LIMELIGHT - Lewis Major

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Lewis Major is an award-winning independent choreographer, producer and creative entrepreneur.

Lewis Major

Describe your childhood.

I was born and raised on a farm about four hours south of Adelaide on the border of Victoria and South Australia. I went to what is colloquially called a “bush school” for the local district – a lot of lessons were still taught over the phone back then – with my younger sister until we shipped off to boarding school in Adelaide at the age of fifteen. That sense of place, of space and freedom that growing up in the vast expanse of the Australian bush instilled in me as a young person definitely helped shape the way that I think about the world and the work that I make today.

What first drew you to dance?

I’d always been a very active kid (having 11,000 acres of scrub to run around in helped) and was on the state gymnastics and cross-country teams in early high school. By the time I moved to the city for boarding school I’d started getting involved in theatre and acting, though I never knew that working in the arts was something that could be, you know, an actual job. I saw Australian Dance Theatre performing Garry Stewart’s Birdbrain on a regional tour around the same time and my mind was simply blown. That work was such a perfect synthesis of virtuosic physicality and theatre – two great interests of mine at the time – and it really affected me. It was still two years until I would take my first ballet class but after that that I was hooked, and then obsessed.

Who are your main mentors?

I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career in that I’ve been supported by a network of mentors and I am immensely privileged to have learned and grown from their knowledge and support. I don’t have the space to list everyone here, but I really do stand on the shoulders of a group of incredibly generous artists and teachers. First and foremost, my first teacher, Susan Taylor, without whom I really would not be where I am today. Russell and Dana Maliphant, together with Michael Hulls. Akram Khan opened my eyes to what dance could be. Hofesh Shechter always seemed to give me a kick up my butt when I most needed it. Shaun Parker has been a friend and mentor for the better half of a decade now. He really took me under his wing.

Describe an achievement of which you are especially proud.

I broke my back in my second year at New Zealand School of Dance due to a congenital condition. My doctors said it was the end of my then nascent dance career and I’d be extremely lucky not to be in a wheelchair by twenty-five. Somehow, I managed to stave off that eventuality through careful physical management, hard work and a dogged, stubborn determination to prove people wrong and have had an amazing career – albeit, not so much as a performer. Opening a show at the Royal Opera House in London a few years back I did take time to reflect on this and acknowledge how hard I’d worked to get to that point. That was certainly a moment of pride. 

Do you think your background has influenced your artistic aims?

Absolutely. From growing up in shearing sheds and chasing kangaroos through the bush, to working with luminaries of the international arts scene while living and creating with people and cultures from all over the world,
I like to think that I have a world view that is at least somewhat more informed by lived experience than the average. My work tries to be reflective of this: as undidactic and cognisant of contradiction as possible and, above all, respectful of my audiences.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

The Italian Baroque-Renaissance “straddlers” right now – Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, Peri, Boccherini. I’m also making a drive-in dance performance with my cousin’s band Indiago at the moment.

What word(s) would you use to describe your feet?

Tolkienish – a bit of hobbit, some orc and a lot of roads well-travelled. Ballet feet they are not.

Lewis Major’s ‘Unfolding’ and ‘S/WORDS’ are being held at the Adelaide Festival from March 11 - 14. His ‘Satori’ premieres in April at Adelaide Festival Centre and he is “chipping away” at three other works, ‘Two’, with Chris Dyke, another solo ‘Ophelia’, and ‘Lien’, a rework of his Keir Choreographic Award commission. He is also planning for a recent Churchill Fellowship in Europe in the second half of next year. March 11 to 14.

This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb/March print issue of Dance Australia. Get the latest dance news, tips and reviews delivered direct to your door for only $6 per issue. That's a 30% saving on the cover price + receive the digital issue for FREE!
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