Silver Linings - Stephanie Lake on the lockdown

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Stephanie Lake is another Melbourne dance artist whose plans came to a crashing halt this year. She and her company dancers were in Switzerland in March, touring Colossus, when “everything was suddenly cancelled” and they had to fly home immediately. “This was going to be a full year of dance making,” she says regretfully, “but all of my projects have been postponed.”

As an artist who makes her living from project to project, and with two children to support, she says she was “financially the most frightened she has ever been over her 20 year career”. Jobkeeper has been a “massive relief”.

If the year had been normal, Lake would have been rehearsing a new show, Manifesto, involving nine dancers and nine drummers for a date scheduled for next year. She also would have been developing a “really exciting co-creation” with the Malthouse Theatre, a dance-theatre work with three dancers and one actor. And at the end of the year she would have been embarking on a “massive public, outdoor performance in partnership with Melbourne Fringe”.

“A lot of work is happening behind the scenes, though,” she says. “In the case of the Malthouse, the script is on its fourth draft; with Manifesto the music, the set, other aspects of the show, are still happening, but we can’t get into the studio and make the dance part, which is my favourite bit.” 

How does a choreographer create at home without her dancers in the room? Can she do it in her head?

“I can’t. Maybe some people can. Obviously I’m dreaming about [the works], I’m thinking about it all the time, I’m obsessed, but I’m the sort of choreographer who really makes the work with the dancers . . . It’s not like I make all the choreography on my own body and transplant it onto the cast. It’s all about that sizzle that happens between people in the studio. I just have to be patient and wait for that to happen.” 

Lake has also been mounting her Pile of Bones via Zoom on third year students at the Victorian College of the Arts. Watch:

Her silver linings? Though times have been tough, the lockdown has produced “a beautiful collegiality in the Melbourne dance scene”. Companies and independents have organised regular zoom meetings: “they’ve really galvanised, all sorts of sub groups are happening, they’re talking about things in a way that maybe wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had this moment.”

Despite the increased uptake in digital technology, for Lake, the lockdown has really confirmed her preference for live performance. Digital just isn’t the same:

In another exciting project, Lake has also created a video with Missy Higgins, to be released in the near future.


Stephanie Lake rehearsing with Missy Higgins and cinematographer Warwick Field.
Stephanie Lake rehearsing with Missy Higgins and cinematographer Warwick Field.




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