Great Collaborations: Amber Haines and Kyle Page
Kyle Page and Amber Haines are artistic and associate artistic director, respectively, of Dancenorth. They are married and have a baby son, Jasper.
This interview, by Nina Levy, was first published as part of the "Great Collaborations" series, in the August/September 2017 issue of Dance Australia.
Nina Levy: You met as dancers at Australian Dance Theatre – how did you come to collaborate?
Amber Haines: In the environment of ADT the dancers make most or all of the material, so we started a choreographic journey together there. It was so rich that we decided to continue it outside the ADT walls. We negotiated an arrangement with Garry (Stewart, artistic director of ADT) in our final year with the company, where we committed to certain tours and performances, and otherwise we would go off and do our own thing.
Kyle Page: We had created quite a few duets for ADT and then for one of the “Rough Draft” programs we began developing a short duet that ran for about 10 minutes. That was the genesis of the work that eventually became Syncing Feeling.
NL: How did you come to be artistic director and artistic associate director of Dancenorth?
KP: In that year that we were working part-time at ADT we were getting ready to move on. We were supported through the Australia Japan Foundation, the Australia Council, Arts SA and the OzAsia Festival to create a project called Spectra with some Japanese artists. It was set to premiere at the 2015 OzAsia Festival. We had a new project with Stephanie Lake and some work with Lucy Guerin. Then the artistic director role came up at Dancenorth. I had a history with the company – I was a dancer here when I was 17. We thought, why don’t I throw my hat in the ring and we’ll try and bring some of these projects that we’ve got lined up under the umbrella of Dancenorth.
I was quite young, only 27 at the time, but I was offered the job. Amber came up initially as a dancer, then was made rehearsal director, and is now associate artistic director. As far as I am concerned, though, we are co-artistic directors.
NL: How would you describe the work that you make collaboratively?
AH: All of our work is grounded in physicality. It’s richly layered with the visual, kinesthetic and sonic elements.
KP: We spend quite a bit of time investigating or layering and entwining all of those components to a show. We’re also drawn to powerful images in our work, lasting images, legacy images. We’ve had to work on how to deliver and receive feedback from one another because we value one another’s opinions more than anything and it’s learning how to not take them personally.
AH: Our material is sourced from intention rather than narration. We use movement to explore and convey subject matter. KP: When we work with the dancers we invest quite a lot in the process. Allowing the dancers or collaborators to have a sense of ownership and authority over the work and over their contribution to it is really important. We also collaborate on the running of the company. All the decisions – curatorial decisions, program decisions, decisions about how we want to define the culture of the company, the people we want to employ, the aesthetics of the company – are made through collaboration between myself and Amber.
NL: How do you complement one another as artists?
KP: I am drawn to overarching ideas and project management. Researching and doing lots of reading and writing about the work is something I’m really drawn to. Amber’s attention to detail – her ability to see and carve out and craft the nuance and finely articulate the detail throughout a work – is just extraordinary. I definitely do not have the eye nor, perhaps, the patience to pay such attention to it. The other thing that Amber is amazing at is the ability and desire to constantly seek more and to seek an improvement and expansion of ideas and choreographic content. She is always teasing out ideas and constantly refining material. I think that’s a real strength of our work that she continues to push despite my… inability to…
AH: You’re focused on the bigger picture.
KP: Before I met Amber I had no desire to make work at all – she has been the genesis and the driving inspiration for me wanting to enter this space of creating work.
AH: But Kyle has this incredible vernacular actually bringing work to fruition… I am also really invested in the imagery of each work. I do create all the photographic material for the company as well.
NL: What are the pros and cons of collaborating with your life partner?
AH: One is finding a work-life balance, but in a sense that can be a huge benefit as well, because you can continue the creative discussion at home… I guess as long as you have space to still live life outside of the studio. That’s a lot easier now we have a son – our priorities have shifted.
KP: One pro is that our schedule is constantly aligned, we have time off at the same time. That creates so many opportunities for us to pursue things on the side. Later this year, for example, we’ve got four weeks in Greenland on a residency together.
NL: What’s your favourite work from your collaborative back catalogue?
AH: Kyle wants to say Jasper, our son (laughs) but for me it would be Syncing Feeling. We’re taking it to Chaillot [Théâtre national de la Danse] in Paris next April. It’s a duet for Kyle and I.
KP: It’s pretty special, quite magical… but Jasper’s still the winner (laughs).
NL: And what’s next for the two of you?
KP: We’ve got lots of touring our work. We’re about to create a new project, that will premiere next year. We’re chatting with a few different festivals so we can’t say exactly when it’s going to premiere, but it’s already got some international interest too. We’ll be collaborating with two gorgeous Tasmanian architects who run Liminal Studio, Peta Hefferman and Elvio Brianese.
AH: We’re also working with a Canadian violinist Jessica Moss who is a member of two amazing avant-garde Canadian bands.
KP: We’re also doing a massive project that we can't talk about yet because it's still embargoed... but stay tuned!
Catch Dancenorth's Rainbow Vomit on tour in Melbourne this July:
This article was first published in the August/September 2017 issue of Dance Australia. Want more like this? Buy the latest issue at your favourite magazine retailer or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app or subscribe here.
Picture top: Amber Haines and Kyle Page. Photo: Jenni Large.