Category Archives: Leigh

Make Like A Rhinoceros

Monday, November 21, 2011

Aside from the Bower Bird discovery, another incident that impressed the Bundanon dance lab participants during the Tuesday afternoon walk was the herd of cattle that didn’t seem keen on allowing us to cross the paddock and when the bull, in all its majesty, looked straight at us suspiciously, and some of us started to panic quite audibly, Leigh Warren put his arms up in front of his head and said, “Quick, make like a rhinoceros!!” This obviously did not deter the cows and bull, nor did it make them want to charge, but it did disperse the nature nerves as we cracked up in laughter.

In honor of Leigh, Vicki rounded up the Bundanon educational exchange program schoolkids and got them to do some site specific movement with her. She brought them to a nice wooded area beside the bower bird nests (both real and Latai’s) and asked them to stand behind a tree, like hiding. At her signal, the kids should start jumping up and down (like some of our favorite animals in the paddock – not the cows) but from behind the tree. Then, when they got tired, or just felt like it, to “Make like a rhinoceros.” She asked one boy to wear the yellow gloves from her kitchen.

The kids, all visual arts students, were all quite game, but most likely not aware that they just did a “Leigh Warren choreography right there,” as Cat put it. And despite herself, Vicki finally got to orchestrate a collaboration of her initiative.

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Make Like A Rhinoceros from Critical Path on Vimeo.


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Bower Envy

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On the first Tuesday that we were here, after much discussion in the studio, everyone was excited to take a walk around Bundanon and make our way to the river. We went up the amphitheatre and down again, and crossed a few paddocks before deciding to leave the river to be found another day.

(See photos of the walk here
See photos of the river here and here)

A few meters down from amphitheatre, we found a bower bird’s bower, and most of us were quite flabbergasted to see it because we had never actually seen a bower bird’s bower before. It was just as I read in those nature books in our grade school library – the circular reshaping of the grass, the soft bed in the center, the scattering of blue objects in the center. In this bower, there were a couple of blue feathers, some blue paper and a bottle top.


Latai had been bringing around a blue tarpaulin, basically playing around with it, creating images with the imposed object in the space. When she saw the bower bird, she decided to create her own bower with her tarp, hoping to make the bower bird envious.

On Sunday morning, Latai set up her bower beside the bower bird’s nest and included a lot of “found objects” around the house – including a chair Simon found by the river, a couple of mugs, a tea towel and a canister from the kitchen, Doris’ bathing suit and Alfira’s bikini top, which, when reported missing, Vicki responded with a straight face, “Your swimmers are missing? Since when?” Leigh also sacrificed his Prostate Cancer Awareness bangle to the bower bird, and the next day, they found that the bower bird had taken that and placed it in his own bower, as well as a washing peg and bits of paper, in effect fulfilling Latai’s intention to make the bower bird jealous. That Sunday before he left for Adelaide, they recorded Leigh doing a David Attenborough commentary on this special breed of bower bird.

Latai took the bower down on Monday, after showing it to the students engaged in the Bundanon education program, who were scheduled to visit on Monday at 1pm. They kept bits of blue paper and disposable objects in case the bower bird would like them. When Helen checked on the bower bird the next day, she was happy to report that the bower bird had indeed taken all the othe objects from the bower and placed into his own.

Latai talking about her bower to the Bundanon educational exchange students

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The Gift of Movement

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While a lot of the experiments have been visually driven, there is some movement happening here at the Bundanon Dance Lab. On Friday afternoon, Leigh got all the participants to pair up for a movement exercise. The idea was for each person to come up with a movement gesture or phrase and “gift” it to their partner, who then receives the movement into their body, sort of doing it over and over until they’ve completely “accepted” the “gift.” And then, once part of their body vocabulary, to transform it into something that appeal to them.

Doris, Fu Kuen and Jerome gamely joined this exercise (while I, the dancer among the facilitators, did not), and partnered up with Ly Ly, Simon and Vicki respectively. Doris and Ly Ly didn’t quite understand the exercise and were passing imaginary objects to each other, on the subject of “gifting.” It was like watching them play catch with unknown energies and it was actually really fun to watch, though Leigh had to reinform them of what the exercise was really about. Doubtful though if the others did get the real purpose of the exercise as both Fu Kuen and Simon, and Vicki and Jerome were mirroring each other and not really “gifting.” Cat and Rhiannon also seemed to be finding some sort of movement, though it was not clear where the movement began and where it became reprocessing. Fortunately, this was addressed with better explanation from Leigh the next day.

Interesting movement exchange did happen on Friday, with Latai and Fitri, to the point where Latai had danced away from Ly Ly, in her pursuit of reprocessing Fitri’s movement into her own body and coming up with something new.

On Saturday morning, Leigh gave a nice warm up that mobilized several points of the body, making sure that the body was ready for movement for that day, and asked the group to pair up with somebody new. Before I could disappear, Vicki was beside me like a kangaroo. At the end of the exchange, Leigh asked each pair to present what they came up with.

Leigh and Ly Ly started the presentation, with Leigh showing us the movement Ly Ly gifted him and then the movement it turned into. You could see the difference of styles with the juxtaposition of original movement with transformed movement, and how each were very Leigh and very Ly Ly.

Vicki and I went next. I gave a simple weaving of the arms around my crown, my eyes, my chest and waist, to which Vicki applied her whole body, incorporating rhythms and jumps. She taught me an interesting opposition exercise which was meant for Fitri, and I slowed down and speeded up the movements, and gave it different directions, though I think the original was eons better. Alfira was supposed to join us, but time had run out for us to receive her movement phrase.

Cat and Latai performed their transformed movements together, and they seemed to be doing the same movement, but with different qualities: Latai’s was softer, with an almost melting into herself effect, while Cat’s was strong and aggressive. The contrast was quite awesome.

Rhiannon and Jerome did a mirroring exercise with their hands, and it was interesting how each “understood” the movement that they shared.

Fitri and Simon were “Two turtles who fall in love.” They stood far away from each other at opposite sides of the room and slowly made their way to the floor and crawled towards each other, waiting for “What’s next?” before Fitri gave a loud laugh and scramble to standing position, signaling the end of the exercise.

The next day, after Leigh warmed us up for the last time, new pairings were formed and performed. Simon and Latai were this time gecko and turtle, respectively – Latai has been gifting the same movement to all her movement partners to see how they receive them. It is based on a gecko, which Latai has adopted as her symbol (or as far as how I understand it) with a head accent that is traditionally an improvisational gesture in Tongan dance. In return, Simon taught Latai the turtle movement and they looked sweetly like two animals making their way to dry land, and away from the rising sea levels.

Rhiannon and Ly Ly exploded in their own spaces, sharing very volatile bursts of movement with each other. Jerome and Cat played around with similar movements that grew away from each other then pulled together when you least expected it.

Fitri and Vicki both shared very similar movements as well and made a little skit of walking “same” (same arm same leg moving together) and “different” (arms and legs in opposition). Vicki had a running commentary all the while she and Fitri moved through the space with their different strides.

This piqued everyone’s interest so much that all started to move same and different strides, and would even attempt it randomly for the rest of the day.

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Happy one week, everyone!

So, it’s been a week since I’ve been here at Bundanon (as with most of us), and we’re still busy bees. Just now, it was Ly Ly’s turn to make dinner, preparing the infamous Vietnamese spring rolls, with Fu Kuen, Rhiannon and initiating Agnes Michelet into the dinner preparation. Helen didn’t make dinner at all tonight (as far as I know), because she had to bring Latai to the train station.

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Despite Agnes’ welcome presence, we can’t help note the absence of Leigh and Margie. Margie will be back tomorrow, but Leigh has gone back to work in Adelaide. He sent a short note for everyone through my email this morning:

…..hiya….miss you all already…..home and patting my pussycats ……heading to office soon …have filled out the wordpress thing again and will try posting soon…very big hugs to all
leigh x

We miss you too Leigh! You’ll be glad to know that Vicki had the visiting students from the Bundanon-education program dance in your honor, as rhinoceroses.

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