The National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) presents Rhapsody, which according to its press release, is a bold and raw hour of circus with a chip on its shoulder.

Ahead of its debut on 2 December 2008, Anna Lozynski spoke to the multi-talented and award winning Sally Richardson, devisor and director of this exciting, new contemporary work.

Sally Richardson 1. In Rhapsody, the myth of Narcissus is explored within a cyber sphere where social connections and relationships are increasingly dominated by the internet, Facebook and My Space. What inspired you to direct Rhapsody in way that is to make it the boldest work yet performed by NICA?
In creating Rhapsody with the NICA graduating students, I wanted to devise and collaborate with them on a story and issues that they directly related to, and was engaging to them, both as artists and individuals. The work might be described as contemporary, relevant and distinctly Australian!

What can audiences expect to take away from the piece?
I want the audience to have an edge-of-your seat, thrilling experience of contemporary Australian circus presented by an outstanding ensemble of next generation circus performers! To be inspired by their creativity, dynamism, skills, and by the thought-provoking story they are telling. Circus can have a powerful, meaningful emotional landscape alongside breathtaking skills and showmanship.

Why did you decide to call the piece, Rhapsody?
A Rhapsody is an enthusiastic, effusive, high flown extravagant utterance or composition. I felt this was a description of the emotional landscape of the work; its themes, characters and narrative. It is a story about wanting and desiring what you cannot have. The work also reflects directly upon the extravagant artistry of circus, specifically aerial circus, and of the vibrant, youthful energy of the NICA performers. 

4. What are your personal views about the rise of Facebook or My Space in society? Are your views and/or predictions about the future of interactive media conveyed in the work?
A key aspect of my process is involving all key artists in the development of the work. So, this work is a collaboration where we have as a team explored the concept of identity formation in terms of Facebook and My Space, and the significant role that the internet has in terms of social networking. This is a currency to the cast who engage with the internet with ease, so it was interesting for them to critically engage in exploring the role and the impact such media has in their lives.

I understand Leon Krasenstein (costumer designer) and David Franzke (composer) have collaborated with you for this work. Tell us about what we can expect to see and hear during the performance.
The audience will experience a bold, contemporary sound design that is mixed live by David and which includes original composition, recognisable contemporary artists, Midnight Juggernaughts and Kings of Leon, alongside ego bands such as Queen, with voiceovers and additional sampled tracks. The score along with the costume design reflects the concept of heroes and superheroes: very Greek! But also about our fantasies of being someone other than who we actually are. Fashion, the club environment, contemporary street art and culture, are all inspirations.

What did the performers find most challenging about the work?
Perhaps, the consideration and development of their own character, voice and style in the work. Testing new skills in terms of film creation, sound production and performing contemporary choreography, alongside re-interpreting their circus skills. 
Audiences ‘love’ circus, and it is always fantastic to work with such an arresting visual palette of possibilities... we make really fantastic circus here in Australia and we are part of an exciting new wave in terms of art form development{/xtypo_quote_right}
7. Tell us about one blooper which occurred during rehearsals.
Too many! That’s the nature of rehearsals, to be able to bloop!

Rhapsody features urban choreography. How does urban choreography differ from traditional choreography?
The difference is all terminology and language really. Urban is that which is of the city or street, and may reflect what we experience these places. Traditional, is just that, but can be interpreted differently depending on which form of dance or technique to which is being referred. 

9. In your award winning career as a director/creator/writer and producer in the performing arts, what most attracts you to the direction of puppetry and circus performance?
Puppetry and circus are two very different things! I love the dynamicism, colour, vibrancy and immediacy of the circus. Audiences ‘love’ circus, and it is always fantastic to work with such an arresting visual palette of possibilities! The experience is always exciting, and energizing. I also believe we make really fantastic circus here in Australia and we are part of an exciting new wave in terms of art form development.

Have you ever trained or sought to train as a circus performer?
No, but I always get the itch when I work with circus. It’s the flying that gets me. If only!

11. You have been recognized for your collaboration with numerous independent artists and organisations. What attracts you to the independent space?
Freedom, time and working with artists whom I have developed significant creative partnerships and love to work with.

What do you now know that you wish you had discovered at the beginning of your career?
Everything and nothing. The learning is every day. That’s the beauty, the unpredictable spontaneous joy that is creating something from nothing!

What do you do after the opening night of any of your works?
Try to relax.

14. Finally, what did you learn from your collaboration with NICA?
NICA is an extraordinary and unique organisation in the Australian performing arts culture. It has leading circus trainers from around the world working with its students, and this has already changed the circus landscape in Australia and will continue to do so. It has also been fantastic to be able to work in a well resourced and supportive creative environment. 

Rhapsody opens December 2 at the National Circus Centre, Prahran Melbourne. Further information»


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