Two evenings of dance and video transformed the Judith Wright Centre Shopfront performance space in December 2009 when Brisbane based dance screen practitioner Elise May captured the raw energy, charm & vibe of our city – Brisbane. The work takes a look at the simultaneous responses of three characters as they navigate their way through their lives in Brisbane. Set in a sunny suburbia complete with hills-hoists, mosquitos and lawn mowers the audience is offered three simultaneous stories, and three perspectives of life in Brisbane. The performance installation work looks at the way we, as humans have strong physical and emotional responses to time, place and possessions.

Elise May’s Screen Dance Laboratory investigates installation, experimental film, screen choreography and digital projection.


Through the Brisbane Front Residency program, supported by Ausdance Queensland, The Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Art and Brisbane City Council, Elise was given the opportunity conduct a supported four week exploration into dance for non traditional performance spaces, culminating in a performance installation in the Judith Wright Centre Shopfront performance space. Elise wanted her Screen Dance Lab to be an open ‘laboratory’ play-lab environment designed to encourage a responsive dialogue between dance movement and video stimulus material, and the production of a unique dance film/video performance installation.

Elise’s particular interest in this project was in the bringing together of varied artistic responses from a small group of key artists. Specifically interested in collaboration, she saw my role as somewhat of an “organiser“, “director” & “curator” in the project. Her role included providing stimulus and leadership (in a curatorial sense) to a small group of artists, by providing starting points, strategies, and guidance in developing a collage-like video & movement piece that reflects the uniqueness of the Brisbane experience.

Elise really wanted the residency to be an exploration in videography. An investigation of dance movement in response to collected photographic and video stimulus from specific sites in the Brisbane area. The residency was structured in the following way in order to set out some very clear objectives for the four week period.


WEEK 1: Collection of footage, stimulus material, discussion & experimentation

Video & photographic source footage was collected from local sites. Reference material such as stories, books, archives, films etc… were collected that describe the urban, demographic, industrial and sub tropical characteristics of Brisbane as a city – these findings became the source material for the explorations that took place during the residency.

WEEK 2: Responding, recording, creative play & discussion

The source material was taken into the Screen Dance Choreographic & Video “Laboratory” to be responded to (physically and creatively through movement or other means) observed, played with, edited, discussed, and responded to and manipulated by a small group of key artists.

WEEK 3: Editing, sharing, questioning & problem solving.

We questioned the notion of presenting film/video in new and non traditional ways, and interrogated our preconceptions of screen dance. I encouraged a ”think-tank” problem solving approach to the presentation of the material we developed in the Lab.

WEEK 4: Presenting, evaluating and documenting.

Our focus in this week shifted to presentation, but our aim was to try to present and document all of our varied findings – installation, story telling, movement, text and video in a more integrated way.

Pictured: Richard Causer Elise May’s Screen Dance Lab Photography FenLan Chuang

View further examples of Elise May’s choreographic projects here