A year after its New York debut, Lee Serle is starting rehearsals in Melbourne, Australia, on the latest adaptation of his contemporary dance work P.O.V.
The Australian dancer and choreographer created the piece in 2011 under the guidance of legendary American Trisha Brown for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Initiative.
“At the moment I’m in planning stage – a four-week development period – so I want to extend it and change bits and spend a bit more time nutting away at it. I didn’t have a lot of time to make the original piece.“
His challenge now is to adapt a site-specific work that was produced especially to be performed in Astor Hall, the grand foyer of the New York Public Library, to the North Melbourne Town Hall in Melbourne, the city where he lives.
Unlike Astor Hall’s voluminous interior and 19th-century, Beaux-Arts grandeur, the town hall is smaller but is nevertheless a noble, city landmark built in 1876 in the Victorian-classical-style.
“I didn’t want a theatre but another public building where the architecture was part of the focus as well. It’s not about any theatre magic or anything like that – it’s a much more pedestrian kind of piece.“
With funding stemming from his initial grant from the Rolex Arts Initiative, and other funds from Melbourne performing arts venue Arts House, P.O.V. will be on the programme of contemporary dance festival Dance Massive, Melbourne, in March next year.
Lucy Guerin Inc., the dance troupe of which he is a member, has commissioned the adapted work but he will perform it with two of the independent dancers who helped him woo the audience and critics in New York in November 2011.
P.O.V., abbreviated from “point of view" – reflects Serle’s vision for each audience member to experience something unique, depending on perspective and where he or she is seated.
He will maintain its rigorous structure and weighted moves leading to fluid, flow-on dance that reflects his Rolex mentor Trisha Brown’s iconic style but it will be expanded in form and length. The revised version of this inventive piece will include the same elements of voice and music as the New York work but Serle is yet to conceive other creative aspects.
“There may be an option of a new section to the work; the challenge is making sure there is cohesion with the existing work so it doesn’t seem tacked on,” he says.
Serle believes P.O.V. will travel well because of its universal message that “has the capacity to connect with anyone, anywhere” and his determination to stage it in another public space rather than a theatre.
While working with Trisha Brown, Serle lived in a Chelsea loft and often contemplated, from above, Manhattan’s linear pattern and the hectic pace of life in a metropolis.
“My initial idea was that the grid of stools in P.O.V. was a reference to living in New York, the grids that make up the city which is similar to Melbourne.
“My work was about the restriction of space and how we as humans negotiate our way through this in the busyness of our everyday lives. The piece starts at its peak intensity and basically de-crescendos down to almost nothing.”
Like the original, the centrepiece will be a grid-like formation of swivel seats, allowing audience interaction involving conversation and singing. One audience member was invited to waltz; another enjoyed a shoulder rub.
Since his Rolex stint, Serle has been busy dancing with Lucy Guerin Inc. and has just performed at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne in Weather, a highly visual and physical dance work that explores our relationship to the environment.
Serle was the first Australian dancer to be selected for the Rolex international programme and is mindful of its invaluable connections. These – along with a $60,000 Australia Council creative arts fellowship over two years - will see him developing his choreographic work from Melbourne, via New York and Lebanon in 2013.
He will join with acclaimed choreographer Tere O’Connor in New York, continuing his development of an evening length solo performance and has also been commissioned to create a work for the Lyon Opera Ballet alongside Lucy Guerin and William Forsythe.
Another highlight of the year will be to venture to Beirut, where he will embark on a residency at the Zoukak Theatre Company. This was facilitated through a friendship formed with Lebanese actor, writer and aspiring director Maya Zbib, a fellow Rolex protégée. “We were interested in what each other was doing and also culturally because we are from such completely different parts of the world,” says Serle.