Paper Presentations # 2 – Session 2B

NZ – 4pm | VIC/NSW/TAS – 2pm | SA – 1.30pm | QLD – 1pm | NT – 12.30pm
WA – 11am

Chaired by Shaun McLeod

Links to join all conference sessions can be accessed via the program page of the ADSA conference website

Francesca Ferrer-Best – Multi-scale Methods for Disrupting Habitual Thought on Ballet

Since the 1980s, academic feminism has had problems with ballet, and often with good reason. However, critical takes on ballet, many of which argue that it is particularly bad for women (Daly, Fraleigh, Novack), have warped and dominated scholarly debate on the topic. The practice of “ballet bashing” (107), as Kolb and Kalogeropoulous call it, although well-motivated, works to background the agential capacities of the dancers themselves, casting them as voiceless and making victims of them. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to consider how research methodologies can be used to disrupt habitual knowledges of ballet, specifically in reference to raising dancers’ voices, in order to account for the diversity of their experiences. A key challenge is how to disrupt thought that conceives of itself as progressive. The paper draws from a project that utilised a multi-scale ethnography to ask: what can the sensory details of doing ballet tell us about its generative capacities as a professional practice as well as its problematic tendencies? By centring the voices of dancers and giving them the opportunity to drive sections of interviews themselves, I contend that more complex analyses of ballet are possible. Further, in engaging dancers’ experiential understandings of ballet, this approach also holds space for them to be reflexive about the possibility of actionable change/reform, and where they might fit into this. As opposed to condemning ballet, and its dancers, altogether.

Francesca Ferrer-Best is a PhD candidate with the department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. Her doctoral research is motived by the academic tendency towards pathologising ballet dancers, and therefore aims to unearth and communicate ballet dancers’ experiences in an in-depth, embodied analysis of how they interface with the world. Francesca’s broader research interests include phenomenology, movement cultures, embodiment and drinking. Outside university, she is involved in the independent dance-making community in Sydney.

Gareth Belling – Ballet as metonymy for Australia

Soldiers, sailors and bushrangers staked their claim as expressions of Australian-ness in ballet during the heady days of post-war nation building through culture. This paper will offer a methodology for decentring scholarship about ballet in Australia; scholarship which has previously distinguished Australian-ness in dance as a result of choreographic invention, performance of dance steps, and as an expression of landscape. Through an application of Christopher Balme’s concept of “performance as metonymy for culture” (42) I will address the “finite set of mostly recurrent props, costumes and corporeal signs” (Balme 43) that have been deployed as metonymic gestures of Australian-ness in ballet.

Utilising Collins’s notion of intersectionality to view ballet’s heritage as a Western ethnic dance (Keali’inohomoku 33-43) and transnational culture (Wulff 33) that is “interrelated and mutually shaping” (Collins 2), I will historicise three Australian ballets created, presented and discarded by Edouard Borovansky between 1946 and 1952. I will display how ballet uses “familiar signs that give us our anchoring points” (Ahmed 1) to orient itself as metonymic of a nascent Australian cultural identity. From the first all-Australian ballet (Potter 7), to an outlaw that met his end by balletic convention, these anchor points find contemporary expression in Graeme Murphy’s 1992 ballet Nutcracker: the Story of Clara. By contesting the conservative ways of thinking about ballet in Australia, this paper will decentre aesthetic hierarchies that emerged from the performance of Australian-ness in ballet.

Ahmed, Sara. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Duke UP, Durham, 2006.
Balme, Christopher B. “Hula and Haka: Performance, Metonymy and Identity Formation in Colonial Hawaii and New Zealand.” Humanities Research, vol. 3, 1999, pp. 41-58.
Collins, Patricia Hill and Sirma Bilge. Intersectionality. Polity Press, Cambridge, 2016.
Keali’inohomoku, Joann. “An Anthropologist Looks at Ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance.” Moving History/Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader, edited by Ann Dils and Ann Cooper Albright, Wesleyan UP, 2001, pp. 52-62.
Potter, Michelle. “Terra Australis [The Borovansky Ballet’s All-Australian Ballet of 1946.].” National Library of Australia News, vol. 14, no. 1, 2003, pp. 7–10.
Wulff, Helena. Ballet across Borders: Career and Culture in the World of Dancers. Berg, 1998.

Gareth Belling is a choreographer, dance educator, and PhD candidate at University of Queensland. A dancer with Queensland Ballet from 2002 – 2012, he has choreographed for Collusion, Queensland Ballet, Expressions Dance Company, QUT Dance and WAAPA, and staged works with Collusion at DanceStages Shanghai, Brisbane Festival, MELT and in Guangzhou. Nominated for a 2016 Australian Dance Award, Gareth has received grants from the Australia Council, Arts Queensland, Australia-China Council and Ausdance QLD, and scholarships to the Swiss International Coaching Project for Choreographers (SiWiC).Gareth holds a Master of Fine Arts (Dance) from Queensland University of Technology, and has research published by University of Florida Press.

Carl Walling – A Performance without its Audience: Captain James Cook’s Subantarctic Claiming Ceremonies on South Georgia Island

The controversial naval tradition of claiming territory for a hegemonic power resulted in early theatrical performances within the Antarctic region and its surrounding Subantarctic waters. In January 1775, Cook performed a public spectacle within this tradition’s boundaries by naming and then annexing an uninhabited South Georgia Island.

James Cook’s 1772-1775 expedition on the Resolution introduced a recurring thematic pattern within Antarctic performance – where the initial performative event rarely encountered its intended audience. Cook’s performance was a perfunctory responsibility for his nation which occurred regardless of the presence of a local population. The resulting performance demonstrated political and military agency, while continuing problematic historical undertones of occupation, ownership, and subjugation connected with this naval ceremony. As a result, the performance served as a historical marker for ongoing geopolitical debates surrounding the Subantarctic and Antarctic regions during the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Yet, there is another potential reading for this performance on South Georgia Island. The scientists participating in the initial landing party and the crew members remaining on the Resolution simultaneously served as the sole audience of the historical event as well as future performers of an emerging Antarctic narrative through the recontextualization of the initial performance within their society. This presentation considers how elements within Antarctic’s unique intersection of history, scientific discovery, and performance can be better understood by decentring the performative spectacle away from the creation of a historical narrative positioning disputed Subantarctic and Antarctic territorial claims and towards an investigation of the ceremony’s creation of shared cultural memory which has persisted within Antarctic exploration.

Carl Walling lectures in the fields of dramatic literature, theatre production, and theatre history. During his career in higher education, he has collaborated as lighting and/or scenic designer on over seventy productions. His current research focuses on twentieth and twenty-first century performance design theory and performance of the Antarctic. He is a long-standing member of the International Organisation for Scenographers, Theatre Architects, and Technicians (OISTAT). In addition to his research, he serves as the Program Coordinator for Theatre & Performance at the University of the Sunshine Coast.