Postcard from The Corner Dance Lab

Sean Anna & Max

The inaugural Corner Dance Lab 2014 has finally come to a close after 6 days of workshops, master classes and choreographic labs led by some of Australia’s leading dance artists for and with dancers with and without disabilities. 42 dancers took up the opportunity, eager to embed themselves deeply into diverse creative practices including: contact improvisation, qigong, release and recover, impulsive actions, dance theatre and choreographic investigations using contemporary dance techniques. Sessions were led by NSW-based artists: Craig Bary, Phil Blackman, Philip Channells, Kate Harman, Lee-Anne Litton, Joshua Thomson and Gavin Webber.

Participants visited the Byron Shire from as far away as Auckland, Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra for what turned out to be a truly rewarding, deeply enriching and (for some) a transformational experience at Jasper Corner in Federal which will not be forgotten quickly. The week was guided by event co-founders, Philip Channells (Dance Integrated Australia) and Gavin Webber (The Farm) who on the closing night’s showing hustled for some of the spotlight of their own as joint MC’s wearing matching skeleton-print outfits.

For ‘The Dance Off Main Event’, the final showing of some of the week’s work, more than 145 local community members eagerly turned up for Il Carretto Woodfired Pizza (who sold out in the first hour) before being jam-packed into Federal’s community hall – all standing room taken.

It began with Kayah Guenther (a dancer born with Down syndrome) repeatedly and ferociously sneezing the performers from one end of the hall to the other which ended in a final snapshot of the dancers huddled on stage together. There were scenes of humorous improvisations, delicate duets and small choreographed works that weaved 6 days of work into more than an hour-long show. Sean Campbell’s guerilla styling for The Main Event provided opportunities for dancers like Daniel Monks a moment to shine (cross-dressed in an 1980’s bridesmaid taffeta gown) to enhance the party atmosphere.

The Corner Dance Lab was a melting pot for incredible, diverse dance artists from around the country, and to have the opportunity to experience all their processes & approaches and soak up their wisdom was truly invaluable. I am extremely excited to see how The Corner Dance Lab can & will evolve over the coming years, and I hope to be a part of it. Daniel Monks

Towards the end of the evening the Federal community were treated to some of Animal Farm Collective’s Cock Fight ideastesting this new work-in-development in a dance battle between audience members and the performers. This brought out the very best and worst in everyone who participated in what seemed more a test of intimidation than skill and just a lot of good luck on the night.

Local Federal resident, Amanda (who we later discovered is a cabaret performer) earned herself a limited edition t-shirt after battling it out on the stage for the rawcus Cock Fight section with Murwillumbah-based emerging artist, Kayah Guenther. This was audience participation at it’s best!

For me the highlight of the week was to watch my own preconceptions being not only challenged but obliterated. What we had was a group of highly talented and interesting individuals with their own ways of learning and producing art in a pure environment of sharing and support. Philip and I started with a desire to create an environment of communication that would assist creativity and arts practice. We ended with something much bigger than that, something that I think will have a far reaching impact in Australia. I am very proud to have played a role and to have been at The Corner. Gavin Webber

There is already much interest coming in from around the country about how to sign up for THE CORNER DANCE LAB 2015 and many of the dancers who made history by being involved this past week have expressed an interest in participating again next year. The overwhelming response from both the participants and the audience was… “it exceeded our expectations.”

For expressions of interest in next year’s event, to offer financial investment, volunteer or to chat to Philip about hosting / billeting artists in  and around Federal, please email: or telephone 0432 073 304.

Photo: Tim Standing / Daylight Breaks

Dancers L – R: Vincent Peter Vayne, Sean Marcs, Anna Healey and Max McAuley