Contact with Jack Riley



We are lovers of dance here at Leiden and are always on the look out for interesting new artists and engaging new performance works to go and see.

Contact is a new contemporary dance work made by Jack Riley in collaboration with a number of other artists working across multiple disciplines. Jack grew up here in Canberra before moving to Melbourne to study dance further at the Victorian College of the Arts. He recently returned to showcase his new work at the Gorman House Arts Centre before it goes on to be performed in the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

We caught up with him to find out more about this intriguing new performance.


Leiden: What was it like growing up dancing in Canberra?

Jack: The best thing about growing up dancing in Canberra is definitely being a part of QL2‘s Youth Dance Ensemble. I was with them from 2009 and did their major season for the next five years before I left for tertiary training at the Victorian college of The Arts (VCA). It was an incredible experience being able to dance for well-established choreographers and learning the methodologies of QL2, which for me was a combination of discipline and creative thinking in regards to the process of making dance.


L: What was your experience at VCA?

J: Dancing at VCA has shaped my dance practice and how I approach art and dance. There is a beautiful culture that they breed towards dance that is infectious, in the best possible way. It’s a three year course that gives you the space and time to really give yourself over to the art of dance and give you the skills required to pursue a career in dance. I’m very thankful for this experience and the people I have met along the way as I feel these people are the ones I will be working with for years to come.


L: Tell us a little about your practice? How do you approach making a work?

J: I love making work. It gives me a great deal of liberation and satisfaction to have the opportunity to bring to life my ideas through movement. My approach is simple, it starts out as an idea or vague feeling inside my mind and then I try to bring it to fruition with the bodies I have in the studio with me. Often there is a lot of improvisation that goes on throughout the process, a lot of filming and a lot of going back and forth doing something over and over again until you can distill it down to something that is rich enough to present.


L: What ideas are you exploring in your new show?

J: Contact explores exactly what it states, bodies and objects coming in and out of contact with each other. I try to reposition the audience to think differently about simple objects that we already know to view them in a completely seperate way, perhaps a ladder an ironing board, a chair. The work is probably not as narrative based as others however it moves through states of energetic modes that can be intense and even emotional, and aesthetic value is always considered. I don’t like to work with characters because I believe the body can say enough on its own without putting anything else on top of it, although as you will see, characterisation naturally arises regardless.


L: What is it like working with a live score?

J: It’s incredible to work with live sound, our sound composer Robert Downie is a wizard on the synth and can make just about any kind of sound you want. Working with him I feel I have more control over what we are putting on stage because he is in the room working with us from day one, he is a part of the work just as much as the dancers are. Robert and I have been working together for over a year now so the relationship is a mutual understanding of what he is capable of and what the work needs, I feel very lucky to have met him and I know this will not be the last project we work together on.


L: Tell us about the costumes?

J: The costume designer is another wonderful friend and collaborator I’m lucky enough to work with. Andrew Treloar is a multi disciplinary artist living and working in Melbourne and one of the biggest facilitators of my dance practice. He has worked with many different artists and companies in Australia and on this project with us, his designing factor has an edge of fashion and science fiction feel to it. Black is the palate that covers the work in a futuristic sense. Andrew is a wonderful person to work with, dedicated and loyal friend.


Emma Batchelor

Emma Batchelor

As well as a near obsessive interest in fashion, Emma is a former scientist, occasional contemporary dancer, avid reader and self-confessed cat lady (she has three). Emma lived in Leiden in the Netherlands as a baby and Leiden ought to have been her middle name had her mother thought of it at the time and not chosen Louise instead.

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