Wednesday 11 January 2023

Getting the inside scoop on being an outsider with Amelia O’Leary's new dance work A Certain Mumble

In 2023, Darebin Arts Speakeasy will celebrate a decade of ground-breaking and award-winning performing arts productions, with Amelia O'Leary's contemporary dance work A Certain Mumble making up part of its 2023 season. O'Leary, a First Nations Gamilaroi dancer and choreographer, will be working with Chinese Malaysian artist Janelle Tan Yung Huey as they explore what it feels like to be an outsider in Australia.

"Being an outsider in Australia means feeling different or like you don't belong," O'Leary says. "We particularly felt like outsiders by encountering indirect and direct acts and attitudes of racism. I also struggled with not belonging in certain institutions and social spaces. I can feel the eeriness and unsettling energies of so-called Australia. In a way, being an outsider helps broadens your perspective and makes you a more interesting and understanding person, but it can make you feel unseen, unheard and misunderstood."

While O'Leary's debut full length show Yinarr also looked at ideas around identity, she asserts that A Certain Mumble is a completely different work in ideas and storytelling. "Identity is core to my work, my practice and my dance, so I think everything I do will always have the essence of the individual," she tells me. "I'm happy that I was able to make Yinarr because it solidified what I appreciate and love in movement and structure. Yinarr taught me that I value the individual, the story, the dance, sound, lighting and collaboration. I always ask what is my identity and the identity of the work, what is the meaning and why is this so? I'm constantly questioning, accepting and opening up the dialogue for something new and interesting. In a safe and caring environment, I am cultivating and learning to share with people. It’s exciting to see a certain essence from my previous work melting and embedding itself so effortlessly into such a different piece."

"With this show, we are entering the next chapter which includes my beautiful friend Janelle. A Certain Mumble speaks on the journey of two different individuals that hear, welcome and respect each other. We have crafted a new world with a new coded movement language that speaks of the emotions, people and environments that make us who we are, or who we think we are."

"It’s very abstract which is an element of my artistry, it is also very certain and commanding in the power of diversity and sisterhood. I wanted to create my second major work with someone who understands me and cares about me, and Janelle has been a great support to the development of this piece. In a way, she has been a dramaturg to the elements of this work," O'Leary explains.

This collaboration with Tan has meant that both performers have had to be vulnerable with themselves, each other and with the audience. "It’s important for it to be safe, honest and done the way I want it to be, O'Leary says. "With this show, we've found a way to be open in a grounded and intelligent way, but I have to tell myself that if I give everything I’ll have nothing left, so I take what I want to say and share it the way I want to share it, without worrying about what people think. When the audience is present with me, I like them to be calm and for me to feel what they feel, so in a way that makes the audience vulnerable as well, which I hold sacred."

"It would be amazing for this dance to make people look at the people next to them and have a bit more compassion and interest in each other. I aim for the storytelling to remind everyone of the beautiful and unique diversity within Australia, because everyone’s stories are valuable, even from people who are quieter," she says. "Those humble but powerful point of views bring chills to my body. A Certain Mumble is a melding of many voices that are echoing through us. We are opening a conversation starting with our stories and our dance, to open a space that says, hey let’s listen to each other and let’s create space for perspective, and that sounds wonderful to me."

Show Details

Venue: Northcote Town Hall, 189 High St, Northcote.

Season: 15 - 19 March | Wed - Fri 7:30pm, Sat 2pm & 7:30pm, Su 5pm
Duration: 60 minutes

Tickets: $38 Full | $30 Concession | $20 Preview
Bookings: Darebin Arts

Image credit:
Alliah Nival

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