Dance, Challenged

24 July 2012 | 6:30 am | Dave Drayton

"This piece is much more psychological and about variance; in physicality, but also in emotional variance as well."

Close your eyes, think 'dance', and what greets you (besides Natalie Portman in Black Swan)? Most probably a collection of similarly lithe and limber bodies, slim and slender. And, let's be honest, you're not to blame for that. There are certain accepted stereotypes surrounding dance and the bodies (and, more specifically, body types) involved in such performance. Enter Sue Healey, a classically-trained ballet dancer, with a masters in choreography and more than 30 years' experience in the game. Put simply: she knows it well enough to break the rules and flaunt conventions. And she'll be doing just that with Variant, the final instalment of a series of dance and movement works that began in 2008 collectively titled The Curiosities.

“It really is a culmination of all the things that I've been researching and exploring for quite a few years now, but this is a very different sort of work from The Curiosities, in fact it couldn't be more different – it's like the complete other end of the spectrum,” says Healey. Prior to Variant, the series of works included a duet dance, a filmic installation (both titled Reading The Body) and performance installation at Carriageworks that came about through collaboration with new media artists, dancers, and, of all things, scientists.

The Curiosities is about a curiosity for form; the form of the body, what is it that we can say with the body. So I looked at it from a very physical point of view, actually, and then looked at it from a psychological point of view. The Curiosities really began with an enquiry of form, so I worked with beautiful scientific images of development of the body, so it was very scientific and very analytical about anatomy,” says Healey, shedding some light on the unlikely collaboration.

“This piece is much more psychological and about variance; in physicality, but also in emotional variance as well. It's a very eclectic mix of bodies and emotional landscape. It's very character based, which is a huge departure for me from The Curiosities, which was very much about form and about physicality, so now I'm really playing with character and,” she pauses, and finds the elusive big picture, “Look, what this is, is it's a departure from the usual way of seeing dance; I'm challenging stereotypes with this work, I'm challenging what we think of as normal – both in bodies and in what we think dance is. I'm really trying to challenge the stereotype – most people think of dance as being a cult of the body type and I'm really trying to open that up and challenge it and break it apart and say that dance is for everyone, it's not just for one particular body type and that is the fundamental thing I'm trying to do. And within that there's even a sense of cabaret and song and tap dance – I'm challenging the form of dance as well, you know, it's not just purely abstracted movement, it's moving as human beings and using movement as a form of communication. I think it's important to have that celebratory nature, celebrating diversity; without diversity we're kind of sunk as a species, aren't we? Any species is sunk without divergence and variance. I like that, I like that idea; let's celebrate it.”

Variant runs from Thursday 26 July until Saturday 4 August, Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre.