Simon Stewart introduces himself by talking about a work he’s been touring now, called Turtle and the Tradewinds, which is very much a collaborative work, and informed by the exhibit, Green Turtle Dreaming. The show uses props and puppetry, and his stake in it is his having grown up near the sea, and his attachment to the environment.
Simon created a lot of the movement, with some based on traditional culture. For example, the Weaving dance, though not specifically anyone’s weaving dance, showcased a “weaving” movement, which connected to a lot of the traditions, both literally and figuratively.
The turtle is the main symbol in the work, and is used to show the relationship between Australia and Indonesia. The work is still developing as a performance piece and is meant to be a moving exhibit, integrating the story in the place they’re performing and developing the work more.
The initial creation of the work was done in a boathouse, and they were basically grabbing things off beaches and certain areas and putting it into the work. The set was designed in a 3 angled tent, with projections on 3 screens.
This is basically what Simon is interested in for this dance lab: to collaborate with people, putting ideas together and seeing how discussing with people can contribute to his ideas.
His collaboration with the puppetmaker for Turtle and the Tradewinds did introduce some challenges, including how to make the puppet move in water, and there was a constant making the sense of how things work better. Then, as a performer, he also learned how to become the puppet, to activate the puppet and make it come alive.
Other things that would change during the course of touring would be dependent on the culture of the area. For example, in Indonesia, they had to change the sitting position to not expose the feet of the puppeteers. Basically, Simon had to ask people what’s appropriate and what’s not.
Stories are from a research base and Simon notes that “It’s suprising what people don’t know about their own environment.” People do know that there is an impact of human disruption to the turtles, a “dysfunctioning the environment” as Simon puts it, but also there is an “unknownness” that comes with it.
Simon is currently teaching movement and dance to indigenous students, which includes singing, acting and dancing.
Margie asks Simon to expound about how the work is still being developed. Simon says, “Every time I perform in the show, it becomes different.” The environment also changes, “the environment was part of the purpose, and you get a feel for the environment”
Doris comments on the weaving, that they could use objects to weave instead of a weaving dance. Simon relates how they extensively experimented with the weaving, and got tangled up, so they settled on body movement instead of actual objects. “The process of the weaving was also informative, it helped to set the order of how things go.” Simon shares that they wanted to portray that structure, as it was an activiry that happened on a daily basis.” He also talks about a section in the performance that was a mating dance for 2 turtles. They didn’t know where it was going, but it was a good comic touch to the show.
Vicki asks if there a lot of improv, and Simon nods there was in the utilizing of the space. For example, in one location, some crabs crawled into the performance and one of the dancers didn’t want to roll on the floor with the crabs and improvised an alternative movement instead.
Simon concludes his introduction by saying that there’s quite a lot in the work and he wants to strip it down some more.