Two Zero By Quantum Leap Ensemble



‘Two Zero’ is a celebration of 20 years of QL2 Dance’s Quantum Leap ensemble.

Photo by Lorna Sim

QL2 Dance’s Quantum Leap is an award-winning contemporary youth dance ensemble, based in Canberra. Quantum Leap presents original, thoughtful and challenging productions that excite their audiences.

The 2018 production TWO ZERO will continue QL2 Dance’s track record of creating new, powerful dance theatre performed by young people, for all audiences. Celebrating two decades of youth dance from Canberra’s Quantum Leap contemporary youth dance ensemble, and looking at the next 20. A long time − where will we be? Does looking back help us imagine the future? Does looking forward 20 years help us be in the present? 20 years ago the first Quantum Leap ensemble was brought together: to learn, to create, to perform. They are now all over the world, many doing great things in dance, and many others taking that unique experience into other things. Now we are bringing back alumni as choreographers to consider both the past and the future − to create a brand new work with a brand new Quantum Leap ensemble, as well as revisiting highlights from Quantum Leap over the years. What will Quantum Leap dancers be doing in 2038?

Canberra Theatre Playhouse. August 9 – 11

Book your tickets from


KICK-OFF: Free boys taster class 25 March!


Our first taster class was such a success! Come and join us for round number two!!

Boys: Defy gravity. Take risks. Jump high. Move. Get up there. Make it your own.

2 hours of intense dance for boys aged 13-20.

Learn some skills, practice some moves, make your own dance.

Tutors: Steve Gow, Alison Plevey.
2pm–4pm 25 MARCH 2018
Gorman Arts Centre, Braddon
Book now:

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All of the above… all at once. Quantum Leap: do it.

[ED: Penny Chivas was one of the participants  in our original Quantum Leap ensemble in 1999: performing On the Shoulders of Giants  at The Street Theatre. She is now… well read on!]

Dance artist
Graduate 2004 Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
2005 Victorian College of the Arts
Independent dance artist…. all of the above…
….all at once…..

When I trace back down this path through dance, it starts with childhood at my local ballet school, followed by several years with the inspiring, challenging and nurturing Quantum Leap in Canberra. It continues on to tertiary dance education with some phenomenal teachers, makers and artists in their own right.

“Lone Wolf” by Lyra Theatre, directed by Jo Timmons for Edinburgh Fringe 2017. Penny Chivas longside local 13 year old schoolgirl – Sandy. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

And it continues to the post graduating blues, realising that teaching at a Melbourne ballet school wasn’t for me, despite the school accepting and even encouraging my progressive ways of teaching ballet. I felt stuck: I wanted to keep dancing, but I also wanted to keep growing.

On a whim… really… I got a ticket to Toronto, Canada. My former housemate in Perth, an actor, had spent a year in Canada and said it was “the best thing you could do for your career”. So I did – taking a year in Melbourne to save the money I needed (working as a barrista, life model, toy-train driver at Myer, ballet teacher).

Jumping into as many classes as I could in Toronto, with the aim to make friends, and of course experience new teachers, new ways of moving, and thinking. New York was close enough to visit several times – to Movement Research, Dance New Amsterdam… anything I could get my hands on. In Toronto I worked with choreographers such as Karen Kaeja, Heidi Strauss and Pam Johnson… and spent a great deal of time studying and learning about contact improvisation, Skinner Release and Butoh as well as taking classes with some world-renowned yoga teachers. I  absorbed a great deal of “modern” dance techniques, contemporary barre classes and Graham technique. (Here: dancer, dance teacher, soap-maker, life model, waitress, and swapping ballet classes for delicious food.)

On a holiday from Canada I fell head over heels in love, with Mexico. I vowed to return and learn Spanish, and have now visited seven times, partly because of a connection I made with an actor, Nicolas Nuñez, who is credited with bringing Jerzy Grotowski’s work to Latin America, and his wife, Eva de Keijer, who’s eminent in Mexico City’s dance world. With Nicolas I have trained in his unique brand of psychophysical theatre, which draws on indigenous Mexican as well as Western theatre traditions, which feeds into my dance work in new and unexpected ways. I have returned many times to both study and to teach Contact Improvisation and Instant Compositional work in this incredible country.

The two years I spent in Toronto were both exhilarating and challenging, but in the end I found that being unable to access medical care, apply for arts grants or welfare took too much of a toll. Time to move again, to the UK to be precise, where I have extended family, and where I could gain a five year ancestry visa.

So, after a stint back in Melbourne to earn some money, I jumped on a plane to Britain, ending up in Glasgow. Why Glasgow? London does have an allure, with all the big names and lots going on, but it seems like most dancers (and actors etc.) are drawn there, so it’s easy to get lost there, and expensive to live. In Glasgow the pace of life is slower, and the arts world smaller, meaning that I’ve met and worked with people across a multitude of theatrical forms. From theatre companies like Mischief-la-bas, Theatre Cryptic and Lyra Theatre to Scottish Opera, as well as choreographers and dance companies such as Ian Spink, Plan B and Stillmotion Arts.

In Glasgow I co-founded and directed with Tom Pritchard, a community arts organisation called @TheGlasgowJam, and we were funded by Creative Scotland to mentor people to lead contact improvisation and somatic work. I teach contact improvisation across the UK and internationally, at jams and at universities, and I’ve toured to China twice with Stillmotion’s ‘We Dance, Wee Groove’, an interactive show for children.

“We Dance, Wee Groove” by Stillmotion, Shanghai 2017. photo by Brian Hartley

Recently I taught at the Invisible Centre of Contemporary Dance (ICCD) in Tehran, Iran and it is incredibly scary and also so rewarding to teach dance in a country where dance is forbidden. There people put themselves literally on the line to grow the dance scene in the country. Sometimes, when I feel weighed down by all the administration and grant writing I have to do, I remember that dance is both a powerful political tool and a way of helping people to be free in their bodies.

BUT – I’m a little fish in the much broader scheme of things. I love to go study with a teacher by the name of Julyen Hamilton in Europe who teaches Instant Composition, and feel there is so much to learn, to wonder at, and a reminder that being an artist really is about life-long learning.


And that’s me, somewhere in the middle of all this, somehow threading it all together – performance, collaborations, teaching, administration and teaching yoga. Somehow looking up to other artists, and yet supporting others.

I wouldn’t do anything else. But it asks all of me… and gives all of me back.

Quantum Leap – the friendship, the fun and the foundation it gave me in dance has been phenomenal, and even now I continue to reflect upon my time there. I can’t recommend it enough – go there, be challenged, learn a whole lot. It was amazing. It is amazing and will continue to be so. Do it.

Penny Chivas

Welcome Mary Kendell, QL2 Dance’s new General Manager

Mary Kendell. Photo: Lorna Sim

Chair of QL2 Dance, the Hon Richard Refshauge SC, today announced the appointment of a new General Manager, Mary Kendell, to replace the outgoing Gary Barnes who will retire this month.

Mary says:  “I have worked in the non-for-profit arts sector for almost a decade.

From a very young age I became aware that my set of skills was strongly focused in Maths and working with numbers, while my interest and passion is deeply embedded within the arts. So it was quite apparent to me that to make the best of my talents, I should follow a career path in business management; but in order for me to maintain interest and drive in my career, only a job supporting the arts would satisfy.

Initially, I  applied for the position at QL2 because I was seeking an opportunity like this for myself — it combines what I am really good at with what I am passionate about.  Every career move that I have made was in search of this opportunity. However, this has now become something deeper,  something more meaningful. As I learn more about QL2,  the wonderful people who make QL2, its vision and the delivery of this vision, I understand better what I am a part of now.

I am extremely proud and excited about working at QL2.  My hope is to learn from Ruth and to support her in this quest to develop and empower dancers and dance-makers.

I thank the board for listening to me and offering me this wonderful opportunity.

Lastly, I  would like to publicly thank Gary for the wealth of knowledge and wisdom he has been trying to transfer to me.  Your passion and commitment are incredibly inspiring.  It will be an incredible challenge trying to fill your shoes but I am sure you already knew that. I am sad to see you leave, I  wish I could have worked with you,  but I hope that you will never be too far.”

Artistic Director Ruth Osborne: “In welcoming Mary into our wonderful organisation, I look back to consider where we have come from and where we are now.  It is significant for QL2 Dance to be entering a new era in appointing Mary as our new General Manager.  The Quantum Leap ensemble is in its 20th year and QL2 as a youth dance organisation is in its 12th.  Gary Barnes has worked beside me through all this time and has been crucial to our development, success and longevity.

Mary brings her own skills and experience to the role of GM and it will be exciting to see what her new perspective will have on us — staff, teachers, choreographers, dancers, parents, partner organisations and colleagues.

Welcome Mary!”

(L-R) Artistic Director of QL2 Dance Ruth Osborne with new General Manager Mary Kendell

The full announcement from QL2 Chair Richard Refshauge follows:

“I am delighted to announce that, after a careful consideration of impressive candidates for the position of General Manager, the Board of QL2 Dance has appointed Mary Kendell, formerly the Office Manager of the Canberra Glassworks. Mary brings a significant level of finance experience and qualifications, and a passion for the creative arts which will serve QL2 Dance well. The Board and staff look forward to working with Mary to continue the delivery of QL2 Dance’s substantial contribution to youth dance practice within the Canberra community and the nation more broadly, as well as the ongoing support and opportunities for independent contemporary dance practice in Canberra.

Richard also paid tribute to Gary Barnes, QL2 Dance’s long time – indeed, only – General Manager.  Richard said, “We are sad to see Gary depart; he has been a critical part of the success of QL2 Dance, always maintaining a high degree of excellence in administration that has resulted in the most effective delivery of our programs. His support for Ruth Osborne has been exceptional and his servicing of the Board has been of the first order.  We trust that we will be able to continue to have his support and, where needed, his expertise and wise counsel, but wish him and his partner, Yuko, every success in this next stage of their lives.”


A little bit flashy: Alison @NPG

Ed: Alison Plevey’s Australian Dance Party is Company in Residence at QL2 Dance — sharing spaces and experiences with our young dancers, and creating great dance in unsual places.

“We have kicked off the creative adventures for Australian Dance Party in 2018 with a little bit of red carpet.

Leaning into the cross arts, fun, social elements of the Party, I have been lucky enough to lead the development of a quirky short dance work entitled In a flash. The work references the current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery “Starstruck: Australian Movie Portraits”, and aims to expand the audience experience of the gallery and enable an important cross arts dialogue.

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