This week I made a decision I’ve been thinking about on and off for years, and always delayed because somehow I would be seduced back to what has been my love and life since I saw Ballett Frankfurt perform all those years ago. It has taken me all around the world and led me to meet some wonderful and beautiful people who are very dear friends, but in all of this there has been… but…

I decided with what savings I had to jump on a plane and come to Europe, to Berlin or Brussels and find somewhere that gave me something in life as well as in dance. I ended up here in Berlin, and yes, it is a city to fall in love with. But there remained that qualifier, and like running around in circles I could see no new way to continue.

So I decided to give up dance. I don’t want to insecurity, precariousness, lack of work, uncertainty, and most of all the bitterness trying to have a career in something I love very much has brought me. After eight years since graduating, I have nothing to show in terms of a career or progress, I’m largely where I was then, applying for the same funding, trying to make small projects happen, begging for work, and long periods of nothing. And perhaps most importantly, broke.

It seems pointless and futile, and for me personally a waste of my ability. Not just as a dancer or choreographer, but that I could be doing something else that maybe I don’t feel so passionately for but am actually able to do something worthwhile with.

What I wanted was a small group of like-minded people, in an old building made just habitable enough to enter, and to make art together, no touring, no festivals, nothing of this conveyorbelt that it seems is compulsory to run along, and this was far too much to ask for. Maybe then some chances to make work at other companies, or dance in some projects, or have enough regular funding to perhaps plan beyond the next month, but this also seems too much to ask. And the thing is now, I’ve lost interest. I don’t care for this and not sure if I was suddenly given this tomorrow I’d even want it.

I’ve done far too many projects for little or no money, or worse that have cost me both money and health to put on. I’ve spent weeks and months at a time writing and preparing funding applications, grants, residencies, all this, all without pay, or in fact paying to do it as the time spent doing this was time I could have been working and having an income. I’ve been and remain completely baffled by the whole industry of performing arts, the funding, festivals, producers, administrators… I still have no idea after all this time how I am supposed to proceed, what I should do to have some semblance of a career. I thought it was to do with talent, but far too much of what I’ve seen has to do with playing favourites, politics, obscure agendas that have nothing to do with art, and at worst something I can only think of as nepotism.

And I’m also bored with dance. With what I see, with the safety, conservatism, meaninglessness, vapidity, staggering lack of creativity or inspiration, lazy and mediocre ideas, their research and production, and seeing so many dancers completely underutilised. And seeing so many dancers treated as dispensable, as children, as problems that have to be dealt with, as the utter bottom of an industry that keeps everyone above them well-paid and secure in their careers even while they are leaving the dancers without work because ‘we didn’t get the funding’. The same dancers who are the entire reason for everyone having a purpose for being there at all, and who should be regarded as the centre of their universe.

Since I began training in Melbourne, and through all my travels I have seen these same things over and over, and also seem such little positive change, scant progression, and quite a bit of things getting worse or just stagnating. And so now here in Berlin, contemplating more years of struggle that maybe will also come to nothing, I no longer want to chase this across cities and continents and hemispheres. I don’t want to pay a couple of hundred euro to go to an audition in another city, I don’t want either to be constantly traveling around, I don’t want to be applying for things that if they even happen won’t be for another six months, I don’t want to live in a life that is for an imagined future that likely will never arrive.

These last mornings, going to ballet, I’ve enjoyed dancing more than I have in a long time. It’s no longer for this imagined future, staying in shape for some possible audition, or keeping myself around in the scene, doing it because I am a dancer. I am no longer a dancer. I am also no longer a choreographer. I do class because I love moving, I love the difficulty and exertion, the familiarity, I love the special world of dancers who do these incredible things with their bodies, it is truly a magical place.

But I don’t want to be poor. I don’t want to be insecure, to worry how I might pay rent or look after myself. I don’t want to compromise my life and myself and other dreams I might have for something that gives too little in return. I don’t want to be bitter either, and exhausted, worried, upset. I’ve tried to find different ways to do it, moving to Adelaide was certainly this, but it feels like it is just me without any support shouting into emptiness.

I would say to friends who were thinking of quitting it’s better to make that decision when you have work to find out if actually dancing is what you no longer care for or just the endless grind of lack of work and the daily exhaustion of trying to have a career in this. And also I would say that I didn’t want to give up and then when I am fifty or sixty regret this, to leave before I have seen out the possibilities. So perhaps now what I have reached is that I don’t want to stay and regret later not having explored all the other possibilities in my life, that there are certain tangible, real things that will not happen soon or at all for me if I stay in dance, and I know I will regret this if not more then at least as much as not trying to make real my desires in dance. And that perhaps giving up a career that does not exist is not so difficult.

I will miss playing in the studio with friends, making what we feel has worth, trying to imagine something new and then bring it into the world, and miss also the moment of inevitability, unavoidable like a train rushing at you standing on the tracks, just before going on stage. I have no idea what the next couple of months will bring, how to just survive for one, and then whether any of my ideas for what I might like to do next can be made possible. And while crying a bit at this ending, I also feel relief that it’s over.


hell – video corruption

I’ve fallen out of the mood to blog at the moment. It coincided with finishing hell, and so finishing my five months in Zürich. I’m flying to Hong Kong on Friday to start the new piece in Guangzhou, before heading to Melbourne to make hell there, more dancers, same old shit. In the meantime, Cornelia came around for dinner last night, and we started getting plastered on red wine. Then the wine ran out. So, we watched (and took photos off the screen and the screens of each other’s cameras – hell goes recursive) the Emile inside-version of hell, positively gynaecological. More snow today, so I bought Tony Ballantyne’s Capacity.


hell – the detritus

There’s always something of a blah period for me after I’ve finished a performance, but it’s most pronounced when the finish also marks the end of a time living in a particular city, at the moment, Zürich. To ease all our pain and gnashing of teeth, I’ve updated zeroballet, with a new section of hell. Dumb text stuff from me, and photos from the camera of Emile which was on-stage, right next to us, inside performance photos even. And video later this week…

hell day (11) 12 – brot wine beer kasse kabab

It’s over. Saturday night was a breeze, no second night wierdness, and Sunday just went. It’s getting stranger and stranger every night, and when my finger is up Radovan’s nose, then searches for his mouth, ummm… There was even video from inside hell, courtesy a camera from Emile, so video and a new section on zeroballet will happen soon. But in the meantime, Radovan has started flogging too, which means there is now a constant self-referential blizzard of internet stuff happening from everyone in hell. In case you missed it, Emile is flogging here and blogging here, and Cornelia, from whom most of the photos of hell have come from, and who is a genius with a camera is flogging here. As for hell, more soon, but after the show was much wine drinking, pulling down of all the lights and the usual post-show clean-up followed by a sojourn to Schloss Emile for more wine, kasse, brot, and mmmm … drooling even to think about it … Turkish Kebab.

hell day 10 – rockin the kanton-z-town

Premiere, opening night, make-up, hair, bikinis, an almost proper warm-up (a couple of pliés and running through the Botticelli section), then plenty of hanging around in the dark studio waiting for Emile to give us the sign, yeah that sign. I managed to slap Cornelia a good one right on the mush during the strangling section and almost fell out of performance mode because I thought I’d busted her lip. From then on though, actually the whole 12 minutes of death-grind-metal-ness was a scream.

I like keeping things a bit under-rehearsed so performing becomes like somewhere to keep playing and try new things, which was always one of my problems in the distant past, of supposed to be getting it right dance, and my head is going, “hey! why don’t you try doing … this! (completely change the choreography and cause minor disaster) and see what happens?”, but now we all get to have fun and play on stage which is the best thing ever. And Emile fully rocks, not that I really see what he’s doing but I heard from quite a few people how awesome he is to watch, and I think he has a long future ahead as a contemporary dancer haha.

So all round it was wicked fun, and Cornelia is awesome and Radovan is cool, so we have this little group of juvenile delinquents who spend most of the time making fart jokes and talking like characters out of several tv shows instead of doing the serious work of rehearsing (which is a drag anyway), and out of this stupidity comes hell. And several people said to me the only thing they wanted was to see the whole thing, like 1 1/2 hours of some demented black metal gore-core performance. With fifty tvs, which get smashed up every night, and Chinese demons and binlang girls, and all kinds of other fun stuff.

Anyway, important things like the after-party, with mighty fine curry and beer, and talking and having fun, then the after-after-party in the dachstock, with Cambodian cassette music, chocolate, wine, food, half of St Gallan, and all-round hanging out until the white fog had so descended over Zürich looking out over the Limmat was like a fluffy white hazy ball occasionally glowing from the bridge lamps. Sleep, repeat.


hell day 9 – contaminated drug supply

Which is the name of one of Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s tracks, all 1 minute of it, so it’s a veritable Wagner-length opera by their standards. And it was general rehearsal day, so all makeup, all bikinis, all video and all everything. And it went fully sick.

Hell, part of 12min.max at Tanzhaus Wasserwerk in Zürich, from tomorrow at 8pm. See it here first.

hell day 8 – make some fucking noise

Some choreographers like to drill a piece into the ground once it’s finished, rehearsing it until it’s like whipping a dead dog, to make it all smooth and machine-like and everyone in unison, ripping fingernails out in a scrabble for an imagined perfection. I prefer the opposite, and once it works once, leave it at that, and not try too hard to make it something beyond the point where everything coheres. It’s messier, and the possibility for strange things happening is far greater, which is what I like.

I’d rather have a performance which was alive, in which the piece could happen, fall apart, or somehow transcend itself. Too much focus on perfection is no different than programming an industrial robot, the delight in chaos is wholly absent, and as an observer, the predictable inevitability inherent in this getting-it-right approach is often heart-breaking.

I’d rather see dance that was like a drunken, drug-fuelled late-night loud gig, the band tearing up the stage, playing rough and the genius being endlessly pushed by the hysterical energy, the audience going mental. That kind of performance gives me the shivers. I’ve seen dance performances which have this, and I don’t know if I can make stuff like that but it’s what I’m trying to do.

We ran hell last night with all the gear, lights, video, sound, bikinis. It’s a very crazy and intense 12 minutes on the inside, and looking around when I get a chance, it looks like a large metal slap in the face. Anyway, with Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Sunn O))) providing the noise, it’s pretty difficult not to be a riot. It feels like we need the guy from Guns n Roses who does the intro warm-up on Nightrain, “you wanted the best, well they didn’t fucking make it, so here’s what you get …”.


hell day (6) 7 – something something something

I got my haircut today, and went shoe shopping … um … then we rehearsed. Actually we wanted to get on with drinking a bottle of wine and watching another episode of The Mighty Boosh, but we had to bang our knees and elbows and give ourselves headaches first.There was one scene left to do, which was mostly what we concentrated on yesterday following the bashing of Botticelli. Which is a fine warm-up too.

Baudrillard writes about catastrophic death, “And it is true that a natural catastrophe is a danger to the established order, not only because of the real disorder it provokes, but by the blow it strikes to every sovereign ‘rationality’, politics included.” Emile has video of NASA test-destroying a passenger plane, blanket camera coverage from inside the cabin as demolition is unleashed. Together this became the final scene.

Roland Barthes’, Writing Degree Zero, and the zero degree (or maybe non-style) of language is one of the fundamental influences in my work (or more specifically, the play of language in the second half of the 20th century), a constant stripping back of habit and intimidation of the hegemony of vocabulary, be it written text or that of movement. Obviously the spectre of Derrida lurks over this, muttering “écriture et différence”, and then Baudrillard rounds out the party, pissing of the locals. But the dehumanising power of language in its construction of the world, and its constant evasion is specifically what interests me. In the case of movement, be it a codified, finite vocabulary such as ballet, or the elusive ambivalence of contemporary dance, the issue is always how to recognise the trap and how to escape.

Often for me this leads back to a nothing-ness, an absence, an un-ness, a ballet devoid of ballet, movement which is just a repetition of one thing. The one thing though is not the essence of the idea, it’s closer to being the scrap-heap of all possible iterations of that thing, the remainder stacked up upon itself until bloated enough it achieves some kind of sense. It always reminds me of the title of Deleuze’s monster, Difference and Repetition, despite the contents being largely halucinogenic.

The result of all this philosophical crapulence is currently the final scene, a slow-motion journey through the inside of a plane crash, lit in the candy colours of jet-fuel, over and over… There’s something very dark about the work now, and it’s not some juvenile satanist trip. Primarily hell follows extermination as Baudrillard’s text follows the body with its death, but if extermination was underlined with the desecration of the body, then hell is boiling with the dehumanisation of it.

hell day 4 + 5 – no sleep till baden

Which is where Emile is about now, doing his first VJ gig in Europe/Deutschland on this trip, and was what we had very little of last night. Rehearsals the last two days have been concentrated on making something out of Botticelli’s etchings, which has been physically pretty tough, and lucky we get to pull faces and groan or it would be torture.

Bash bash bash on the floor, in a pathetic attempt to make dance. We spent Friday in Studio 3, setting up video and lights, and spacing the whole thing, which really doesn’t travel around alot. My interest in highly choreographed un-dance (which sometimes gets misinterpreted as acting, which it’s definitely not) has gone on from extermination, and is becoming something quite wierd. I’d really like to have three months just to work on some of this stuff, then another three months to make the equally enticing – for me – dance-dance.

So, over-intense colour video of planes crashing, horror movies, a soundtrack of death metal and doom-core, bikinis and of course Baudrillard. Emile is performing to as some kind of demented satan, and I’m in there too in yup, bikini.

But on to important things. After rehearsal we quickly got into drinking beer, eating bread, cheese, chocolate, snack food, drinking coffee, and making ourselves very comfortable watching The Mighty Boosh until the night was almost over. I slept very well.

hell day 3 – reanimating the dead

I’d had this idea the reanimating of corpses would be good, but it’s become the best thing I’ve done all year … or something. It’s certainly getting weirder and becoming more creepy and funnier, which is mostly because Cornelia is a depraved pervert of a puppet master. So after playing with the scene for a bit, we moved on to new new new things.

Since extermination last year, I’ve been doing this thing of building bodies together into grotesque baroque tableaux pulled from etchings by Goya and Botticelli, and it’s still interesting for me, but while I could repeat it again and still find something new in it, the other side was how to reverse the etching, which I see as the equivalent of both photograph and film back onto living bodies. In particular, because there is the whole Dante’s Inferno thread in this work, I’ve been using Botticelli’s etching which accompanied the imprint.

One thing which immediately struck me in all his etchings in which there is a great host of bodies in torment was how this resembled not a crowd, but a single individual in torment and captured by the etching equivalent of a multiple exposure shot. One body eviscerated as it scrambles ever deeper into the circles of hell.

We spent most of the rehearsal mapping the individual bodies from one etching onto our own, which was suitably demonic in itself and then animating in-between until we had a chain of bodies repeatedly crashing to the floor and spasming in terror trying to haul off the serpents which crush their bodies in the image. Fun, bruising, and violent, which is how the work is shaping up. Tonight is more of the same plus car and plane crashes, and we’re saving the black mass for Friday.