Talking Doing Dancers

13 April 2012 | By Rose

A DEE member demonstrates the magic of costume. Photography Fiona Howat
A DEE member demonstrates the magic of costume. Photography Fiona Howat
"Stand as tall as you are ... " Photography Fiona Howat
The DEE - Christopher, Abigail, Hannah and Alexander
The DEE - Christopher, Abigail, Hannah and Alexander

Our specially trained Dance Education Ensemble travels to over 80 schools each year to introduce primary-school age children to the love of movement and teach them something about diffrerent types of dance, including classical ballet. The program is called Out There – The Australian Ballet in schools. Recently, staff at The Primrose Potter Ballet Centre, The Australian Ballet’s Melbourne home, were treated to a presentation by the DEE called Talking Doing Dancers. This is the presentation that the DEE take into schools: today, we would be the children.

The presentation is interactive, and is designed to give its participants a “three-dimensional” educational experience. Many children today are exposed to a lot of TV and games: this experience introduces them to dancers who not only dance, but who look back at the audience and speak to them.

At the beginning, we were hesitant about taking the regular movement breaks (“Stand as tall as you are!”) and proffering answers and ideas. But it didn’t take long to slip back into a child-like state of wonder and simplicity. Helen Cameron, the Education Program Director, says that she’d love to capture the soundscape of buzzing, laughing, and gasping that accompanies these presentations in schools – the sound of children’s brains switching on.

The DEE is deliberately designed to be gender-balanced, consisting of two women (Hannah Beer and Abigail Oliveiro) and two men (Christopher Ead and Alexander McKinnon). For most of the presentation, they’re dressed in their basic DEE costume of comfy, stretchy black – although there are a few changes into tutus and animal masks!

Education is embedded in the fun. As part of the DEE explaining the basics of ballet and introducing themselves, we get snatches of French and Mandarin and even geometry (as they demonstrate the angles of the body and of turns). We find out what pointe shoes are made of (a mixture of cardboard and glue, which hardens like papier mâché) and find the rhythms in bouncing balls and skipping ropes.

To demonstrate dance making, the DEE take suggestions from the audience and turn them into movement phrases, then hitch them together to create choreography. Even working with our prosaic adult suggestions (typing, texting, drinking coffee), the dancers manage a touch of transformative magic.

A highlight is Beautiful Cloud, a short piece choreographed by Principal Artist hello@behindballet.com.au