Dance Sites, a network between long-time collaborators Critical Path, Dancehouse and STRUT dance, is a mobility network stemming from the partners' shared commitment to support the independent dance community by circulating and exposing new works at all stages of development to interstate audiences, peers and presenters alike.

The first Dance Sites initiative is a multi-year project to develop and present 3 new dance works (one each from NSW, VIC and WA), beginning with showings of the works in development as part of STRUT's Eyes Wide in the studio at Kings St Art Centre, Perth, WA. The artists will work with facilitator Rebecca Hilton over the course of four days, engaging with each other and audiences in open rehearsals and more formalised presentations over 3 nights 7-9 November.

Dancehouse is presenting Victorian artist Fiona Bryant and her work AND NOW I KNOW. Fiona shares some of her thoughts regarding the development process below:

Can you introduce the work you are making as a part of the Dance Sites initiative?

The work I am making is called And Now I Know. It is a scored duet evolved from a solo Anywhere But Here, originally created for Natalie Cursio in 2010. At this stage the work is a duet performed by Cursio and myself. I say at this stage, as I don't rule out that it could return back to its original solo form. In 2010 I commenced the work with no particular thematic ideas or concerns but rather an interest in sharing my working methodology with Cursio. From this place, some central concerns have emerged, but perhaps they are nothing, (which is also something).

What exactly do you mean by that?

In the processes of conceiving and developing And Now I Know, feelings of bewilderment and conflict have regularly surfaced. I am so used to working alone in the studio without the difficult moments, the questions (and no answers), being witnessed by another. At times I have wanted to escape, to leave Cursio and come back when I had 'the' answers! I think this experience is really reflected in the former title, Anywhere But Here and in this way, the current title, And Now I Know, reflects how I moved on. It’s playful. I made a decision to commit to residing in the territory of not knowing, to dwell in the questions, and to moreover share this with Cursio. It is this territory that has grown such that And Now I Know is centrally concerned with our perceptions of and responses to the mundane, blank or nothing moments of our day-to-day existence. I feel I am building this little provocation.  A challenge to myself, Cursio and our audience to notice our increasingly insatiable hunger for excitation, coherence and meaning and in doing so behold the unspectacular and answerless moments.

Its very interesting territory. How can you present or perform this?

To present or perform this is indeed a difficult if not impossible premise. To direct Cursio along these lines assuredly compounds the challenge. To be honest, I’m not sure. But it raises some great questions; how can I choreograph the choreographed? How honestly and light handedly can I organize Cursio and myself in relation to all of time and space including our audience? How far can I get out of the way of what already is (even if that’s not much) so that it might be given greater or different visibility and value?

What has it been like to stretch out the research and development phase of And Now I Know over 3 years?

It’s been fantastic. I really like getting older. Mostly because I have noticed I am increasingly able to trust this process and inhibit the fearful, insecure response that might see me 'knuckle down’ and just make a ‘good’ work. I’m sure this is inspired by Cursio’s presence, her patience and staying quality throughout the process. I think it would take a lot to fase her. This elongated research and development seems apt for And Now I Know’s premise. I’m not sure that I know much more about what the work is than I did a year or two ago, but I do feel more settled in the process. I guess it’s not that different to living our lives. We don’t know what it will be, where it will go etc. But as we age we do seem to settle into the rhythm of living day in and day out without all the answers.

You are currently working on And Now I Know at Dancehouse ahead of taking the project to Perth in November. What kind of things has this most recent period of research involved?

We’d had quite a hiatus from the work prior to this most recent stage at Dancehouse. It’s been good to come back to it fresh (and a little older!). At a showing in 2011, it was suggested I might be interested in Miranda July’s work in relation to And Now I Know. So I’d been watching her films and reading her book, It Chooses You. Her handling of ordinariness is spectacular and resonates with me.

This work has always been based in a scored choreography and most recently I have been re-writing this score so that it is more simple and accurate. I’m getting rid of the excess and this I feel, has been better for both Cursio and myself. We are engaging with the score in a less ‘heady’ or intellectual manner and instead trusting the intelligence of our whole psychophysical system to respond to and dwell in the work. This is enabling greater attentiveness to each other, the space and our audience.

We’ve also been getting to know each other more. We have these conversations about our families and growing up. It’s like playing snap. As we talk there is common ground but variations and then suddenly there is this identical identification with a very specific thing. For example, we both have mothers who made these hideous fabric covered, lace trimmed photos frames, tissue box covers etc. This has inspired some experiments and design ideas for the work. Across the developments of And Now I Know I have become curious about the distinctiveness, even oddity of Cursio and my relationship making and performing together. Particularly during some of the later developments I have had an experience of moving between vividly seeing myself in Cursio and abruptly jolting out of this, traversing between a perfect echo and a more discordant connection. I am enjoying exploring this sense of echoes of self in other, shared or common knowing and perhaps how this is acquired, as we grow older.

So, if I were to visit you in the studio, what would I experience?

Good question! It’s hard for me to answer being so close to the work. We’ve been working with lots of cushions, boxes of tissues, a roll of carpet, wearing slightly odd layers of clothes and earmuffs and some Arthur Russell music. None of these things are exceptional in and of themselves, but I have found they inspire a particular physicality and engagement with each other and the space. Using these items supports the emergence of the extraordinary out of the ordinary. It’s also supremely challenging to relate to or handle these items in an ordinary way. The temptation is to make more of them or to perform for example, pulling tissues out of a box.

We have had some recent sessions filmed. The other week we also had a showing for one person. We started at Dancehouse and ran the first half of the work in the studio. Then Cursio and myself walked carrying a roll of carpet down Rathdowne St. to the park. Our guest followed then sat on a park bench and watched us perform the second half amidst the school holiday chaos. I was slipping all over the place between a performance state and ordinariness. I wondered if my laughter as Cursio drank from the water fountain still holding the carpet was just as much the work as my more serious and precise balancing on two twig heels that followed.   

What kinds of things will you be doing in Perth?

I’m looking forward to being ‘out of place’ and the refreshment this can bring. I will be sharing my studio practice with the other Dance Sites artists and perhaps some local community who are not dancers or performers. I’d like to involve the latter to be reminded of the physicality of the ordinary or every day. I’d even like them to contribute some responses to the provocation "and now I know…" or bring along a favorite cushion. During the showings as a part of the Eye’s Wide festival, Cursio and myself will run And Now I Know at whatever stage it is at and show some excerpts of the footage we have captured in Melbourne. It is important that we have lots of opportunities to run the work with an audience present. A big part of my approach is rigorous orientation to performance. It requires lots of regular practice!