Chloe Leong’s choreographic debut at Carriageworks is part of New Breed, which features works by four emerging choreographers. It’s also the first time the Sydney Dance Company (SDC) will perform live on stage in 2020.
What happened when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Sydney?
We were in the midst of getting the first season of SDC performances for 2020 on stage when Covid-19 unfolded. We were thinking, “No, we’ll stage it. See what happens.” Then we had to go into lockdown.
How did the SDC respond?
Within a week the company came back to us and said, “We’ve initiated the Virtual Studio. We need everyone to help where they can. Chloe, can you teach a body conditioning class?” From there it just blossomed.
Where did you teach and rehearse?
My neighbours below my apartment in Bellevue Hill must really dislike me because every morning I’d be pushing my dining room table across the wooden floor and clearing space. I put my laptop on the table and off I went.
How different has it been?
As dancers we’re normally at the studio from nine until six, constantly in contact with one another and being physical throughout the day. We usually spend four months in Sydney and the rest of the time performing around Australia and internationally – so those plans fell through! Swimming at sunrise kept me sane. I also adopted Dumpling, the best cat in the world.
SDC decided to make dance accessible through film. Which films are you in?
I’m in Cuatro 4 and #5 Wagga Wagga (for Dance Locale), which we filmed on Wiradjuri Country – welcomed by an elder. In the local Indigenous language Wagga Wagga means a place of dance and celebration. In fact, Luke Hayward performs his solo where the Corroboree participants dance. It was a special experience.
What can we expect from your New Breed work?
My theme is nostalgia which is quite poignant given that the pandemic has seen so many people turn inward thinking, “I just want things to go back to the way they were.” I use Davide Di Giovanni and Luke Hayward and all the elements of dance to create an atmosphere that’s not chaotic or overwhelming to the senses. How I like to move.
Is the work socially distanced?
Choreographing my first work stretched me out of my comfort zone but this Covid-safe requirement ripped away my safety net and flung me out to sea! I mean: How do you find intimacy without contact? You’ve got to imagine another way.
How will it feel to be back in the theatre?
Each night will be a wonderful celebration of being “home”, and having the chance to perform again is just incredible.
New Breed is at Carriageworks from November 26 to December 12.