Regional men dare to dance
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Ordinary blokes are stepping forward to do something extraordinary as critically acclaimed dance work The Beauty Index is set to visit regional towns in WA from 13 March.
The performance was first created in 2017 with men from Denmark and Albany. A Playing WA grant has made it possible for five new versions of the work to be made with men from each of the five towns receiving the tour.
Choreographer Annette Carmichael has a talent for taking fledgling dancers onto the stage and for men taking part in The Beauty Index, the chance to do something completely new in their hometown was an opportunity not to be passed up.
Take ‘Little’ Mick Rodan for example.
Little Mick was the only man who joined Annette and Denmark Soloist, Carl Heslop for a taster workshop in Moora last year. He unfolded his 6-foot, 7-inch frame out of the car, still in work boots and fresh from a hard day’s work. He made the 700km trip from the South Coast to Moora worth it within minutes, with his unusual talent for remembering choreography and amazing gracefulness.
‘Little’ Mick Rodan and Carl Heslop from The Beauty Index Moora. Courtesy Annette Carmichael Projects, photo by Nic Duncan.
When it later came time for Annette and her team to return to Moora for a week-long residency, the birth of a brand-new baby just weeks before didn’t stop Mick’s wife Katie from encouraging him to get back to dancing.
During the week of rehearsals, Mick arrived each day straight from work and was ready to get dancing. “Once you’re past a point of tired, you just keep going,” Mick said. “My body was sore after three days but by the end of the week, I was cranked! I was pumped! I could have danced forever.”
Not words you expect to hear from a country electrician.
We knew Mick’s wife had talked him into it, but we asked Mick why he signed up to dance for The Beauty Index.
“This is the complete opposite of what I do every day… this is the chance to learn something in a new way, not something written in a book. I feel like I need to do it. It’s like looking up at a mountain and deciding to climb it – it’s just something I need to do.”
‘Little’ Mick Rodan from The Beauty Index Moora. Courtesy Annette Carmichael Projects, photo by Nic Duncan.
Nkululeko Nkiwane, aka NK, is another bold bloke taking part in the Moora performance and he saw the challenge as liberating. When he came along to the first rehearsal, NK said he was just going along to have a look but that it gradually turned into a challenge which he could sink his teeth into.
“I was getting into it more and more, then mingling with the boys and just getting the flow,” NK said. Now, NK is looking forward to performing in front of the Moora community in March.
“If you get a chance to present yourself to an audience, it gives you the chance to do something amazing. If you can put a smile on someone’s face that is an achievement in life. I’d encourage others to try it and the liberating spirit attached to it.”
Nkululeko Nkiwane aka NK from The Beauty Index Moora. Courtesy Annette Carmichael Projects, photo by Nic Duncan.
Annette and her team are also taking The Beauty Index to Ravensthorpe, Harvey, Mandurah and Kalgoorlie with participating men from each town describing their own reasons for getting involved.
Harvey cast members Justin and Colin talked about their wish to be positive role models for their kids, Owen from Kalgoorlie said he enjoyed the freeing feeling of the movement and Gary from Ravensthorpe wanted to give back to the community that had supported him after a farming accident.
Almost every participant referenced themes around the positive mental health effects of getting involved with a project like this.
Amity Health, a leading community health organisation that delivers services across regional WA, also recognised The Beauty Index as an effective way to remove stigma around discussing mental health in the regions. “It is wonderful to see how The Beauty Index is pushing limits to allow men to explore their capabilities and capacity,” Amity Health CEO Robin Surridge said.
“When we were invited to partner on The Beauty Index we immediately saw the benefit of combining creativity, self-expression and community through dance. Opportunities for men in the performing arts in rural WA certainly don’t come around every day. We see the potential of this project to improve wellbeing not only for men, but the whole community.”
The men from The Beauty Index Harvey. Courtesy Annette Carmichael Projects, photo by Hadyn Jones.
Reflecting on the project so far, choreographer, Annette Carmichael said, “on stage, The Beauty Index explores the power of beauty to preserve our sense of humanity in the face of fear. It’s been amazing to also see these themes play out in the workshop space.”
“Every man on the project faces some amount of fear stepping onto the stage, but with the support of the people around them, they do it and create moments of extraordinary beauty. It is an honour to be with them throughout this journey.”
Annette Carmichael. Courtesy Annette Carmichael Projects, photo by Nic Duncan.
The Beauty Index is visiting five regional WA towns in March and May with touring performers from Denmark and local recruits from each of the towns working together to mount five very special performances.
The Beauty Index performances:
Saturday 13 March 2021 at Ravensthorpe Recreation Centre, Ravensthorpe
Saturday 20 March 2021 at Goldfields Arts Centre, Kalgoorlie
Wednesday 24 March 2021 at Moora Performing Arts Centre, Moora
Saturday 1 May 2021 at Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, Mandurah
Wednesday 5 May 2021 at Harvey Recreation & Cultural Centre, Harvey
The Beauty Index is a critically acclaimed work, with the Denmark performance in 2017 leading to a shortlisted nomination for a 2018 Australian Dance Award.
More information and tickets at: www.beautyindex.annettecarmichael.com.au
The Beauty Index is produced by Annette Carmichael Projects and supported through the State Government’s Royalties for Regions Program as part of the Regional Arts and Cultural Investment Program.