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

Restoring faith in the work: Eliza Sanders with “Pedal.Peddle”

ED: Eliza Sanders was part of many projects at QL2 before and during her studies at NZSD; and was the recipient of a Curated Residency at QL2 Dance in 2015.

“Hello world, here is my first ever blog entry. It’s long and rambly, as things by me tend to be. Although the idea of writing something people might read makes me feel sick, as usual, the things Ruth and Gary make me do tend to teach me a lot. This has been a very helpful process of reflection and self-evaluation as I try to find my feet as an independent dance creator.”

Eliza Sanders. PHOTO: Stephen A’Court.

Eliza Sanders, by Stephen A’Court.

I used the Curated Residency opportunity to produce and perform two shows of my new full-length solo work Pedal.Peddle. I created the work during the second half of 2014 while I was coming to the end of three years training at the New Zealand School of Dance. A few months before I returned to Canberra I premiered Pedal.Peddle in Wellington with the help of Battleground Productions.

For me, the purpose of this residency at QL2 was to learn about what it takes to produce and promote a show through my own production company, House of Sand, and to have the experience of remounting a work in a new space. I was also keen to bring what I had learned in my three years away back to Canberra, to share my experiences with the people who had supported me in my early training and my life before I moved.

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Youngest to oldest: Nasim’s QL2 journey

ED: Nasim Patel started with QL2 in 2011, and is now studying dance at VCA.

What QL2 has given me is more than dance training. QL2 taught me how to create, analyse, and how to free myself from critical thinking.

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I started with QL2 in 2011, in the junior project It’s All Good. I remember my first License to Move class, doubting myself every second beforehand but upon entering immediately felt at home. As soon as I left the studio, I told my auntie “I have to come back here.” I was hungry for a sense of what the company was giving me. More than just how to jump or roll or bend my legs in perfect alignment, it was a sense of working with others collaboratively and without restriction. The class was surrounded by boys I easily recognised as alternate versions of me, with varying degrees of experience. While working on It’s All Good, I realised how all the skills we were learning outside of class had assisted us, and the focus on creativity was clearly needed as soon as we were asked to create material within the project. Continue reading

sprouting new energy for new projects…

Ed: Alison Plevey is the recipient of  a Curated Residency at QL2 to support several projects across the whole of 2016.

“It has been an energised start to 2016, with many projects on the go in the studio and out. During Canberra’s busy arts festival time I have worked collaboratively with awesome local artists creating ‘Autumn Lantern‘ for Enlighten and ‘Sprout‘ for Art, Not Apart amidst commencing QL2 classes and ‘Connected’ Quantum Leap at the Playhouse rehearsals.

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Autumn Lantern at Enlighten Festival, was a joy to create and perform amidst a handful of great artists; violinist Michael Liu, dancers Olivia Fyfe, Debora Di Centa and Susanna Defraia and guitarist Tyson Jones. The costumes had us dipped head to toe in white and trimmed with illuminating hooped skirts — a huge component for the success of this piece. Thanks to Hemmi and Tanya Voges! Continue reading

Making their hearts sing: Ela & Jarrah at QL2

Why does Judy Knowles drive 100km each way to bring two children to QL2?

“I think most parents want nothing more than for their children to find happiness and fulfilment in life — to find what makes their heart sing.”

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“I have four children who all happen to have a deep connection to dance. It is a passion they all share and although within dance they have different interests, it is their primary creative outlet.

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Straddling transitions: a painter wants to sing, a sculptor wants to write poetry

ED: Dean Cross has been involved with QL2 for many years, as a dancer, teacher and choreographer. Here he writes about his life as an artist, across multiple genres and media. Dean has an exhibition opening in Canberra, 25 February — more details below.

Dean (2nd from right) in QL2"s Quantum Leap , 2003

Dean (2nd from right) in QL2″s Quantum Leap , 2003

Once upon a time citizens had their place and fulfilled the needs of the community around them. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker all had necessary skills passed from generation to generation, which were essential to the effective functioning of the village unit. Only very rarely did one stray from the path, and one did so at great risk to the social fabric. Fortunately however, that is not the world we live in today. Career is a fluid term, and none embraces this fluidity more so than artists.

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Soft Landing has consumed Tessa Broadby. What next?

EDITOR:  20/3/2014  – You can see Tessa and the rest of the Soft Landers in a showing and forum, Friday 21 or Saturday 22 March 2014 at QL2. Details here.

TessaAs I write this I am still completely consumed by the experience of Soft Landing. Because that is what my experience has been – consuming. Generally in a good way, but if not, in an interesting way.

When I arrived I was nervous. It had been a year since I’d graduated and while I’d been involved in a few projects over that year, I felt I was going into something totally out of practice – with both dancing and being involved in dance. That said…I was interested. Continue reading