The Corner Dance Lab by Veda Dante

The Corner Dance Lab 2015 photo

Tucked away in the hinterland village of Federal is a ground-breaking concept that’s challenging popular perceptions of dance – and changing the cultural landscape of art and performance along the way.

Centred on the basic tenet of using communication as a creative tool, The Corner Dance Lab is an inclusive performance hub where people with and without disabilities come together under the tutelage of Philip Channells. Trained at Lismore’s Northern Rivers Conservatorium of Arts (The Con), Philip is regarded as one of Australia’s key facilitators and choreographers in the dance and disability sectors.

When I realised very early on in my career that people with disabilities are marginalised in dance, I knew something had to drastically change,” he said. “So I immersed myself in the culture of dance and disability and spent some time in the UK gaining as much knowledge as I could. I worked with some really amazing artists including co-founder of Candoco Dance Company Adam Benjamin who took me under his wings and showed me what was possible.

While dance and disability have traditionally operated separately in this country, Philip said they were now beginning to merge more fluidly at a professional level. “Examples of this are through my work with the Beyond Technique Residency at Bundanon Trust and the Catalyst Dance Masterclass Series, which is part of Sydney’s Accessible Arts’ program,” said Philip, who is also the founder and director of Dance Integrated Australia.

Since launching in January 2014, The Corner Dance Lab has held a number of inclusive events, most recently a week-long residency involving dancer and choreographer Gavin Webber (The Farm), musicians Ben Ely (Regurgitator) and Dominic Rado (Hunter and Smoke), multi-media artist Kellie O’Dempsey, and 35 performers from the local area, across Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Germany.

“This culminated in the Main Event, which enabled us to share with the local community some of the creative processes we engaged in throughout the dance workshop program,” said Philip. “The end result was a rich tapestry of dance, theatre, music, visual art, projections and sign language.”

Co-Artistic Director of The Farm, Gavin Webber said events like The Corner Dance Lab residency fostered a “creative, challenging, holistic, caring and confronting” environment for participants.

Our vision is to always bring together a diverse range of people with a sensitivity and responsiveness to their desires and needs without losing vision by being too careful,” he said. “It’s a shifting sand throughout the week, but we are all in it together. It’s a group process and we attempt to use communication as the main creative tool.

This Friday, February 13, the Federal community will get a sneak preview of a performance due to premier at the Riverside Theatre in Sydney next month. Featuring local dance artist Phil Blackman and Sydney based dancer and choreographer Martin Del Amo, Songs Not To Dance To has been developed over the past two years as a series of solos and duets. The project is part of The Corner Residency Program, a brand new venture initiated by Dance Integrated Australia, which was established by Philip to support the development of new Australian work in the Northern Rivers region.

“This showing offers the local community a unique opportunity to gain insight into the collaborative process Phil and Martin have employed throughout the development of Songs Not To Dance To,” Philip explained. “Drawing on some of the choreographic exercises used to create the work, the audience will witness various improvisational and compositional strategies used to generate and structure solo and duet dance material.”

Songs Not To Dance To – a studio showing
6:30pm-8:00pm, Friday February 13, 2015
Jasper Corner (corner of Federal and Roses roads)
Cost: Free RSVP:

To read this story on the Common Ground website, click here

Photo & story: Veda Dante