Canberrans would be forgiven for not having heard of the Keir Choreographic Award–it is based in Melbourne after all. Designed to support and showcase the work of eight exceptional artists as well as cultivate new audiences for contemporary dance, this is only the second year the Kier has been offered. Each of the eight shortlisted artists will perform their work at Dancehouse in Melbourne with four finalists going on to perform at Carriageworks in Sydney where a winner will ultimately be chosen.
In the Keir’s first year, Canberra choreographer James Batchelor was chosen to create his work Metasystems, which went on to tour to Canberra, Europe and Asia. This year, not only has James been chosen for an incredible second time from over one hundred applicants nationwide, born and raised Canberra artist Chloe Chignell has also made the shortlist.
Like James, Chloe is an alumni of Quantum Leap, the youth dance ensemble nurtured by QL2. This Canberra dance organisation has proven an integral platform in launching the career of many Canberra dancers who have achieved success nationally and internationally. After finishing school Chloe went on to complete a Bachelor in Fine Arts (Dance) at the Victorian College of the Arts and now in her second year out from university, she is establishing her own artistic practice.
“My first real interest in dance came through Quantum Leap at QL2,” explains Chloe. “I started in the junior project and continued on to the senior project and young choreographers programs Hot to Trot and On Course.” Chloe particularly enjoyed being part of the creative process, a unique opportunity QL2 affords its young dancers. “It was choreography that really fed my interest in dance and gave me the determination to pursue it further. My time at QL2 was invaluable to the early stages of my artistic development.”
The idea that Chloe proposes to explore in her successfully commissioned work for the Keir Choreographic Award is that of Shine, specifically the dynamic glimmer or sparkle of a surface as it interacts with light. “I want to look at how shine functions in contemporary culture, consumer culture, technology, seduction and intimacy. I want to locate the choreography on the surface of the body, where shine resides, drawing tension between human empathy and surface affect.”
This work will build on core ideas Chloe has already been focusing on in previous work such as time, identity and empathy. “I like to think of choreography as an expanded practice, so I am not just working with dance but also objects, lights and sound.” She is keen to investigate these ideas through a much more visible platform and draw a new audience to her work. “The Keir provides an incredible opportunity for me as an emerging artist. The commission provides a great deal of resources and it will also be an exciting opportunity to present my work alongside the other seven commissioned artists.”
For a highly competitive award that draws applicants from all across Australia, it is remarkable that two of the eight artists chosen are from Canberra. Also worth noting is that three more finalists have a Canberra connection through Ql2. With such a high calibre of talent coming out of Canberra, there is no denying that we are punching above our weight in terms of producing outstanding contemporary dance artists.