Gareth Hart is an independent freelance artist, choreographer and dancer with over ten years’ improvisational training and performance experience across Australia.
However unlike most dancers, Hart didn’t dance before walking. He wasn’t in dance shoes before school shoes, and he certainly hasn’t got any RAD examination certificates. His story is so much cooler than that.
Hart began dancing at the unusually late age of 21. He credits a lady by the name of Rebecca Hilton who inspired within him ‘an interest in [his] body’. Since that moment, Hart has actively sought further inspiration from workshops, mentors and extensive training. Along with arts and performance degrees from Deakin and Monash Universities in Melbourne, Hart has recently completed a Masters of Choreography at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA).
Hart’s work has taken him all over the world, including to the Netherlands in 2007 where he was awarded a secondment with Anouk van Dijk dance company (AvDdc), based in Amsterdam. Along with this and a plethora of choreographies, commissions, professional leadership opportunities and multidisciplinary works, Hart was awarded the role of Artistic Co-Director of the 2011 and 2012 CRACK theatre festivals as part of the annual This Is Not Art.
Hart’s creative process – one which has been fine-tuned over his extensive ten years – involves using improvisation as an investigative tool. It is the concept of “the phenomenology of performance” which fascinates Hart. This concept in and of itself may conjure up its own preconceptions or misconceptions. However, Hart himself puts it quite simply:
Why do you dance?
“Dance is weird. It’s alien. It’s abstract. That’s what I love about it.
I dance to offer experiences to an audience. I despise work that exists purely on an aesthetic level. So I dance in order to engage an audience, to ask them to be active in their role not passive, however profoundly or subtly that comes out in each work. I dance so that people may experience something different, altered in some way. Essentially I dance so that the people who share it with me (the audience) leave a venue in a different state of consciousness than when they entered. Perhaps they are peaceful, contemplative, excited, thoughtful or warm.
Oh, and also the human body is about three thousand times more exciting and stimulating than anything else I’ve found. So I dance so that I can discover more about who I am, who the audience are, and what we share together through performance.”
What this author finds most exciting is that as soon as you walk through the doors of a Gareth Hart piece, you are immediately welcomed with a warmth and welcome one might not ordinarily feel as an audience member. Hart’s productions are not flashy and certainly don’t have magnificent set pieces to leave you breathless, but be assured that a story will be told; it’s simply a matter of your own interpretation. Hart wants to share with you his experience, the journey of exploration he has undertaken in creating the piece.
When asked about his relationship with dance itself, Hart is quick to admit that he doesn’t necessarily see himself as a ‘good dancer’ in the traditional sense. He goes on to explain, “Dance allows room for complexity and confusion to be present, [and] to create performance that doesn’t ‘give you all the answers’. Quite like emotions.”
Hart uses his body to explore the relationship between one’s head and one’s heart, aiming at eliciting an emotional response rather than a passive experience. This is, by far, the key difference between a Gareth Hart production and your more traditional dancer or dance troupe.
Hart’s newest offering Ellipsis is one such experience whereby the audience is invited to join in the quest to explore the relationship between space and environment. Hart moves within a delicate web of filaments to an original soundtrack of harp music and soundscapes. The audience is treated to an intimate experience via wireless headphones – another way in which Hart seeks to completely immerse his audience in his work.
Ellipsis premieres at the Adelaide Fringe Festival from March 7th – March 11th at Queens Theatre. Tickets are inexpensive but the show is not to be missed. Adelaide welcomes Gareth Hart and all he has to offer, with open arms and the greatest anticipation.
Photos courtesy of Sarah Walker, 2011.