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Australian choreographer takes out Best Work award at the UK’s Brighton Festival.

BY Geoff Sirmai Watchdog | 27-Jun-2012
Fresh from making two new works for the London Cultural Olympiad, Parker has just returned to Australia with a coveted Argus Angel Award given ‘in recognition of artistic excellence at Brighton Festival and Fringe.’ That, plus critical acclaim in the UK and France and a trio of new shows means the dance world is pretty much at his feet!

It’s been quite a year already for Parker whose own dance company is just 18 months old.

He was commissioned to make two new outdoor works for London’s Cultural Olympiad: SPILL for DanceXchange and the International Dance Festival of Birmingham and TROLLEYS for the Without Walls Consortium. SPILL, a robust and high energy outdoor work premiered on May 8 to critical acclaim and will play in 46 playgrounds across the West Midlands over three months. Featuring four multi-skilled dance and physical theatre artists, SPILL has also been commissioned as a ten part series via the BBC’s free to air digital network.

Meanwhile, an outdoor street ballet for five supermarket trolleys, was created for London’s C-12 Dance Theatre. It premiered last month at Brighton Festival and took out the Argus Angel Award for Best Work. TROLLEYS will play five other festivals including Greenwich & Docklands at Canary Wharf. Both works were composed by Aria-Award winning Sydney composer Nick Wales (Sarah Blasko, CODA). Image: Irven Lewis

2011 saw Shaun Parker’s Australian major festival hit Happy as Larry tour across the United Kingdom to ten venues including sold-out seasons at London’s prestigious Sadler’s Wells and the Brighton Dome before touring – to critical acclaim, sell-out performances and standing ovations at the Total Danse Festival in La Reunion, France.

Back in Sydney, he is now busy rehearsing for a NSW tour of his highly acclaimed work The Yard, featuring 33 teenagers from Western Sydney Catholic Schools and inspired by William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

The students are part of the Diocese of Parramatta's creative and performing arts initiative, CAPTIVATE, and have been working with Parker for over three years to develop this unique, gutsy and groundbreaking piece of professional theatre.

The Yard depicts the daily reality of conflict and division, the tension and humour of life as experienced by these students, and deals with everything from bullying and peer pressure through to learning the latest street dance moves off Youtube. Ultimately they find unity in the diversity of culture, gender and ethnicity that pulsate in the playground.

Shaun has drawn on the cultural performance traditions of students for his choreographic inspiration, with many from different cultural backgrounds, including newly arrived immigrants from Sudan and Nigeria.

The production was a hit with the critics at its preview Seymour Centre season in 2011 and now is set for a NSW tour including Riverside Theatres in Parramatta. The work has already garnered strong interest from International Children’s Festivals!

Parker says this has been one of the most uplifting and rewarding experiences of his artistic career. “These kids are raw, talented and truly exceptional artists. It’s a thrill to work with them!” Set to an electro acoustic score by Nick Wales, the performance fuses hard-hitting contemporary dance with break dance, locking and popping, tutting, krumping and jerking - forms of dance found on the streets and school-yards of western Sydney.

“Shaun Parker is particularly adept at revealing and nurturing the individual skills and unique presence of each of his performers” - The Australian Stage March 2011

"The Yard is both joyful and poignant, expressing a living contemporary dance language....a standout performance" - Dance Informa May 2011

THE YARD – season dates

Shaun Parker & Company kicks off its NSW tour in Wollongong on June 27 before heading north:

  • Illawarra Performing Arts Centre Wollongong June 27
  • Riverside Theatres Parramatta August 28-29
  • Northern Rivers Performing Arts Centre September 3
  • Glasshouse Port Macquarie September 5