Smooth as Gravel 1997

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Darwin, Palmerston

A Co-Production with Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre. 5 performances, September 11-13

Smooth as Gravel was created under the direction of Sarah Calver by seventeen members of Corrugated Iron Youth Arts, over three terms of workshops and rehearsals. It was performed at the Australian Youth Dance Festival Sept 28-Oct 3, Territory Youth Festival and Driver High School Theatre, Palmerston.

It is a brave, sensual, physically powerful and revealing work; which showcases the brilliant and exceptional talents of Darwin’s young performers, who through the integration of movement with text, drama, soundscapes and design find fresh and enticing frameworks to express their ‘real selves’.

The decisions, choices, passions, vulnerabilities, laughter, relationships, fears, secrets and events that take place show the different aspects of these young people, drawing attention to moments of contrast and commonality. We stay, we move, coming and going, leaving and returning. The tracks travelled by the youth of today are unpredictable, full-on, flat-out and down to earth, far from superficial, their destination unknown. Packed with energy, humour, passion and the bizarre.

Director's Notes - Sarah Calver

Take 18 young Darwin artists from different backgrounds, different skill levels with different expectations and place them in a studio with professional director, a dancer, and myself and you have the ingredients for high altitude fun! Outsiders, namely parents and friends, who dared to enter this space, were constantly surprised and intrigued by the work that was taking place. What a sight - 18 young adults exploring, exploding and expressing through dance, movement, and drama. The studio was constantly a buzz of activity from the bizarre to the not so bizarre. People have asked “How did I continue to challenge, inspire and guide 18 individuals over three terms?”… I included them in every process (and I included their parents where necessary), together we developed and built a strong and trusting environment and then I constantly took them out of their comfort zones, guiding them but not over powering them. The end result a series of statements, phrases, and sequences that came from them and were genuinely owned by them!

The final phase was as exciting and inspirational as the previous phases of this project. The cast had explored and created many movement based works focusing on various issues and tasks. It was now time to link these together, to edit and fine-tune the various works.

The cast were involved in most of the decision-making components of this phase and the trust that had developed between us all enabled me to continue to direct and guide them in unexpected ways, and to be open and honest with each other during the process of blocking the show. The work always stayed with them - they created it and they owned it. I saw my role as an extension to all of them, not a dominating or dictatorial one. However, when certain sections of the production reached a “sticking point” or were simply not working the cast supported and respected my directions. The process leading up to and including this phase was the essential ingredient behind this product and it was from this that Smooth As Gravel grew.

The finished product revealed the young artists in many refreshing frameworks - it was flat-out, full on and unpredictable! Their confidence physically, emotionally and mentally was evident in every performer, and this was a major achievement. Their images of themselves, their bodies and their physicality were those of strength and confidence, and I took great pleasure in watching and observing the giant step each young person had achieved. To see young women of all shapes and sizes up their proud of who they are, proud of their bodies and what they have to say is much to celebrate - especially in this age bracket. For two young men to have the same pride is something that we do not see much of in the world of youth dance in Darwin! Each and every one of them was an integral part of this production and they felt it. Many parents have made conscious efforts to approach me and thank me for what I have shared and given their child during the coarse of the year. I only hope that each young person takes what he or she has gained from this project with them through life. To look at this brave group of young people stand strong and be strong and respect each other is a credit to themselves and their trust in me, and the directions we chose to follow and explore. It was not an easy road for everyone, but their honesty, desire to learn and their trust enabled us all to delve into the wonderful powers of movement-based theatre.

Because of its placement in two intersecting youth festivals, (especially the National Australian Youth Dance Festival) the performance was viewed by a stream of professionals working in Youth Dance across Australia and England, as well as representatives from the Youth Dance Fund for the Australia Council and Ausdance. They attended the final performance. The cast was at their strongest and the messages they relayed throughout the show came from their hearts and souls, where they had originated. For the week of the Youth Dance Conference Smooth As Gravel was constantly referred to as being a work of significance that genuinely represented the young performers in it. The processes were of great interest to those working in this field. Our Southern peers had been quietly surprised by the calibre of Smooth As Gravel.

Creative Personnel

Director: Sarah Calver
Lighting Designer and Technical Production: Matthew James
Stage Manager: Neil Macknight

Tracks Dance 1997

Co-Artistic Directors: Sarah Calver, David McMicken, Tim Newth
Administrator: Liann Stevenson

[Under Brown's Mart Community Arts – Executive Officer Ken Conway]

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