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ENTERTAINMENT: Dance show ballin’ on a budget
Choreographer Jonathan Homsey takes a journey back to the ‘70s with his latest show, Together As One, a three-act dance work saturated in the pop culture of Australia at the tail end of the Vietnam War.
Given the Chinese-born, US-raised Homsey only moved to Melbourne three years ago, creating Together As One represented a chance to engage with the history of his new home.
“I didn’t want to be an American working in Australia, being ignorant and just doing my own thing. Art is meant to be shared and you have to figure out ways to inspire your audience, so I wanted to look at Australian history,” Homsey told the Star Observer.
“I go to Pilates and see all the middle-aged women, so I started picking their brains about the time of Gough Whitlam – about how all their husbands and boyfriends were drafted into the Vietnam War. These kids were in the ‘70s, starting to open their minds and gain more freedom, then the government decided to pick them up and take them away.”
Each of the three short acts is set in a different day across the summer that saw Whitlam’s ousting from government. It was a time of rapid change for Australians, and coincided with the beginnings of the modern gay and lesbian movement.
“It has been slow progress, and of course as gay men we all wish it could be a bit faster. It’s really good to remember as gay men how far we’ve come – we have to see the positive and think about how far we’ve progressed,” said Homsey, who is himself gay:
“I had fashion designer parents and Bob Mackie Barbies as a child – I was born to be gay, basically,” he chuckled.
Together As One’s retro setting serves another of Homsey’s passions, finding new ways to produce environmentally sustainable art. He describes the show as ‘analogue and eco-friendly’ – what exactly does that mean?
“As artists, we often forget that when we put on a show we eat up all this energy, so I wanted to make a conscious decision to reduce our environmental footprint wherever possible with this show. It’s certainly easier said that done, but it’s snowballed into so many areas of the production,” he said.
“We’re using a lot of candles, which is of course an OH&S nightmare. We did a lot of hard work and I learned a lot about OH&S fire safety, and now we have a candlelit show. And all our clothes are made from recycled fabrics and used clothing – we didn’t buy any new clothes. We’re ballin’ on a budget!”
Homsey said he hoped audiences would be inspired by the simplicity and intimacy of Together As One – and perhaps take some of it back into their own lives.
The show is about living in the present moment. Right now everyone is on Facebook or Grindr or whatever tickles your pickle, but back then you could just arrange to meet someone for a cup of coffee at noon and that was it. The show is about stripping everything away and regaining that simplicity we used to have.”
INFO: Together As One, Fringe Hub @ The Warehouse, North Melbourne, Sep 20-22 and 24-27. www.melbournefringe.com.au