about ‘The Heritage Collection’


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

We officially started The Heritage Collection when Sylvie Mutschler – from Switzerland (!) – became our first donor a few 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, former Chair of the Australia Council’s Major Performing Arts Panel and a former Sydney Dance Company’s Chair, 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 built an artistic language that put Australia on the world map creating, from scratch, this 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 over the years), 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, we kept everything (films, tapes, documents) as we believed, as both witnesses and participants, these precious archives were not only culturally significant but also historically precious to this country.

Over six years, everything was pulled out of storage and came back to life, again, in the editing room. Many of the productions filmed were only edited in part, mainly for overseas promotion or commercials, 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 works recorded by others have been researched and obtained from various sources (ABC, Australia Council, other filmmakers, etc…)

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 30 years old.

Some of those completed works have been preserved and physically archived at the National Film and Sound Archives (NFSA) 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… Performances have also been restage with The Australian Ballet and the Western Australian Ballet recently.

This website showcases excerpts for these works and provides further background with synopsis, choreographer’s and music’s notes, credit list, photo gallery, extra videos, scores and links to reviews or essays. A Twitter feed also gives updates to a growing audience.

As the above-completed works only represent a fraction of what Graeme and Janet have created over the decades and we still have important works to edit. We have also works (previously edited) that need to be digitised – a time critical issue for most of them.

We have collected, over the years, captivating interviews with Graeme Murphy, dating right back from 1979. We keep on filming major conversations with him and some of his key collaborators; the composers, designers, dancers, filmmakers, the patrons and supporters, the critics, the audiences… We believe this gives The Heritage Collection context to current and future generations, a heritage that forms part of Australia’s important social and cultural patrimony.

Stay tuned …