Desire has a voice

By Katie Chown; January 2013

Photography by Katie Chown

Katie Chown, Remnant Dance artist, is 5 weeks into a 7 week Curtin University Occupational Therapy (OT) placement in Yangon, Myanmar. What she has found most confronting about her experience has also been the most difficult to articulate for her OT Needs Analysis Report: the development of which has been the major focus of her trip.

Katie has noticed that the majority of people in Yangon are incredibly considerate of others, hospitable, welcoming, warm-hearted and generous. It has been a humbling experience for her, given the extreme poverty in a population of over 5.5 million where there are strict government controls and entrenched cultural traditions. She senses it is difficult for many of the locals to imagine how life could be any different from what they are confronted with on a daily basis.

From Katie’s perspective, it seems that many individuals have given up dreams of a future that they have now deemed unrealistic and travel their regular routes each day carrying a subliminal spirit of defeat.

The following piece of writing is a blessing for those in Yangon, and anywhere for that matter, who have buried their desires for a different kind of future. Katie’s hope is that as you read, those silenced will find a voice - and the courage to speak.


May the deepest desires within our souls ignite. It matters not how realistic they are.

May the yearning of our hearts unfold through every inch of our arms into our finger tips: ricochet from our heart to our gut, melt into our pelvis, shoot roots into our legs, causing us to run, leap and fly! Becoming impeccably grounded. Let the dance of desire move us from the depths of our core, billowing to the shore to rest for a while.

May the song of our longing be spritely, spilling out from our throats unexpectedly, regularly, singing high notes and low notes.

High notes and low notes, quick tempo, slow tempo, including all tones and tempos in between. Singing chords which open our skin, splaying rays up to the sun and the sky and cry! Chords running down the backs of our legs, seep into the ground and move soil. Let the song of our longing satisfy its self.

May our bellies respond to the drumming of our dreams. Our hair turn to flame and launch us: body, mind and soul into a corroboree. Roaring thunder into the night, It matters not, what the rules are.

Our stomping feet, flailing hands and fiery crown warn:

This spirit of desire will not be stifled. This spirit of desire has a voice of its own. This spirit of desire speaks freely. This spirit of desire is within me.


To read more about the charity MyKids' work with children in Myanmar, go to their website.

Shaded, in this space

By Rachel Cunningham; 7 October 2012

The instant messaging and feedback of Twitter, facebook and other social media have shaped contemporary social interactions in surprising ways by creating connections that can bring us closer together or leave us feeling more isolated than ever before.Juanita_hiding

Emerging New Zealand choreographer Juanita Jelleyman’s newest dancework Shade:less explores themes of social connectedness, community, stillness and movement – and we were happy to turn away from our screens and visit her during a studio showing and open rehearsal of the work at Estudio Nuevo in Maylands, Perth on 30 September 2012.

“I hope to expose some of our shared struggle with the desire to be together; to move together and to dance together,” Jelleyman said during rehearsal. “Being in relationship with each other involves tension as we wrestle with the invitation it issues to come closer, to soften our boundaries of self and release or open out into spaces of being together. It is not an easy journey, but one I think that we should all consider and pursue, for it has its riches too.

As a Remnant Dance guest choreographer Jelleyman is developing Shade:less, together with the Remnant Dance artists, as part of a triple bill planned for the Perth FRINGEWORLD and Adelaide Fringe in early 2013. For details visit

Juanita_sittingJelleyman said she felt privileged to be in Perth collaborating with Remnant Dance and “...working in collaboration in a way that is reflective of the richness of doing things together."

“The studio time and the conversations I have had this week have showed me again and again that this first development of the work Shade:less parallels my own journey into community and communion,” she said.

Jelleyman described some of her insights from the interdisciplinary and collaborative process with Remnant Dance:

I am being challenged to work collectively, in collaboration with other artists, and in the process to strip back my own agenda, and to find a choreographic [sic] work that enfolds into its body, the relationships that layer it. I am finding that it doesn't seem to be a straightforward journey and as a result we are encountering a community that tosses between being open and sharing and being closed and hidden from each other. Shaded and yet moving towards 'Shade: less'.

Juanita_talkingJelleyman juggled choreographing five dancers, envisioning costumes with Remnant Dance designer Kate Emily Townsend and discussing the dance work with the audience and members of the public, who strolled in to the studio space from Whatley Crescent, the busy high street in Maylands.

Mt. Lawley visual artist and educator Jane Packham, who attended the rehearsal, said the open rehearsal was “a gift to the community.”

“It was a privilege to observe the creative process and seeing the dynamic between the choreographer and the dancers,” Packham said. “I admire the time, commitment and effort involved.”




Juanita Jelleyman portrait by Katrina Williams, of Williams Photography, 2012

All other images by Rachel Cunningham, 2012

Hanoi, Vietnam

Món quà từ những mảnh nhỏ / Small pieces, a gift

Hanoi, Vietnam 22-30 June 2012

Fragments of stories, wrapped in the skin of Australian dancers, unfurled in spaces unique and diverse in the summer heat of Hanoi, Vietnam. Some of the short dance pieces offered intergenerational dialogue through movement vocabulary spoken at times in whispers; at times a shout. Some works integrated film of the Aussie outback with music by Australian composers. One particular piece explored the juxtaposition of spoken Vietnamese text with movement phrases, while playing with gauzy fabric: snatches of English words stitched in black thread that dangled from bodies moving, then still.

The Remnant Dance artists offered what they had of themselves, but in giving received a greater gift: that of the Vietnamese experience. It was not just the warm hospitality of the Vietnamese people, the standing ovation at the premiere or the extraordinary collaboration between artists who did not speak the same language. It was not just the ancient gift of a tea ceremony in the office of the Vietnam Youth Theatre Vice-Director of Performing Arts and International Cooperation, or the delight of a young girl who joined in the dance at the performance at Hanoi Rock City.. or the questions from three different television journalists who showed genuine interest in the cultural exchange. It was not even attracting audiences in the 100s, the privilege of meeting with Australian Embassy staff, the delight in discovering fabric in markets, or the joy of a professional photo shoot on the streets on Hanoi.. that enlarged our capacity to receive..

It was the gift of the invitation to return that stopped us in our tracks: humbled, grateful. We gave small pieces: fragments of stories. In return we encountered Vietnam in ways that have moved and inspired us as artists: as people. We are truly honoured to be able to accept the gift of the invitation to return to Vietnam. We hope to do so in 2013 and celebrate the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between Australia and Vietnam.

Photography by Ellen Avery, Rachel Cunningham, and Esther Van Baren


Can I?

By Rachel Cunningham; 7 July 2012

There is a timelessness we can experience when we dare to place our finger, arm or heart into creating. We can get lost in that timelessness or feel connected to it. Each artist has their own process, and each has their own experience. And when we combine our passion for creating, making and connecting then that feeling of timelessness can be life changing.

Some call it an adrenalin rush. I call it a welcoming home.

There are many sayings about “home” and two immediately come to mind: “Home is where the heart is” and “Home is where we hang our hat”.

I prefer: “Home is where we hang our heart.”

For two brief moments in June 2012, I found my writer’s heart hanging in a new home best described as a space of timelessness created while dancing with Remnant Dance artist Katie Chown. This homecoming took place in a dance studio, surrounded by dancers and fellow members of the Hanoi Writers Collective; the second in a café surrounded by an audience enjoying one of several events during Remnant Dance’s international tour of Món quà từ những mảnh nhỏ / Small pieces, a gift in Hanoi, Vietnam.

To say that Katie guided me into my new home is an understatement. She welcomed me into a new world that I never knew I could physically inhabit so completely. I’d been to this place before -- in my mind’s eye many times as a child deep in dream, then as an adult, writing screenplays.

This world is as real as the dance studio in which Katie and I collaboratively expressed text I had drafted that morning. I finished that journey, spent; lying in Katie’s arms as she quietly gave voice to my words, “Can I?”

One might call it intuitive collaboration, improvisational dancing or sheer exhaustion. I honestly don’t know what to call the experience of losing time while responding to the invitation to move alongside, and with, another artist. I do know ‘it’ happened somewhere in between loosening my shoulders like a prize fighter and rolling out of Katie’s gentle embrace to get my 45-year-old body up off the studio floor.

Can I? Can I dance? Did I just dance?

Katie and I smiled at each other like children seeing something magical for the first time, eyes wide like saucers. We shook our heads and found ourselves back in the studio, among friends who didn’t quite know what to say either.

I was left wondering, “What the hell just happened?” Of course, ever the doubter I wondered, “Did I make a complete fool out of myself trying to look like a dancer?”

“That was really beautiful,” whispered Lucinda Coleman, the Remnant Dance facilitator.

“Your leg extension was really good,” said one of the writers.

“My what?”

I couldn’t look at Katie. I was worried I embarrassed her. I needed a drink, and it wasn’t water I was after.

The writers in the studio were silent, clearly unsure where this so-called collaborative process was going. We writers were invited to create “text” and collaborate with the Remnant Dancers to make “works in progress” for two nights of Showings at a café in downtown Hanoi.

Can I do this again tomorrow night at the show? Can we?

I felt like I had just given everything in one shot then stepped back, exhausted, and suddenly felt acutely aware: enlightened even.

And then I remembered all those “in the zone” moments when I am totally energized while writing my screenplays. My characters start talking and demand my attention. They seem to craft the story line while I serve as a reporter, jotting down the facts and putting their actions in context for the audience.

Can I create, make and connect – through words and dance?

Yes, I can.

Yes, we can.

...Remnants of Grace

Remnants of Grace: East coast of Australia tour; January 2012. 

Photography by artists, 2012

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