BBC’s The Greatest Dancer to eclectic choreographer – interview with Alice Robinson

Words by Katie Hagan.

It’s a vision we are all familiar with: a young dancer takes the leap of faith from their hometown to forge a career on the international stage.

Whilst this might be a motif we recognise, creator Alice Robinson is by no means conventional. Emerging from humble beginnings in her native Queensland, Alice has already established an impressive portfolio which dancers of her age would kill for; she has performed for Opera Australia, starred in BBC’s The Greatest Dancer, and has worked for the likes of Benoit Swan Pouffer, Matthew Morrison and Ricky Jinks.

Proud of where her dance background has taken her, Alice is now aspiring to bridge a gap many have hesitated to attempt: the one between contemporary and commercial dance. She sits with the dance art journal to discuss why dance styles must intersect, her new immersive work ‘Does it Matter in the Dark’, and the essential change the dance industry would do well to heed.

Q: How do you create work? What does the process involve?

A: As an artist, my process in creating work is based around a lot of discussion with collaborating dance artists; while creating a safe space to find the moment where the discussion turns into a language of the body and between bodies. Extending that safe space to the audience was a priority when creating my immersive work, ‘Does it Matter in the Dark’ – a piece about darkness, stimulation and our senses.

Having trained in so many fields across the dance umbrella, I love working with dynamics, physicality and the use of every inch of the physical space around the performers.

I never want to limit the scope of my work, and I usually create in different ways depending on the concept and context of the execution point. Specifically for this production, physical theatre and quite a few acting techniques have been embedded to give the audience the most immersive theatre experience possible. Again, throughout the creative process we have ensured they will be in a safe space for creative expression!

Q: Could you describe your practice in five words?

A: Inspiration, discussion, physical research, problem solving/adaption and surrendering to the art.

Q: How would you describe your movement style?

A: My movement style has always been eclectic and I draw from all the styles I’ve trained in. I never box myself in and I feel the term contemporary (with an understanding of foundation techniques and the pioneers) can be any expression that is current and conceptual. I strive to push physical boundaries with a heart and centre based in exploration.

Q: You go by the term ‘creator’ rather than ‘dancer’. Is this intentional?

A: I go by creator rather than dancer as I feel the term ‘dancer’ feels very single-sided for what I would describe my career and process to be. Standing in my power as a creator therefore doesn’t limit me to my own, the industry or society’s expectations of a ‘dancer’.

Q: Are there any differences between being a dancer and a choreographer? If so, did you find the transition from one to the other challenging?

A: As a new artist to London I am still working as both a dancer and choreographer. Having begun my dance journey at such a young age I soon realised that creating and choreographing was for me.

My ideas flow quite seamlessly and I find the cycle of creating and problem solving quite the adrenaline rush. My flow during that period is quite remarkable.

The more experienced I get, the more I enjoy sitting from the outside and relinquishing control at a certain point. The language the dancer creates with their own bodies after the information is received is incredibly special, and that trust after the dancer is informed is something I look forward to when creating. The transition from dancer to choreographer is a soft space and requires trust!

Q: Why did you decide to create your work, ‘Does it Matter in the Dark?’

A: I began researching ‘Does it Matter in the Dark’ in 2017 back in Australia, where I developed a love/obsession for immersive work. I also took inspiration from a piece called ‘Dark Matters’ by New York based artist Lin Yan which I saw at White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney.

Performers and audience members sharing the space is, to me, exhilarating! Breaking the fourth wall and wandering the space like an exhibition was something I wanted to explore, as well as this whole idea of ‘seeing’ what you only choose to see.

After more development in London this year, the psychology behind the question I ask in the title (Does it Matter in the Dark?) came to the forefront. We researched senses, DE individualization and other concepts that either enter the light in darkness or reveal the human truth and desire.

I collaborated with UK-based sound engineers, photographers, film artists, dance artists and creative workspaces. Combining talents allows us to open up the conversation and make art brighter. To share my work to new audiences in a foreign place, and with new collaborators, is beautiful and I’m extremely excited to see where it will go.

Q: Is there anything you’d like the dance industry to improve on?

A: As an emerging artist on the London scene I am still trying to fully grasp and understand the natural cycle and flow. I think there is an incredible amount of creators and ideas cooking and more spaces to share work at different stages would be incredibly beneficial for the community as a whole.

I sit and have always sat in this middle space between the contemporary dance and commercial dance scene, and the merging of these two worlds is something I continually aspire to make happen.

Q: Could you tell me about yourself?

A: After leaving school I moved to Sydney to complete full time training at Brent Street Studios, completing a diploma in elite performance focusing on ballet and contemporary. In 2013 I continued my training under Sarah Boulter at Ev and Bow Training Centre before beginning my career with a touring contemporary production with Lucy Doherty in 2014.

From that point I worked for Opera Australia as dance captain for their Sydney Harbour production of AIDA, and toured nationally and internationally in 2015-2017 for two productions with The Dream Dance Company.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel and work through Hong Kong, London and Europe before moving to London in 2018. After moving I’ve worked in TV (BBC’s The Greatest Dancer), stage and film productions and have been fortunate enough to work with the likes of Belen Leroux and Lukas McFarlane.

Alice Robinson’s ‘Does it Matter in the Dark’ premieres 02/11/19 and 03/11/19

For a little taster of ‘Does it Matter in the Dark’ check out this snippet – and if you want to see more you can get your tickets here. Check out Alice’s Insta to keep updated on her work!