I spoke with Ruth Osborne now she is back from Taipei, where QL2 Dance teamed up with Perth’s Steps Youth Dance Company to perform, workshop, and participate in the Dance and Child International (DACI) & World Dance Alliance (WDA) joint summit.
The tour has been in planning since Ruth took three dancers to the last DACI conference in Jamaica, in 2009. This time around Ruth wanted to take more than just 3 dancers and through the collaboration with Steps she was able to do just that. Her team (admin and dancers) worked very hard this past year to get everything ready for this complex international dance summit.
10 dancers from Steps joined the 10 Quantum Leapers in Canberra for a week before Taiwan, working with choreographer James O’Hara to complete their performance piece “Scratch the Surface”.
On 12 July QL2 and STEPS arrived at Canberra airport to catch the earliest flight of the day, to arrive late at night in Taipei. A tired Ruth (who had stayed up all night packing) was grateful that they were arriving in Taiwan with a whole day before the festival started — a day spent recovering from the trip and sightseeing.
The dancers were pushed very hard throughout the festival. Everyone had a full-on schedule , from classes in the morning to performances late at night. In the afternoons the dancers were split into groups, doing a creative process, working with international facilitators. Ruth says “this was a great opportunity to work with other dancers from around the world.”
The schedule was tight — eg they had only 20 minutes to plot and dress run a 10 minute piece. And dancing in the 38° heat was even making the Taipei locals sweat. These demands can be quite a toll on the body, and learning to manage this was important for young dancers: “managing tiredness and actually being conscious of how you are physically is a really good learning curve for them”
The dancers were doing as many master classes they could, which meant getting up early and queuing up: there was a lot of competition for places, as there were a lot of people at the summit. Many assisted in morning taster classes, workshops, and being demonstrators for Ruth and Alice Holland’s lecture/demonstrations.
As a national organisation it was important for QL2 Dance to expand themselves overseas. DACI was an opportunity to get the QL2 name on an international stage and show what Australian youth dance can do. QL2 and STEPS were invited to perform in the Showcase alongside tertiary level dancers, getting even more exposure.
Ruth was proud of the result. She said that many people thought that QL2 and STEPS were “very impressive, mature and professional, especially for a youth dance company. Projects like this are important for showing funding bodies and others that taking our youth dance overseas is just as important as taking professional dance.”
At the start the two companies’ worked on opposite sides of the country, before coming together for the short intensive. Together the two companies enjoyed exploration, creating processes and finding the value in contemporary dance. The dancers being in similar companies found it easy to get along and work together. They were every excited to work together and even more excited to work with James O’Hara.
This was a return to collaboration between Quantum Leap dancers and Steps: last time was the 2001 project “Transdance 3091”, back when Ruth led Quantum Leap as part of the Choreographic Centre.
Steps was “her baby” before she came to Canberra — Ruth started Steps and was Artistic Director from 1988–99.
She now marvels at how her baby has grown. Alice Holland, who is now Artistic Director of Steps, was one Ruth’s students at age 5, and along with James O’Hara was one of the original Steps members. So for Ruth this was a touching collaboration.
QL2 is looking forward to working with Steps in the future.