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Solo power: recharged, refocused

Erin Brannigan talks with Brian Lucas

Brian Lucas Brian Lucas
photo FionaCullen
Brian Lucas is a significant figure on the independent dance scene, both as a local in Brisbane and as a guest artist with companies across Australia including Chunky Move, Dance North and Rock ‘n Roll Circus (now Circa). An accomplished performer and writer, he has played a role as teacher and mentor in Australia’s first Physical Theatre and Circus Training course and the QUT Creative Industries Faculty, and holds an MA in choreographic research from Melbourne University. He is the recipient of a 2-year fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts and will produce 2 solos over the next 2 years, the first being Underbelly which premieres in Brisbane in June. When RealTime spoke to Lucas he had just finished performing in CorRUPTION (see page 37), choreographed by Michelle Heaven for Chamber Made Opera, and he will work with Clare Dyson on her show for Brisbane Festival 2006, Churchill’s Black Dog.

You have been a resident artist at the Brisbane Powerhouse for some time. What resources has that offered you?

The position is a fairly ephemeral one in that it doesn’t come with some of the formalities of many other residencies. Since 2000, the organisation has informally underwritten my career. My association with the Powerhouse has certainly been most valuable to me in terms of my profile, simply because the venue has a really strong reputation both as a presenter of exciting performance work and as a local cultural icon. When you operate as a freelance artist, it sometimes becomes a real struggle just to ‘prove your worth.’ More practically, the Powerhouse provides me with access to rehearsal space and administrative support, and is the chief commissioner of my work. While it has all been negotiated in a fairly laid-back way, each of these things has been enormously beneficial.

You worked with Chunky Move in their New York Bessie Award winner Tense Dave (a collaboration between Gideon Obarznek, Lucy Guerin and Michael Kantor). How does that experience fit into your career?

It really represented an important move for me in many ways. Although I had been working continually in Brisbane for just over 20 years, at that time I still had a fairly low profile in the rest of Australia. That’s one of the few drawbacks of being based outside of the Melbourne-Sydney axis.

The experience itself was fantastic, everyone involved in creating the piece had a sense that we were onto something very special and the subsequent success of the work both here and overseas totally proved that. And it saw the start of what I think will be long-term collaborations, like that with Michelle Heaven.

What are your plans for your Australia Council fellowship?

On the surface, the plan is a fairly simple one. I’m creating and presenting 2 new solo works, one in June 2006 and then the next in June 2007.

In reality, it has become more complex than that. I’ve used the first 12 months to create the first piece, Underbelly, but I’ve given myself the opportunity to research and develop the work in a wide variety of contexts. I started the piece during the Chunky Move USA tour in 2005, and since then have been able to continue the process in a wide range of locations. I listed them the other day for my own amusement and realised that Underbelly has been made in New York, Jacob’s Pillow, Tallahassee (Florida), Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra (at the Choreographic Centre), Brisbane and Warwick, my hometown in Queensland. It was a really strange experience to hire the hall that I first started dance classes in as a 6 year-old, and to use it as a rehearsal space for my work 35 years later!

After Underbelly premieres at Brisbane Powerhouse in June I’ll be starting on the next work, and my aim is to follow a similar process but to take it into a more international sphere. I’m hoping to spend some more time in both the US and the UK rehearsing and researching, as well as checking out as much live work as I can.

That’s been one of the other fantastic aspects of the fellowship, it’s provided me with a bit of breathing space to recharge and refocus. I’ve been able to immerse myself in anything that will feed my creative work. After 2 decades of working in the arts, and particularly after 10 years of freelancing, it’s exactly the right time for me to take stock of where I am and what I’m doing, and to look forward, without the stress of just keeping my head above water in the here and now.

You’ve chosen to create 2 solo works during your fellowship. Is this the genre of work with which you feel most comfortable?

God, there’s a thesis in there, somewhere! I love creating and performing solo works. I love it as a form and find that it suits me. I suppose that you could either be kind and refer to my having an ‘auteur mentality’, or be more cutting and say it’s just a case of my being an egomaniacal control freak. Either way, I just know that I have a particular set of creative and performance skills that are only fully catered for in my presentation of these solo works.

There is something about really taking yourself on, challenging yourself and drawing out the stories and states that exist within the ‘self.’ I’ve always been keenly aware that solo work, without common reference points, is just personal therapy...I’m still trying to figure this one out. But I do know that I couldn’t work as a choreographer or as a performer in other contexts if I didn’t do what I do with my solo pieces.

The bottom line? I just know that if I didn’t create these solo pieces, I would metaphorically explode. It, ‘the stuff’, needs to get out. There has to be a release valve for me... and in my experience, I realise that I’m the best person for this particular job. It’s dirty work, but someone’s gotta do it.

Underbelly, choreographer and performer Brian Lucas, Brisbane Powerhouse June 21-24

RealTime issue #73 June-July 2006 pg. 40

© Erin Brannigan; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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