An incredible experience with Kristina Chan and Amelia McQueen: Tanja Liedtke’s legacy

QL2 was honoured to host a Tanja Liedtke Foundation “Inspiring Dance” workshop in September. The Foundation’s purpose is to preserve the artistic legacy of Tanja Liedtke — “one of the shining lights of Australian contemporary dance”, to support the development of contemporary dance theatre and foster Australian/ European artistic connections.

The workshops are delivered by dancers who worked with Tanja, continuing the legacy of her work and working methods. 20 dance artists participated, mostly young members of our Quantum Leap ensemble (aged 15-18), plus young professionals. 5 of the partipants — Caroline, Natsuko, Nasim, Jessica and Ruby — reflect on the experience. [PHOTOS: LORNA SIM]

Caroline de Wan happy 2015 QL2 RecklessValour_portraits 001_12aCaroline “Without a long background at QL2 or even in contemporary dance, I was not familiar with the name Tanja Liedtke. Even without that knowledge, I was still incredibly honoured to be invited to participate in the Tanja Liedtke Inspiring Dance workshop. Three incredibly fulfilling and intense days later, I do not understand how she was not a household name.

The Tanja Liedtke workshop was run by Amelia McQueen and Kristina Chan, two dancers that worked with Tanja Liedtke during her life. As the first day started with a long session of yoga, I was confused as to what this workshop would entail. The three days included many tasks, constantly building each participant’s desire to dance. The workshop comprised of technique classes, challenging repertoire from Tanja’s piece Construct, and building of our own choreography, improvisation and performance level. As this was the first time I had been given the opportunity to create a duo completely from my own choreographic choices, I found it a challenge to remain in control and to see my own choreography on someone else’s body.

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The repertoire from Construct, led by Kristina Chan, was enjoyable to learn and we were all constantly amused by Kristina’s regular outbursts of “I used to be able to do this when I was young.” While there was challenging movement that the majority of us had never tried, we were all eager to try the difficult positions and rolls. The taught movement allowed me as a choreographer and dancer to try new movement which had been choreographed for a completely different body to my own, also allowing me to see new ideas for movement.

Inspiring Dance heavily focused on the idea of ‘performance’. We were encouraged to perform everything and to ‘not become internal’, something that as a generally shy person was difficult. The emphasis on performance aided in shedding fear of judgement, a strong deterrent in dance.

Having Alison Plevey and Jamie Winbank—both teachers at QL2—in the workshop with the other dancers was an extremely unusual but useful test. While Alison and Jamie are often the authoritative figures in our lives as we are their students, it was amazing to be able to play and experiment with movement with them, and draw on their experiences in dance. During the workshop, all participants were treated as equal, with no discrimination between ages or experience levels. All dancers were treated as artists in their own right, allowing us to develop our own work, performance levels and choreographic processes.

All of the work that we had put in over the three days then culminated into a showing that was performed for family and friends. We were asked to utilise all material we had worked with in order to create an improvised score for ourselves. These improvisations utilised a combination of the material and ultimately created movement and risks that we had never thought about before.

It was a truly incredible experience working with Kristina Chan and Amelia McQueen through Tanja Liedtke’s legacy. After the three days I was left with a sense of fulfilment and renewed vigour to experiment and create. The repeated motto throughout the workshop of “nothing is wrong” allowed all participants to push themselves to their limits and take risks never thought of before (I made my partner and myself scream at each other in my duo).

I would like to thank Kristina, Amelia, The Tanja Liedtke Foundation and QL2 for the opportunity to explore and question all aspects of contemporary dance.”

Ruby Ballantyne 2015 QL2 RecklessValour_tech 2 000_103aRuby: “The workshop was a really challenging and fulfilling experience, and I had a lot of fun working with my closest friends and two amazing artists. I got a lot out of the different improvisations tasks because each one made me use my senses differently therefore changing my movement each time.

The repertoire we learnt was challenging, fun and expanded my movement vocabulary. Creating my own work for the first time was very special also, as it has given me more confidence to create more movement on myself and others.

The whole experience was very special and it really meant a lot having the opportunity to work with such talented and professional artists.”

Jessica: “The Tanja Liedtke workshop was such an amazing, mind opening workshop. It was such a great experience to be able to work with such professional dancers and get treated with that same respect and that same expectation. The legacy that Christina Chan and Amelia McQueen are carrying on and creating from Tanja Liedtke’s love of dance was something very special and you really get that sense when you participate in this spectacular workshop. This workshop is something truly unique, in the best sense of the word, and something I can use for inspiration not just in dance, but in life as well.”

Natsuko Yonazawa 2015 QL2 RecklessValour_portraits 001_24aNatsuko: “During the three days of the workshop, we discussed many aspects of dance, we did a lot of different improvisational tasks and also, we learnt a small part of choreography from one of Tanja’s works Construct. We also watched a documentary about Tanja Liedtke’s life as a dancer and choreographer.

An example of an improvisational task we did consisted of trying to start and finish at the same time as the dancer you were improvising with. This was very difficult since we had our eyes closed and we found that we relied on our hearing most of the time and we tried to listen to the other dancer’s movements to keep the connection. We did many versions of this task. The first version was, two dancers were in the middle and the others made a large circle around them. Then the dancers in the middle improvised. Another version we did was that we had to reach a destination while still doing the same task. We kept building it up so in the end, we were trying to connect with several other dancers all at the same time.

This workshop was so inspiring and it was such an amazing experience to work with Kristina and Amelia. It was also great to work with dancers you have not worked with very much before and this was a challenge yet a fun experience. Also, being able to see, learn, get involved and continue Tanja’s artistic legacy was such an honour. I hope I will be able to be a part of this workshop again very soon.”

Nasim Patel happy 2015 QL2 RecklessValour_portraits 001_23aNasim: “The Tanja Liedtke Workshop was an exciting, yet crammed, 3 days of intense research and creating. As well as learning some of the detailed choreography from some of Tanja Liedtke’s works, the research into our own thoughts and experiences gave us a wealth of information on the process of creating. Being given the opportunity to create under the guidance of Amelia McQueen and Kristina Chan has taught us so much about different methods of choreography and understanding movement. This knowledge will certainly assist in future creative endeavours. The tasks were engaging, and gave us the chance to watch all the other Quantum Leapers explore their individual styles, and to examine how they work together. The workshop brought all of us much closer together as a group, as it was more than just an exploration of the self, but of others. What we have learnt in a very short 3 days is certainly applicable to many aspects of life, as well as just dance. I now look towards future opportunities with a sense of eager anticipation.”