On the Couch with Rhiannon Newton

Rhiannon Newton AAR On the CouchWho is Rhiannon Newton?
I am a dancer and choreographer based in Sydney. My recent works draw attention to the ways human and their environments are thickly interdependent. My current base is on Gadigal land (Sydney) where I mostly make, perform, collaborate, teach and curate dance related things. This including caretaking the artist-run venue, ReadyMade Works, and the lecture-performance series, Talking Bodies.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I feel very lucky to be working in the arts right now. Despite the difficulty of this year, I sense there is a genuine hunger for gathering around ideas and coming together for shared experiences. I also feel feel lucky to be working in Australia at the moment. We are processing such important issues, climate change, the pandemic, Indigenous sovereignty, and it feels like the arts have a special role to play in leading and opening up these conversations. I mean if I did things differently, I would maybe go a bit easier on my body, so I had a few less aches and pains to deal with, but ultimately I am very honoured to be able to make work at the moment.

Who inspires you and why?
I find of a lot of energy and from the community of artists I work amongst in Sydney. In dance and performance you spend a lot of time inhabiting the ideas and movement of the people you work amongst and these things really shape how I think and what I make. I would have to say at the moment the team of people I am working with on Explicit Contents, particularly the dancers, Ivey Wawn and David Huggins, perpetually mesmerise me with their wit and sensitivity.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I’d like to think that most interactions are a chance to enact a politics that reflect the kind of world you’d like to live in. I try to take a moment to listen and sense the needs of a situation, before acting. When I’m making work I try not to get to fixed on how I’d like something to be or look, and rather listen to what the materials and energetics of the work seem to be proposing.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I guess I don’t travel a lot purely for holidays, but I really enjoy the opportunity to be in new places and engage with communities through my creative work. In February I am really looking forward to being on the West Coast of Tasmania for a decent amount of time. It’s really great to get to know a place and people through collaboration and making work.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I like to show off the good food and breweries in the cheeky back streets of the Inner West. People love being taken to somewhere that feels ‘local’ – and if the guests are international I always try and take them out to the beaches – usually Bronte or North Bondi.

What are you currently reading?
I’m on the second book in Octavia’s Butler’s series called the Parable of the Talents. The stories are so great and scarily close to our times – I can’t believe they haven’t been made into a major series. I’m quite into science fiction for the way it helps us to imagine versions of the world that are traceable to where we are now.

What are you currently listening to?
The 7am podcast has been a great companion through the past year. The length one episode usually gets my washing up done. I’ve also beengetting into Adrianne Lenker’s new album Songs. The work artists are making through the pandemic has an unusual sensitivity.

Happiness is?
These moments when you get to work amongst a team of artists and collaborators you admire and trust. I feel lucky to be supported by Campbelltown Arts Centre and Sydney Festival during this time, and the process is charged with a special energy that is maybe coming from the loss and uncertainty the pandemic has created in the arts sector.

What does the future hold for you?
Right now my attention is focused on the premiere of our show on 6 January in Sydney Festival. Beyond that I am hoping to take care with the things I put in place for next year. The lessons from the pandemic seem to be to be around not overloading oneself and creating more time for dinner at home with friends and time to read and think.

Rhiannon’s new work, Explicit Contents will make its world premiere at the Campbelltown Arts Centre as part of the 2021 Sydney Festival: 6 – 9 January. For more information, visit: www.c-a-c.com.au or www.sydneyfestival.org.au for details.

Image: Rhiannon Newton (supplied)