world. Then through mutual friends I was introduced. I met up with him in Berlin whilst we were on tour in Berlin for Complexity of Belonging and we had a long conversation, so that was the birth of the idea to do something together. He is a filmmaker and a visual artist but really works around crafting an image from a conceptual idea, so to work with dancers and the process we use to create material and ideas was new to him, so he was really curious as to how that works. For me, it was really interesting that somebody could be at home just working everything out, in front of his computer. ANTI—GRAVITY has become a work that I would never have made alone, so in that sense it is a response to both our working processes.

What are the most challenging parts of touring a work like ANTI — GRAVITY?

I think the most challenging part from an Australian company to go to Europe is the distance. It’s the timing and getting everything into freight and jetlag. It’s convincing a festival that dancers need a day off to recover from a 24 hour flight, those are the challenges touring to Europe.

The other challenge is to tour a work that has been dormant for a while. It’s always a bit of a challenge, but most of the time once it is out of remount, the next one comes much easier. What’s nice about ANTI—GRAVITY is that we get to perform on a stage with identical dimensions as the Merlin where we premiered the show. This show has a lot of details so when you bring that work alive it takes a lot of meticulous calculation. It is not only just the dancers on stage, but the sound, the light and the video, all of it needs to be cued and aligned for the audience to be satisfied.

What have Chunky Move tours been like in the past? 

I think Complexity of Belonging has been the work that has gone on the road the longest. It’s been performed on some very important stages. Like in Taipai on this amazing stage, in New Zealand in their most important festival, it’s gone to Berlin and in Utrecht, to Paris on one of its biggest stages. What I always find the most interesting is that wherever we go away from the Southern Hemisphere, people are always struck by Australian performers. Australian performers have a particular lightness and strength to their performance that is very different. Australian dancers seem to have this crisp presence and athletic clarity, people love that. It’s something I always hear. Another thing particularly about Chunky is the sculptural aspect of the work and the sizes of the work, how well its produced, the quality of the light and sound, audiences really appreciate that. It’s exotic because the ways of performing the work are really different. 

In Utrecht or nearby? You can get tickets for ANTI—GRAVITY at Spring Festival, Utrecht here.