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Sydney Dance Co. Underland: Profiles

Underland: Background Profiles


Sydney Dance Company is Australia’s premier contemporary dance company and one of the country’s most prolific and vibrant arts organisations. Led by artistic director and resident choreographer Graeme Murphy with associate artistic director Janet Vernon, the company's repertoire has received international acclaim for its vivid theatricality and inventive choreography.

Performing each year nationally and internationally, Sydney Dance Company has become one of the most in demand performing arts companies in Australia and an active proponent of Australian culture around the world. The company has undertaken more than 25 international tours – to Asia, North America, South America and Europe – and has performed to audiences in more than 100 cities in more than 20 countries.

Sydney Dance Company is renowned for its prolific output of original works. Since Graeme Murphy began his directorship in 1976, the company has presented more than 140 new works. Almost half of these have been created by Murphy, and 30 of them have been full-length.

As part of its ongoing commitment to developing audiences for contemporary dance, Sydney Dance Company has showcased the works of international dance companies and both Australian and international choreographers. Guest choreographers have included Gideon Obarzanek, Ian Spink, Graeme Watson, Don Asker, Louis Falco, Ohad Naharin, Ralph Lemon, Douglas Wright and most recently Stephen Petronio.

International companies presented by Sydney Dance Company include Compagnie Maguy Marin, Ballet Preljocaj, The Parsons Dance Company and Momix. (In addition, Murphy has programmed Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Streb and Compagnie Mathilde Monnier for the Brisbane Festival in the capacity of dance programming consultant.) Sydney Dance Company is also committed to developing the choreographic skills of its dancers, and regularly programmes choreographic workshops into its schedule.

Creating on average one new full-length work each year, Sydney Dance Company’s performance calendar typically comprises two seasons in Sydney, appearances in other cities and regional venues around Australia, and up to two international tours.

Sydney Dance Company has its origins in a company founded in 1969 by dancer Suzanne Musitz. In the early 1970s, the organisation was re-named The Dance Company of New South Wales and began to receive annual government funding along with a notable growth in stature and public support. In 1979, three years after their appointment, Murphy and Vernon instituted another name change, to Sydney Dance Company.

Sydney Dance Company gratefully acknowledges the support of the Australia Council, the Federal Government's arts funding and advisory body, through the Major Performing Arts Board; the New South Wales Government through the Ministry for the Arts; and the invaluable support it receives from its sponsors, company supporters and partners.


Stephen Petronio – CHOREOGRAPHER

Stephen Petronio was born in Newark, New Jersey, and received a BA from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he began dancing in 1974. Petronio was the first male dancer of the Trisha Brown Company, for which he danced from 1979 to 1986.

He founded Stephen Petronio Company in 1984. Since then, Petronio has received international acclaim for his ground-breaking choreography and the company has toured extensively across the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and Russia.

Petronio has collaborated with visual artists Cindy Sherman, Anish Kapoor, Donald Baechler, Stephen Hannock, Justin Terzi, Charles Atlas, Tal Yarden and Trisha Fox; composers Michael Nyman, James Lavelle, Wire, Yoko Ono, Beastie Boys, Diamanda Galás, Sheila Chandra, Lenny Pickett, and on numerous occasions with David Linton; fashion designers Imitation of Christ, Leigh Bowery, Manolo, Paul Compitus and Tanya Sarne/Ghost; and long time collaborator and lighting designer Ken Tabachnick.

Petronio has been awarded choreography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts from 1985 to 1988, and company grants from the NEA and the New York State Council on the Arts since 1988. He is also the recipient of numerous awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts award, the first American Choreographers award in 1987, and a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for his dance Walk-In in 1986.

He has been commissioned to create new works for companies including William Forsythe's Frankfurt Ballet (1987), the Tulsa Opera (1990), the Deutsche Opera Berlin (1992), the Lyon Opera Ballet (1994), the Maggio Danza Florence (1996), the Ricochet Dance Company of London (1998 and 2001), Axis Dance (2002) and A-Quo Danza Contemporanea in Mexico (2002). Since choreographing Underland in Sydney, Stephen has been undertaking commissions in Sweden, Denmark, France and England through to 2005.


Nick Cave – COMPOSER

Nick Cave is arguably one of the few truly great, genuinely maverick songwriters and performers of the present day. He was born in Warracknabeal, Australia in 1957. He attended art school at Caulfield Institute of Technology (now Monash University) for two years, during which time he met Mick Harvey, with whom he founded a high-school band that became The Boys Next Door. Their first recording, the single 'These Boots Are Made For Walking', was released in 1978.

By 1980, The Boys Next Door had changed its name to The Birthday Party and relocated to London. In the UK, the band performed live and released numerous albums, creating a sound which was clearly at odds with the plastic pop of the time.

Following the break-up of The Birthday Party in 1983, Nick moved briefly to Los Angeles, during which time he assembled the first of several line-ups of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, which released its first album, From Here To Eternity, in 1984.

Relocating to Berlin, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds continued to produce a number of albums including 1988's Tender Prey, which included the single 'The Mercy Seat'. That same year also saw the publication of Cave's collection of lyrics and plays, entitled King Ink. Ghosts ... Of The Civil Dead, a film co-written by Nick with a score composed by Nick, Mick Harvey and Blixa Bargeld, was released in 1989 with Nick appearing in a central acting role. Nick subsequently acted in the film Johnny Suede.

In 1989 Nick moved from Berlin to Sao Paulo, Brazil where he continued to produce music. Nick's novel And the Ass Saw the Angel was published in 1990 to critical acclaim, including selection as Time Out Book of the Year. It has since been translated into 14 languages.

In 1992, The Bad Seeds released its seventh album, Henry's Dream, followed by a worldwide tour and three subsequent albums, including 1994's Let Love In, produced by Tony Cohen.

Nick returned to London and, in 1996, released Murder Ballads. Collaborations with Kylie Minogue on 'Where The Wild Roses Grow' and PJ Harvey on 'Henry Lee' followed.

Again with Mick Harvey and Blixa Bargeld, Nick scored his second feature film, To Have And To Hold, in 1996 and his second anthology of lyrics and essays, King Ink II, was published that same year.

1997 saw the release of The Bad Seeds' 10th album, The Boatman's Call, widely regarded as a consummate achievement for Nick. During 1999, he also performed on numerous occasions without The Bad Seeds, usually with Warren Ellis and at times with Dirty Three.

Last year, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds released Nocturama. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds also feature on the Shrek 2 soundtrack with the song People Ain't No Good.

In September 2004 Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds released the double album, Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus'.



Tara Subkoff started acting after she dropped out of art school. Her film credits include When the Bough Breaks, All Over Me, As Good as It Gets, Last Days of Disco and The Cell. She has also completed a film project with controversial indie filmmaker Larry Clark, another independent film At the End of the Day, which was released last year.

Uninspired by the lacklustre state of filmmaking and the lack of good scripts, Subkoff embarked on a new project in 2000 – Imitation of Christ. Under her direction, the IOC creative collective are social engineers – a collaboration that encompasses fashion design, art and film. The Imitation of Christ fashion transforms undesirables into desirables again.

Imitation of Christ staged its first fashion show in a Metro station in Los Angeles in May 2000. In that same year, the IOC creative collective produced an art and fashion installation in the ZAO boutique on New York City’s Orchard Street, and in September held their first fashion show during NYC fashion week. Shocking the fashion industry, the show was staged at an East Village funeral parlour, seating only 60 people.

In February 2001, Tara Subkoff and the IOC creative collective integrated their political cause during fashion week in the hope of creating awareness within the fashion industry for two charities. Imitation of Christ produced a film starring Reese Witherspoon, Jason Schwartzman, Elodie Bochez, Selma Blair and Lisa Marie illustrating the indulgence of modern society juxtaposed by the exploitation of sweatshops and child labour. Despite backlash, they stayed firm in their belief and hosted a benefit that raised funds for Sweat Shop Watch and Free the Children.

In 2002, the IOC creative collective continued to push the traditional barriers of fashion with a series of controversial events, from a mock auction at Sotheby’s, where the models were presented immobile as the auctioneer called the prices; to a role reversal of models and the media, where the models sat with pen and paper ready to critique the guests.

In June 2002 Tara Subkoff and Jessica Craig-Martin participated in a group show presenting a series of photography art at Kenny Schacter’s gallery opening of ‘conTEMPorary’, designed by the renowned artist Vito Acconci. Tara also collaborated on a Film and Art project with the prestigious Jeffrey Deitch Gallery at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Subkoff first collaborated with Stephen Petronio in October 2002, creating the costumes for his work City of Twist.



Tony's list of credits reveals his remarkable involvement in the development of the local Australian music industry from the mid 70's up to now, and also overseas, where his work remains consistently at the cutting edge of successful contemporary music.

Notably, the 1993/8th Annual ARIA Awards saw Tony voted ‘Producer Of The Year’ for his work with The Cruel Sea, Tiddas and Dave Graney & The Coral Snakes; while Tiddas took out ‘Best Indigenous Record’ and The Cruel Sea swept the field winning awards for ‘Best Album’ and ‘Best Group’ as well as ‘Best Single’ and ‘Song Of The Year’ for The Honeymoon is Over.

In 1995 at the 9th Annual ARIA Awards, Tony was again voted ‘Producer of the Year’ for his subsequent work with The Cruel Sea, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and Dave Graney & The Coral Snakes. In addition he was voted ‘Engineer Of The Year’ for his work on The Cruel Sea’s follow up Three Legged Dog album.

Tony is one of Australia's few internationally recognised record producers and is still in considerable demand for his outstanding production and engineering ability.


Paul Healy is a composer and sound-designer working at Supersonic in Sydney. Supersonic is a music production house combining the talents of three composers of which Paul is one.

Paul completed a BA in Sound at the Australian Film Television & Radio School in 1994 and during his studies spent 1993 in Paris at the Ecole National Louis Lumiere. Paul's feature film work has included Dirty Deeds, Mullet, Kabarrli and Making Venus. His work for television includes Always Greener, The Mad Century, Eat Carpet, Alchemy, Men and their Sheds as well as numerous commercials. He has worked extensively in theatre in both Sydney and Melbourne with directors such as Barrie Kosky, Wayne Harrison, Neil Armfield and Marion Potts.

In 2002 he composed the music for a Barrie Kosky production of Macbeth at the Schauspielhaus in Vienna. In 2001 Paul's compositions were performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra in collaboration with Neil Finn and Brett Dean on the 'Parables' tour of Australia.

Paul has composed for Bonehead by Chunky Move Dance Company as well as several performances of works by Dance Exchange. His surround sound installation works have been presented at several galleries including the Queensland National Gallery.

Recordings of his compositions are featured on several CDs including coco, Dirty Deeds, Soft Fruit and Mullet soundtracks and EScape.

He has received numerous awards including two Golden Reel nominations in the USA, the Sound Design Award and Best Music in a Short Film from the Australian Guild of Screen Composers, and three AFI nominations.


Ken Tabachnick – VISUAL DESIGN

Ken Tabachnick has collaborated with Stephen Petronio since Stephen began working as a choreographer 20 years ago. During that time, he has pursued an active career designing internationally and has collaborated with companies such as The Kirov Opera and Ballet, the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the New York City Ballet, the Lyon Opera Ballet, the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Trisha Brown Company, as well as with many other American choreographers (such as Susan Marshall, Bebe Miller and Jennifer Muller).

Tabachnick has worked in theatre (for which he has won awards and has been associated with artists such as Robert Wilson and the Royal Shakespeare Company), in television (with companies such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Live From Lincoln Center) and in opera (where he also served as the Resident Lighting Designer at New York City Opera for three years).

In addition to his design work, Tabachnick works as a production manager and teaches seminars to professionals and non-professionals. He is also active in the film industry in the United States – he is currently a Managing Member of indieWIRE LLC, and has served as Executive Director of the Hamptons International Film Festival, and as the Corporate Relations Director and Gotham Awards Producer for the Independent Feature Project.

Tabachnick is also an attorney, and advises clients in a broad range of matters including trademark, copyright, licensing and entertainment issues.


Mike Daly is a filmmaker/artist currently residing in Sydney. His short films intransit and binary have screened internationally at festivals such as Clermont-Ferrand (France), Camerimage (Poland), Ars Electronica (Austria), Interfilm (Germany), the Australian Film Institute Awards (Australia) and Palm Springs (America).

Mike has a Master of Arts Honours in Film and Television specialising in Digital Media from the Australian Film Television and Radio School and has spent several years working as a director, visual effects compositor and editor. He recently worked in Berlin, after winning an award to attend the Berlin Film Festival Talent Campus as one of 500 filmmakers from 72 countries.

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