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Lighting the way for Inclusivity

Dancenorth Australia directors Kyle Page (right) and Amber Haines (left) with Light in the Dark Director Chris Dyke (centre). BDmag 2024.

Organisations striving to cultivate inclusivity in the workplace will be inspired by the pioneering efforts of  Townsville-based dance company, Dancenorth Australia, whose newest work is set to be a gamechanger, and an Australian first in inclusivity in the arts.

The Company is working with long-time collaborator Chris Dyke to bring to life Australia’s first full-length dance work directed by an artist living with Down Syndrome.

Lighting the Dark aims to explore new frontiers of diversity and inclusion in the arts. However, the learnings occurring among the creative team under Chris’ direction are just as relevant in the boardroom as the rehearsal room.

Chris Dyke first met Dancenorth’s Directors Kyle Page and Amber Haines at a dance class in Adelaide in 2012 and they have since built a strong foundation of mutual trust and respect.

In 2014, Kyle and Amber moved to Townsville to take up their posts at Dancenorth. Since then, Chris has visited annually, allowing the three of them to continue a robust and reciprocal exchange of knowledge and ideas.

“Chris and I gently oscillate between the roles of mentor and mentee,” Kyle says.

“At different times one of us will step forward to support and nurture the other in profound and transformative ways.”

The evolution of Chris’ professional goals has matched pace with his growing experience and confidence. When he first visited Dancenorth, he dreamed of choreographing and performing his own solo.

Lighting in the Dark director Chris Dyke

“We did that in 2017 with Lionheart, which toured to South Australia and Melbourne” Kyle says.

Chris created a short film, Common Colours as well as Touch, in 2023 and since, has wanted to do a big show with all the dances; Banksy, Bowie, Queen and street art.

“That’s the show we’re working on now,” Kyle says.  

“We first talked about it in 2021 and we’ve been working on the ideas and the vision for the show ever since.”

Chris says he has enough ideas for the next five shows and he’s already established his wish list for Lighting the Dark’s touring prospects in Brisbane, Adelaide, Hong King, Paris and New York.

Chris and Kyle regularly discuss Chris’ goals and work together to find synergies between Chris’ aspirations, Dancenorth’s forward programming and the Company’s strategic goal of being an epicentre of cultural exchange that empowers a diverse range of artists.

As with any collaborative project, engaging an external Director introduces a new dynamic.

Typically, Kyle and Amber would hold the vision for Dancenorth’s work. By handing Chris the reins, they’re shaking up established in-house methods and the team is adopting a more inclusive pace.

“We had a moment early in the development where everyone was very excited by Chris’ ideas and were bouncing quickly between the emerging possibilities,” Kyle says.

“All the creativity flying around the room was pretty overwhelming and Chris and I chose to step out for a bit and just have some one-on-one time between friends.”

Amber says it was a reminder for all of them to slow down.

“Now we go slower as a group, talk through one idea at a time and give the creativity space to breathe before moving on to the next thing,” she says.

Chris’ unique perspective is embellishing the Dancenorth Ensemble’s pre-existing shorthand with magical new ideas.

“Chris brings such rich imagination to the room,” said Kyle.

“While there’s been times over the years that I haven’t agreed with some of his suggestions in theory, when we give them a go, he almost always turns out to be right.

“We learn a lot from each other.”

Chris’ deep-seated friendship with Kyle and Dancenorth has benefits reaching far beyond the stage.

In the 10 years Chris has visited Townsville, his independence has sky-rocketed.

“This year, Chris has come for six weeks of creative development. It’s the longest he’s ever been here and for the first time, he’s visiting without his mum. Every year, we see these evolutions  – from getting himself to and from the studio each day, building the confidence to instruct a full ensemble of professional dancers, and getting out and being part of the social scene on weekends.

“It’s like meeting a whole new Chris every single year.”

Chris considers himself more than a dancer, choreographer and artist. He is a proud Champion for inclusivity.

“With my dancing, I want people to feel power,” he says.

Lighting the Dark is made to inspire happiness and love.”

Dancenorth will hold a free Under Construction event on 30 May to discuss the development of Lighting the Dark, including how to create more accessible collaboration and Arts experiences.

Lighting the Dark will be performed at Townsville Civic Theatre on 14 – 15 June 2024, with tickets available through Ticketshop Townsville.

Main image: Kyle Page, Chris Dyke and Amber Haines

Image credits: Tszar – Aaron Ashley

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BDMag

Compiled by the BDmag editorial team
Picture of BDMag

BDMag

Compiled by the BDmag editorial team