Sydney Dance Company dancers. Photo: Martin Boulton
The big winner at the 2013 Australian Dance Awards, announced at a ceremony in Canberra last night, was the Sydney Dance Company with its 2012 production, 2 One Another. The company walked away with the plum award for Outstanding Performance by a Company for 2 One Another, a work that has been universally praised for the sensual way in which it explores human relationships. Sydney Dance Company's artistic director, Rafael Bonachela, received the award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography, again for 2 One Another. To top it off, dancer Charmene Yap was honoured with Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer for her performance in the same work.
Bonachela has led Sydney Dance Company since 2009 and his work since then has been distinguished by an unwavering commitment to popularising contemporary dance and to developing an aesthetic that explores new modes of collaboration. 2 One Another, for example, draws on poetry by freelance writer, musician, filmmaker and photographer, Samuel Webster, fragments of which are used during the performance. Just before the opening of the show in 2012, Bonachela said: ''It is the first time we at Sydney Dance Company have drawn on text so significantly in the research and development process. The work has required deep contemplation and intimate revelation and, as such, the result is very personal for all. We hope this will resonate with audiences in a real way.''
Another of Bonachela's endeavours has been to develop a company of dancers who are strong, energetic, highly physical performers, and who use his choreography to articulate emotionally charged ideas. Yap personifies that Bonachela style.
Canberra Dance Development Centre director Jackie Hallahan, centre. Photo: Elesa Kurtz
With the Australian Dance Awards being held in Canberra for the first time, two awardees had strong Canberra connections. The award for Services to Dance Education went to Canberra dance teacher Jackie Hallahan. Hallahan established her Canberra Dance Development Centre in 1985 and since then has nurtured the careers of aspiring dancers in a range of performance styles from ballet to street jam.
Former student Paul Knobloch, currently dancing with Alonzo King LINES Ballet in San Francisco sums up Hallahan's commitment to nurturing her students and helping them develop as fully-rounded human beings. ''Jackie has been an incredible mentor to me throughout my whole career since seeing something in me at a young age to then nurturing and encouraging that and supporting me in every endeavour I undertake.''
The award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance on Film or New Media went to Sue Healey for her feature length documentary Virtuosi. Healey was artistic director of Vis-a-Vis Dance Canberra between 1993 and 1995 and since then has been working as an independent artist, developing her commitment to making dance films. Virtuosi looks at the life and work of eight New Zealand-born dancers and dancer makers - ''artists from the edge of the world'' - who have left their country of birth to pursue dance careers around the world, including Australia, the US, and Europe.
As something of a bonus for Canberra audiences, Virtuosi is scheduled for screening at a special program of dance films showing in August in conjunction with CSIRO's Danscience Festival. Virtuosi will also be shown at the National Film and Sound Archive on August 15 at 7pm. ''This is a film for everyone,'' Healey says. ''It shows how focus and determination create careers.''
Other awards went to Tracks Dance Company for their work Eight to Eighty in the category Outstanding Achievement in Youth or Community Dance; Shane Carroll for Services to Dance; the Tap Dogs company for Outstanding Achievement in Commercial Dance or Community Theatre; Antony Hamilton for his Black Project 1 in the category Outstanding Achievement in Independent Dance; and Kimball Wong for his performance in Australian Dance Theatre's Proximity in the category Outstanding Performance by a Male Dancer. The Ausdance Peggy van Praagh Choreographic Fellowship was awarded to independent artist Kay Armstrong.
The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award, Ronne Arnold, was announced prior to the awards, as was the inductee into the Hall of Fame, Alan Brissenden. Both received their awards at the Canberra ceremony.