THE SHEARERS BALLET
The Shearers Ballet partners - Choreographer Alison Plevey and the CORRIDOR project.
The rituals, gestures and actions of the shearing shed will be fuel for a new theatre and dance performance, The Shearers Ballet, performed by men and women who were once active in the wool trade as shearers, handlers and wool classers.
Developed in the Cowra area of Central West NSW, this unique regional project has received initial support for development through the Australia Council for the Arts. It is the latest, iteration developed from the SILOS Project, that will culminate in a innovative community inspired performance event.
Patrick Nolan as director led the initial development phase, joined by Alison Plevey as choreographer, who led the performance development. Composer Scott Saunders will continue to collaborate with local musicians on the soundscape. The core production team have all worked extensively in regional Australia and bring a great empathy and passion for creating work in conjunction with community artists. The key artists have worked closely with the Cowra and Canowindra communities since 2013 through previous phases of the SILOS Project.
The Shearers Ballet examines one of the most iconic regional activities in Australian history - shearing. The vehicle to uncover its changing role, culture, and character is through the process of creating and presenting a dance and music performance involving professional artists and community.
Norm Palazzi, shearer, thespian, and Cowra resident is the initiator and active collaborator of the project. Once a ‘gun’ shearer, Norm at 76 still works in ‘the shed’. Reflecting on the discipline, physical stamina, the flow of activity, hierarchy, and sense of collaboration in the shed, he draws uncanny parallels to the practice of choreography and the potential for the creation of a dance.
Following creative development phases in 2016 - supported by the Australia Council, artists Alison Plevey and Scott Saunders with project producer Phoebe Cowdery, engaged shearers, wool classers, rouseabouts, in documenting local stories. This series of interviews influenced material development for musicians, dancers and school children from the Cowra and Canowindra region to build preliminary ideas creating a solid framework for the performance. The project team have now developed a dynamic collection of oral histories by twenty local shearers and community members that will be given to the local Historical Museums on completion of the project.
The movements, memories, sights, sounds, rituals, and interactions of the shed, gathered from these accords enabled a process of creative experimentation with the community resulting in 15 minutes of dance and music material for final production.
The final development of The Shearer’s Ballet will harness this initial development phase to fully realise the creation of a visceral, historic and charismatic regional performance event that directly engages with the community for community audiences.
Our vision for this next stage is to continue to create and shape the dramaturgy of the work which references the daily timetable of the shed and echoes the changing life of the shed and in regional Australia. The work reveals the sheer physicality, the harsh realities coupled with empathetic gestures of rural life, bound by unique mateship and methodologies within the agricultural and farming industry. Dance, music, poetry, soundscape, and film projection will propel audiences to experience unexpected wayfinding that defines community, mateship, and reveals a physical and linguistic knowledge drawn from “the shed”.
The creative team includes:
Director/Choreographer – Alison Plevey, leading the creative direction of the work integrating music with choreography, the woolshed spaces, oversees design elements.
Composer/Musical Direction – Scott Saunders
Project and Tour Coordinator/Producer – Phoebe Cowdery
Lighting Design/Op - Becky Russell
Sound/Op – Brendan Napier
Costume design/construction – Anne-Marie Dalziel
Indigenous Liaison – Aleshia Lonsdale
Community Music Liaison – Maryanne Wright
Documentation/compiling of oral histories - Birdland Films
The silos project
The Silos Project partnered with Arts Out West and the CORRIDOR project, that brought together a collective of Australian leading artists to work with the communities in the Central West district of NSW. To date they have developed a powerful, life affirming story about our relationship with the land. Inspired by the dynamic structure of an annual agricultural show, the Silos Project celebrates the extraordinary mix of agricultural lore and history of the region.
Supported by a cast of local musicians, performers, aerialists, a hundred dancing children, the Silos Project core outcomes has developed a wealth of innovative stories created by rural communities, to further the Shearers Ballet development for production. SILOS PROJECT supported by Arts Out West, the CORRIDOR project, John Holland, Australia Council for the Arts, Arts NSW, Cowra Council.