Contemplating our world through contemporary dance with Dancenorth’s Kyle Page
For Dubbo-raised director, choreographer and dancer Kyle Page, the decision to pursue dance as a career seemed more like an instinctual progression than a formal affair strategised in the classroom or at the family kitchen table. Led by a curious mind and his penchant for unknown situations, Page’s approach to artistic direction and choreography is evocative and philosophical; the nature of how we think and how the world works, a recurring motif in his work.
Ahead of Dancenorth’s Dust, created by Page and Amber Haines with Liminal Spaces, at the Alexander Theatre in March, we spoke to Page about his idyllic childhood spent in nature, his foray into dance, and the genesis of Dust.
MLIVE: Tell us about your childhood. How did you while away the time as a child?
Kyle Page: I grew up in Dubbo in an extraordinarily loving family. Both of my parents had traumatic childhoods and responded to this by creating a home filled with immeasurable love, support and nurture. My favourite thing to do as a child was to climb an enormous tree out the front of our house, perch myself at the very top and watch the clouds. I also loved swimming, and from the age of about two, discovered how to shimmy over the pool fence with my best friend Josh – luckily we were both good swimmers.
MLIVE: What first drew you to dance as an artistic medium? Was there a specific person or experience that influenced your decision to pursue it professionally?
Kyle Page: My first experience with dance was as an eight-year-old when I asked my parents if I could join Jangarra, an Indigenous youth dance group based in Dubbo. At that age I really didn’t understand the difference between white and black skin and didn’t think it was at all odd to ask to join. My parents asked, the answer was yes, and I became the first white kid to join Jangarra. I remember being given a Wiradjuri language name that translated to seagull. I had pretty skinny legs and was white, so I guess it made sense.
‘The decision to pursue dance professionally seemed like more of a natural process than a decision. A host of experiences led by a sense of adventure, by not taking ‘no’ to heart and by being open to the potential of unfamiliar situations has led me on the most amazing career.’
As a choreographer, I had absolutely no interest in making it until I met Amber [associate artistic director at Dancenorth] and we began working together, so for this current phase of my career I definitely have her to thank.
MLIVE: What was the genesis of Dust?
Kyle Page: The birth of our son [Kyle and Amber’s] and some deep conversations regarding the world into which he was born. The rabbit hole that began with this enquiry continues to expand and invite ever more contemplation into the systems and structures that exist all around us.
MLIVE: Dust intends to challenge preconceptions about the concept of ‘inheritance’. For you, what are some of those preconceptions?
Kyle Page: The brain has an incredible capacity for thought and insight yet we often default to the familiar. This is largely biological: Familiar means safe, which creates the potential for our awareness to be heightened by difference or otherness. Thousands of years ago this would have been a predator coming to eat you or an attack from a rival tribe. Yet this genetically hardwired way of processing the world often means that once we’re familiar with a system we rarely step back and review it – regardless of how the world or salient conditions may have changed. We also have the tendency to assess things on face value rather than investigating the reality.
I am also curious about our relationship to the division of communities: How throughout history we have often constructed walls to separate people – keeping some out and keeping others in – yet invariably the walls always come down. Our preconception towards otherness is huge, again in part due to biological predispositions, but the wonders of consciousness enable us to rewire such perspectives. I am fascinated by the media’s role in shaping our preconceptions. Why is it that in many Asian countries skin whitening cream is one of the biggest selling pharmaceuticals yet in the West we are buying fake tan and flocking to tanning salons? We are not born wanting the skin colour we don’t have.
MLIVE: As the artistic director of Dancenorth, can you explain the drivers behind the company and its programs?
Kyle Page: Openness, generosity, risk taking, collaboration and a comfort in not knowing. Amber and I only know so much and are blessed to work with so many talented and delightful humans. We all stand on one another’s shoulders, we often laugh, and live in a truly extraordinary part of the country. For this, we are all better off.