about ‘The Heritage Collection’

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Salome - with Josef Brown, Tracey Carrodus & Bradley Chatfield (photo ©Lois Greenfield)About ‘The Heritage Collection’
Philippe Charluet (Filmmaker, Web Architect)

What a journey it has been, what a fascinating road ahead it is…

We officially started The Heritage Collection when Sylvie Mutschler – from Switzerland (!) – became our first donor two years ago and allowed us to embark on this exciting project. Further preservation of the Collection was then made possible due to the initiative of Julian Knights, Chair of the Australia Council’s Major Performing Arts Panel and a former Chair of Sydney Dance Company, and generous support from Dr Kristine Dery and Tom Dery, Julian and Lizanne Knights, Andrew Messenger,  Rowan and Annie Ross (matched by the Macquarie Group Foundation), and  Joe Skrzynski AO and Ros Horin (The Sky Foundation).

But of course, it started quite a few decades ago… As a filmmaker, I have been privileged to be part of the Sydney Dance Company’s incredible history, almost from its humble beginning, for well over 30 years. During that time, Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon build an artistic language that put Australia on the world map creating, from scratch, the new genre of contemporary dance. Let’s remember, nothing of the sort existed before them in this country. They took with them a myriad of artists (over 150 dancers), creatives and composers, nurturing them into well-established and successful creators and performers to this day.

I have been privy to be part of this creative period and process, and have filmed the artists at work in a number of documentaries, have filmed many of the productions for both posterity and television broadcasts, and from time to time, made films and audio-visual materials that were integrated within stage performances.

With the help of Janine Kyle, the image ‘guru’ of the company for many decades, I kept everything (films, tapes, documents) as I believed, as both witness and participant, these precious archives were not only culturally significant but also historically precious to this country.

Over two years, everything was pulled out of storage and came to life, again, in the editing room. Many of the productions filmed were only edited in part, mainly for promotion, over the years. It meant that shows, professionally filmed (some with up to 6 cameras), were never fully edited together. This footage also was recorded on a myriad of video formats and was overdue to be brought into the 21st century of digitisation so that it would be kept for posterity. Also work recorded by others have been researched and obtained from various sources (ABC, Australia Council, other filmmakers, etc…)

So to date, the works featuring on this site have been edited together and digitised. It is also important to note that older works sometime need substantial restoring, ie digitisation does not only mean transfer to digital medium but important repair is also performed. Videotape medium was supposed to last about 12 years and some of these works are well over 25 years old.

Those completed works are now in the process of being preserved and physically archived at the National Film and Sound Archives (NFSA) in Canberra for future research or educational purposes. Educational institutions have already restaged works or included them in their curriculum, which, without the DVD’s in existence, would have proven really hard to re-create or study. These includes the Australian Ballet School, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) School of Dance, Sydney’s Academy of Music and Performing Arts (AMPA), etc…

Parallel to this this website has been built, showcasing as you will see excerpts for these works and providing further background with synopsis, choreographer’s and music’s notes, credit list, photo gallery, extra videos and links to reviews or essays. A Facebook page and Twitter feed gives updates to a growing audience.

As the above-completed works only represent a fraction of what has been created over the decades and we still have important works to edit: Tivoli, Beauty and The Beast; Ellipse; Free Radicals; Piano Sonata; Cut; Bard Bits; Afterworld; Late Afternoon of a Faun and segments from various Galas and Body of Work. We have also important works (previously edited) that need to be digitised – a time critical issue for most of them: King Roger; Soft Bruising; Wilderness; Homelands; Boxes; Shinning; The Protecting Veil; Shakespeare Dances; Daphnis & Chloé; Song of the Night; Vast; to name a few…

All of this material would also really profit by being put in context in a long form documentary which we are now pro-actively canvassing for which we now have a title – Dance Crash Blackbox, unlocking Graeme Murphy’s Heritage.

We have collected over the years captivating interviews with Graeme, dating right back from 1979. We want to film major conversations with him, some of his key collaborators, the composers, designers, dancers, filmmakers, the patrons and supporters, the critics, the audiences… and integrate it in an exciting feature documentary with excerpts of exquisite performances and documentary footage filmed over the years. We believe this will give the Heritage Collection perspective for current and future generations, a heritage that forms part of Australia’s important social and cultural patrimony.

Stay tuned for more info soon…