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Opportunities to explore cutting-edge choreography

Opportunities to explore cutting-edge choreography

Creative New Zealand awards choreographic fellowship and residency

Photographs by Lance Lawson


Ralph Buck, lecturer in Dance Studies, University of Otago & Choreographer, Shona McCullagh.

Leading New Zealand choreographers, Shona McCullagh of Auckland and Daniel Belton of Dunedin, will explore cutting-edge territory in contemporary dance with the support of two new Creative New Zealand initiatives: the Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship and a pilot choreographic residency.

Award-winning choreographer and filmmaker Shona McCullagh is the inaugural recipient of the $65,000 Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship, the largest choreographic fellowship or award available in New Zealand. This will enable her to research, develop and workshop a major interactive, multi-media work.

“This fellowship allows me to feel totally supported and encouraged to continue pursuing my craft and develop my identity as a New Zealand artist,” says McCullagh, who was named a New Zealand Arts Foundation Arts Laureate last year. “For the first time in my career, I will have adequate time and resources to investigate new directions in my work, while researching and developing a live work with global potential.”

The $15,000 residency is a partnership between Creative New Zealand and the University of Otago in which Daniel Belton will undertake a choreographic research residency. This is the first research-based residency for contemporary dance offered by a New Zealand university.

Ralph Buck, a lecturer in the Dance Studies Programme at the University of Otago, says the residency will enable Belton to research his artistic practice, using film to capture the connections between movement and language. The results of his research will be recorded in written material and on film, and presented at a public forum.

“This collaboration with Daniel not only raises the profile of dance scholarship but also provides professional development opportunities for both students and staff in the Dance Studies Programme,” Mr Buck said.

Chair of Creative New Zealand’s Arts Board Murray Shaw says McCullagh and Belton are outstanding choreographers, committed to developing the artform and exploring innovative possibilities. He also commended the University of Otago for its long-term commitment and pioneering work in fostering contemporary dance in New Zealand.

“The Board is delighted that both proposals fit precisely with our vision for the fellowship and the residency,” Mr Shaw said. “Shona’s project requires rigorous research and development while our partnership with the University of Otago will provide a model that we hope other tertiary institutions and companies will adopt.”

Both the fellowship and the residency respond directly to recommendations made in Creative New Zealand’s dance strategy, Moving to the Future: Ngä Whakanekeneke atu ki te Ao o Apöpö, launched last year after extensive consultation with the dance sector. The strategy recommends that Creative New Zealand investigate providing support for fellowships and residencies in dance to allow “mid-career and senior professionals to develop new practices, undertake research, or deepen their skill and knowledge base”.

Mr Shaw said the Arts Board will offer the Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship for a period of three years. “This represents a significant commitment from the Arts Board. It is something to which other choreographers can aspire and offers a tremendous opportunity to senior artists wishing to immerse themselves in a major project.”

Shona McCullagh, Chair of Auckland’s forthcoming dance festival, tempo°, gained international recognition for her short dance film, fly , which won first prize in last year’s Australasian Reeldance Awards, screened at the 2003 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and market, and has been sold to the BBC in Britain and Spain.

Of the project she will work on over a 12-month period, McCullagh says: “This is the most exciting and challenging project I have ever been involved in. It will extend my thinking, creativity and collaborative skills in an extraordinary way. My vision is to create, in collaboration with a team of people, a production that will be internationally tourable, have a distinct New Zealand style and content, and once again demonstrate that New Zealand is a world leader in terms of courage, versatility and innovation.

“What especially intrigues me about the project is the opportunity to bring artistic investigation into line with current scientific research. My ultimate goal is to present a fresh, original theatrical experience that brings the audience closer to a world integrating the astral and the earthly.”

As well as conducting international research, McCullagh will study quantum physics and various mythologies before writing and developing the work, and finally, workshopping it.

Like McCullagh, Daniel Belton is both a choreographer and filmmaker pushing boundaries and working across artforms. His 2002 film, Wireless, had its European premiere in July 2003 at the Napoli Danza International Film Festival while his latest film, Lumin, has its European premiere this month at Videodance 2003 in Athens.

Currently overseas, Belton will take up the 15-week residency in October. For him, the residency provides “a window of opportunity for choreographic exploration and reflection within the university context and culture”.

“The key focus when I’ve made my dance-based films has been the end result,” he said. “What excites me about this residency is that I can focus on the process. Until now, I’ve never had the resources and support to look into my work and share it in this way.”

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