Interview: Stephanie Lake talks about all things dance in the lead up to her show Pile of Bones

Coming up in a couple of weeks is a brand new work by Australian choreographer Stephanie LakePile of Bones is a visceral and eccentric choreographic and audio-visual exploration of the intricacies of our closest relationships. Before we see this work come to life, we had a chat with Lake about the need to self-fund in the arts, and how Australian dancers compare to those overseas.

I LOVE the sound of this new show of yours. What themes does it explore and how are you delivering them through movement?

Thank you! I’m excited about this show. Pile of Bones explores themes of nurture, suppression, love and mutation. We’re also looking at the uprising of inner demons and angels and their influence over our actions. The show starts from the smallest, quietest physical starting point – the dancers are literally tangled in each others limbs like a pile of bones – and gradually over the course of the performance all of the elements – the dancing, sound, light and costume – become larger, more complex and loud, reaching peak intensity by the end of the show.

I saw you have a Pozible campaign to help fund this work. Have the arts gotten to this point where funding is next to impossible to get, and you have to source it on your own?
Funding is very competitive in Australia. We’ve been fortunate to have great support from our presenting venue Arts House and also from the Australia Council for this show, but I was unsuccessful with other grant proposals sadly and it put a black hole in our budget. We launched a Pozible and Australian Cultural Fund campaign, and have had fantastic support from the community, friends, family and arts lovers. It’s incredibly affirming to be so supported by the larger community and to know that there are many people out there who value the arts and want shows like this to happen.

Do these kinds of campaigns work in building a closer connection with those who are as passionate about the work as you are?

Yes absolutely. It helps to raise awareness about the show itself and the Stephanie Lake Company. It puts me in touch with supporters. I think people appreciate the chance to support new work and artists directly. Having said that, I hope we have more success in future funding rounds so that there’s less financial stress in the lead up to premiering a show!

What is the hardest thing about conceptualising a new work?
Clearly articulating what the show is and what it means before it’s been made. And also not being inhibited by doubt.

Have any bad ideas you’ve had that have been put on the back burner ever made a come-back and made you think, “Why did I ever toss that to the side?!”
Many times! Sometimes rejected ideas from past works creep into new shows and find their place. It’s all about context. I’m pretty dogged, if something’s not working I’ll keep at it and I’m not too shy to try “bad ideas” in rehearsals. That’s often where the gold comes from. And at the worst, you try a bad idea, it fails and you all have a good laugh.

You’ve worked a lot overseas creating new works. How do Australian dancers compare to those overseas?
Australian dancers are phenomenal. So articulate, strong and inventive. And generally so lovely to work with, very collaborative and generous in the creative process. But honestly I’ve loved every group of dancers I’ve worked with for different reasons, and I enjoy the challenge of working with dancers from backgrounds different to my own.

What is your take on being an Instafamous dancer and that being a platform for booking work, as opposed to a more traditional setting like a dance school, taking class and building your network that way? Do dancers need to change their tactic?
Is that a thing – Instafamous? I’m such a luddite, I only just joined Instagram so this is new to me. I’m sure being Instafamous is rewarding and ego-gratifying in it’s way but in my experience the rigour of serious training and building a career through performing and working with brilliant choreographers is immensely satisfying.

You’ve had a very successful career. What makes you fall in love with dance over and over again?
As a choreographer, it’s the magic of creating something from nothing and I love working with other dancers and artists, and experiencing the alchemy of collaboration. I love the “liveness” of dance and the way it communicates directly and viscerally with an audience. As a dancer, I love the rush of physical pleasure, I like to sweat and hurt and embody a choreographer’s vision.  The unique combination of mind and body makes dance enduringly fascinating.

Pile of Bones is on at Arts House from August 15-19. For tickets and more info, head here. 

Featured photo by Jeff Busby