ReFINED a Rural Triumph by Company Dancer Phil Sanger

Published: 7 May 2014

ReFINED a Rural Triumph by Company Dancer Phil Sanger

On paper, the idea of visiting rural areas and performing in memorial halls and schools is not exactly the dancers dream gig but the Rural Arts’ Create Tour has, for two years running, stood out as one the most significant experiences of my career. Why might this be? Who knows, because it is actually a nightmare of a week in terms of workload; the 13 hour days comprise of early starts and late nights where there are no boundaries on work. We all do the rigging, the cleaning, the sound and our technicians even joined in the dance class.

At 6pm our youth company arrive beaming with excitement, 101 questions and infinite curiosities (understatement), they are generally overwhelming with enthusiasm but as every seasoned babysitter knows; its bloody hard work trying to get them do anything in an orderly fashion and so rehearsing can be something of a challenge. It sounds like I’m complaining, it is actually a great load of fun but the show hasn’t even started yet and I’m ready for bed.

And so the show begins, a deceptively gruelling program which is a fraction of the usual phoenix show but condensed in content also means condensed in effort, it becomes a high intensity, cardio work out presented to an audience in aesthetic form, in layman’s terms it means we are running a bloody marathon but smiling all the way.

When the show is over we meet the audience in a question and answer session and then politely ask them to bugger off home so that we can quickly pull apart the stage, load it back into the van and get back to our hotel in time to get last orders at the take away …. and of course at the bar.

The rural tour has a very generous helping of community spirit which is what art is really about; In the rural we see the effects of Dance and Art in a very vibrant way, we are performing so close to the audience that we seem to see an exchange, it seems that both performer and audience walk a mile in the others’ shoes; the rural really nurtures this compassion, understanding and appreciation for the experience.

In my first year I went out quite innocently – albeit ignorantly – thinking I was just part of some project to help the community but I came home having done heaps of work on myself; when a teenager shakes your hand and tells you how inspired he was it is a real game changer, and when you hear of how the project has ‘really lifted the child’s spirits’ then the motivation behind your ‘artistry’ changes.

In art we make room for the ‘other’ because if it’s not for them then what is it’s function.

“Is this the world that makes an artist of the entertainer?” Where meaningful experiences take us by surprise in seemingly unlikely places.

Dance isn’t always met with such hospitality and excitement but the support has allowed us to continue the exchange and so the visceral ‘fairy tale’ experience lives on and more people can be part of something that will change them forever.