Founded in 2010 by award winning artistic director and choreographer Shaun Parker, Shaun Parker & Company is an exhilarating and bold Australian dance company that has exploded onto the international dance scene. It creates critically acclaimed dance productions, which are renowned for their integration of stimulating choreographic forms, arresting musical scores and theatrical invention.
“We are based in the Seymour Centre, as the resident dance company there, and we have been creating mostly dance theatre works. We had a big feature in the Sydney Mardi Gras called King, and that was our last big show.” Shaun Parker tells Star Observer.
“During that time, I created the Queer Bites mentorship program, where I put out a call for queer artists, and we had 10 incredible local queer artist who came and worked together for two weeks. We talked together and made things.”
It was through Queer Bites, that Shaun would end up meeting three artists who would feature in a music video that Shaun himself would end up directing for openly gay Australian rapper JamarzOnMarz. But little did the group know, that the film clip for Tomorrow would go on to win Best Music Video and Best Director at the Sweden Film Awards and Best Director at the Prague International Film Festival.
“I was really thrilled when JamarzOnMarz asked me to direct the music video, because I believe in his talent as a young queer rapper with a really strong message. He is 22 and has passion and focus, and he works so hard. There is a socio-political message in his music. Through Queer Bites we supported the making of the music video, and we donated all our time just because we believe in him.
“In the hip hop world, they don’t embrace queer artists, because the culture can be sometimes a bit heteronormative. It’s also that the opportunities are sometimes not there for queer artists, they’re not given the same level of respect or promotion. JamarzOnMarz wanted it to be an abstract retelling of his high school experience, so Tomorrow turned into a fantasy of what he wanted he wanted his high school to be like.”
“It was very collaborative, and one of the most special projects we did this year. Overseas, people have just been going off on it.”
A major focus of Queer Bites is on ongoing mentorship that forges new collaborations and develops artist insights about generating live performance, with a focus on reflecting on the LGBTQI experience – something that is evident in the compelling video for Tomorrow. However, like many within the arts, 2020 has thrown its fair share of challenges in the ring for the Shaun Parker and his company. However, for every dark cloud as Shaun explains, there was also a silver lining,
“I think the whole notion of COVID has made them realise basically art and culture saves people. Every person who is trapped in isolation has been listening to music, reading a book, looking at artwork, watching Netflix. If anything good has come out of COVID it’s the awareness that culture is vital to understanding who we are as human beings.
“Still, people don’t realise what they get joy from, it’s like there hasn’t been enough awareness in the Australian culture about how important it is. That comes from the bottom and from the top, we need some people at the top who stand up and say, ‘art is fucking important’.
“Art needs to be bought in as a part of learning in a way which is as compulsory as English is, but there is still a resistance from the powers that be, and that needs to change.”
We conclude our interview, turning our attention to the year ahead, and it appears there is no stopping Shaun and his company as they move boldly forward striking new connections and collaboration with artists and audiences alike.
“In 2021 we have some touring happening around Australia with my other dance shows. But in terms of Queer Bites, I will be continuing my mentorship and we are doing some more workshops next year. What we are doing over the next two and half years is to keep working and putting out calls for new people to join the team, ultimately, we are going to put on a series of special performances leading into World Pride in 2023, it’s good to get started now so we have something to work towards.”
For more info on Shaun Parker & Company or the Queer Bites program, head to (https://www.shaunparkercompany.com/about-us/ )