On the Couch with Phillip Adams

Phillip Adams oncWho is Phillip Adams?
I’m a provocative, attention-seeking child with lots of ideas about the world. Growing up in Papua New Guinea – an exotic paradise, and starting dance at the age of 5 set the stage for a flamboyant career as a dancer, choreographer and director.  I come from the 80s Melbourne culture and like all those from that generation, we still love attending opening nights and are captivated by what’s next on the program. I’m also a dog owner.

What would you do differently to what you do now?   
I should have invested in assets earlier … but I would not change a moment of the crazy whirlwind life I have had: from living in New York as a young dancer to being deeply inspired by the artists I collaborate with in and out of the studios, theatres and galleries across the Melbourne arts scene today.

Who inspires you and why?
I make time in my calendar to lecture in contemporary dance at the Victorian Collage of the Arts where I was a graduate myself. I find endless inspiration in connecting with the students and their ambitions. Being a part of the VCA Alumni is an integral part of my creative life in Melbourne as I continue working physically and performing into my 50s.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
For a start, I would eradicate bad design based on the superficial optimism of engineering human desire. Good design is critical and identifies problems and is psychologically healthier for mankind and the environment. Low coast housing does not have to look like a Truman Show of suburban tragedy. Aside that, on the political front, the Liberal government’s policy against same-sex marriage is outright preposterous. Dear Tony Abbott, I am an artist and a homosexual. We have nothing to celebrate together as you have so clearly demonstrated how much you under-value my worth and the importance of Australian culture. I would change you Mr. Abbott, in a moment to make a difference to the world. 

Favourite holiday destination and why?
My house. I live in an original 1960s home in Caulfield North designed by Dr. Ernest Fooks. I’m obsessed with mid 20th Century architecture. I drive up in my Peugeot 504 and enter the crazy paving entrance hall, stepping into the floating central courtyard and it feels like I just landed in Palm Springs, California. It’s the dream vacation available through the doorway of my house in true international style. I also dream of a real holiday in the Maldives, landing by seaplane. I’m a sucker for nostalgia.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
How to choose! Melbourne has an addiction with culture and attractions, with so many doorways that lead to another on a merry-go-round of changing rooms and new labels between up-a-staircase of shop fronts and imaginations ready to serve and distract you with its clientele food and interiors. I love a dash into Christine on Flinders Lane to show any lady of style a handbag collection to die for.

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading B is for Bauhaus by Deyan Sudjic. It tells you everything from Authenticity to Zips. It’s an essential a tool kit about what makes a Warhol a genuine fake; the creation of national identities; the mania to collect. And I have to say I am an addict when it comes to art. It’s also about the city as seen from the rear view mirror of Grand Theft Auto; digital ornamentation and why we value imperfection.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m all over the music of the Torres Strait Islands. I’m premiering a new work for Dance Massive Festival at Arts House this week called Kingdom. I’m studying the sounds, voices, masks and dancers from the Indigenous cultural histories of the Torres Strait islands. I’m transfixed by the tribal rhythms and movement in the songs. Aside that, I’m embarrassed to say a smorgasbord of 80s pop: Ok – who doesn’t have it on their IPhone if you’re over 40, well… actually 50… gulp.

Happiness is?
Modernism, dachshunds, eggs on toast and my boyfriend.

What does the future hold for you?
I’m headed towards establishing a new home base for my company in the near future. What it looks like is a ‘grey area’ somewhere between two cultural containers: a black and a white box armed with a truck-load of toys (the proper weapons of a visual artist) and my quintessential queer self to play with it all. I see it as a celebration of all that I love: acquiring new skills, sounds, communities, architects, films, unfashionable trends that crawl from low to high culture and anything else I can salvage from the rubbish tip of the arts.  It’s a place to curate my interests for Melburnians and anyone else who cares to join us.

Phillip Adams is the founder and Artistic Director of BalletLab, forming the company upon his return home from New York in 1998. Phillip is a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts and his performing arts background spans a 25 year career in contemporary dance.

Phillip lived and worked in New York for a decade after being awarded the ANZ International Fellowship Award in 1988. He was a member of several leading dance companies and worked with many independent choreographers including BeBe Miller, Trisha Brown, Irene Hultman, Sarah Rudner, Amanda Miller, Donna Uchizono and Nina Wiener.

More than a decade on, his achievements and qualifications cover a range of creative ventures including commissions, touring, awards, residencies, mentoring and a highly regarded body of artistic works. He is regularly commissioned by Australian dance institutions and universities, and teaches workshops nationally and internationally.

Phillip has been commissioned by several leading dance and theatre companies including The Australian Ballet, Arena Theatre, Chunky Move, Back to Back Theatre, Guongdong Modern Dance Company (China), Dance Works Rotterdam (Nederlands), City Contemporary Dance Company (Hong Kong), Tasdance, Sydney Mardi Gras and One Extra Co.

Phillip’s latest work, Kingdom will be presented at Arts House Meat Market: Wednesday 18 – Sunday 22 March as part of Dance Massive. For more information, visit: www.artshouse.com.au or www.dancemassive.com.au for details.

Image: Phillip Adams