The Tap Pack

Hayes Theatre Co, August 2

Jesse Rasmussen, Ben Brown, Christopher Horsey, Jordan Pollard and Thomas J Egan. Photo: Shan Turner-Carroll

Jesse Rasmussen, Ben Brown, Christopher Horsey, Jordan Pollard and Thomas J Egan. Photo: Shan Turner-Carroll

If you want to see some exhilarating tap dancing then look no further than The Tap Pack.

Jesse Rasmussen, Jordan Pollard and Thomas J Egan created the show as a vehicle for the tap-dancing prowess of themselves and their fellow performers Ben Brown and Christopher Horsey – and on this front it certainly delivers.

But even though the production has been in development for a while now, and had performances last year, the story they have written as a framework for the dancing still needs work.

Directed and co-created by Nigel Turner-Carroll, The Tap Pack opens with cocky Aussie busker Blue (Rasmussen) doing his thing to raise the funds to get to New York and meet his idols Fiveplay, a Rat Pack-style act he dreams of performing with. Rasmussen quickly has the audience clapping along.

In New York, Blue encounters Fiveplay, now reduced to Fourplay (yeah, we get it). Led by the hard-drinking Marty (Horsey), the sole surviving original member, the act is well past its use-by date. Blue could help them reboot their show, the other boys are excited, but Marty is resistant and, well……. you know how it turns out.

The plot is slight, the characters are fairly under-developed and the story is corny and predictable, with some silly sight gags involving a chain saw and some goggles as well as some slightly blue humour. There’s the germ of a great show here. The boys have plenty of charm and they can certainly dance, they just need a sharper, wittier script.

However, with a six-piece band led by musical director Michael Dench on keyboards, the music is hot and Brown delivers some strong vocals. But it’s the tight, terrific dancing that really kicks The Tap Pack over the line.

The show ends on a high as the boys bust out their best moves to finish with a spectacular, extended tap routine that sends the audience home happy. Fantapstic!

The Tap Pack plays at the Hayes Theatre Co until August 17. Bookings:

A version of this review appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on August 10

The Arrangement

Ken Unsworth’s Studio, Alexandria, July 16

Patrick Harding-Irmer, Anca Frankenhaeuser and Susannah Lawergren. Photo: Eamonn McLoughlin

Patrick Harding-Irmer, Anca Frankenhaeuser and Susannah Lawergren. Photo: Eamonn McLoughlin

Right up front I need to say that Anca Frankenhaeuser and Patrick Harding-Irmer – who together with Susan Barling and Ross Philip make up Australian Dance Artists – are close personal friends.

As a result, I haven’t featured or reviewed any of the wondrous work that they have done in Sydney over the past two decades. Now that I have my own blog, the time has come to rectify that, while declaring my connection.

Last week, in collaboration with eminent sculptor Ken Unsworth, composer Jonathan Cooper and The Song Company, Australian Dance Artists (ADA) gave seven performances of a production called The Arrangement, which a small invited audience (around 50 each show) was privileged to see.

The seeds for ADA were sown in 1993, when independent choreographer Norman Hall worked with four dancers from four different generations (Elizabeth Dalman, Harding-Irmer, Barling and Gideon Obarzanek) on a production called 4 Generations. (A history of the company can be found on their website

The four performers that make up ADA are senior artists (veterans, in dance terms) who have had long, prestigious careers in contemporary dance. Among other credits, Philip danced with Sydney Dance Company from 1977 to 1992, while Barling was a member of SDC from 1978 to 1991. Frankenhaeuser and Harding-Irmer performed for 15 and 17 years respectively with London Contemporary Dance Theatre during the 1970s and 80s.

Their experience brings an emotional depth to their dancing that speaks reams.

Since 2000, ADA has collaborated with Unsworth (now 84). Their productions – which are part-performance and part-installation, frequently with live music – are something of a mindf**k. Stunning visual images from the wonderfully whacky world according to Unsworth, which often have you feeling like you have fallen down a rabbit’s hole, combine with profound connections between the four dancers whose choreography is a response to both Unsworth’s imagery and the music.

Together, Unsworth and ADA have presented work at a range of different venues including the Art Gallery of NSW, Cockatoo Island and Unsworth’s studio in Alexandria, where he has created a stage and a small auditorium with three rows of church pews.

The Arrangement, which, like all their work was totally financed by Unsworth, features a newly commissioned score by Cooper for piano, cello, flute and clarinet. A song cycle with settings of texts by A.E. Housman, Federico Garcia Lorca, W. H. Auden, Barnabe Googe and Rainer Maria Rilke for six singers, the score also includes musical interludes.

With Roland Peelman, director of The Song Company, as musical director, the music is beautiful and well suited to dance.

For The Arrangement, staged at Unsworth’s studio, Unsworth dug a pit beneath the stage especially and moved a pillar to extend the stage width-wise.

The production begins with projections (AV design by Tim Hope) of the dancers’ faces. Unsworth then glides across the stage behind a black shape suggesting the back of a piano. With his long, silvery white hair gleaming in the lights, he turns his head from side to side like one of those galleries of clowns at the fairground where you attempt to throw a ball into their open mouth. Then, sounding a large tuning fork like a magician conjuring the show with a wand, the music begins.

The non-narrative production is full of arresting images and vignettes around themes of ascension and descent, levitation, love, consolation, the passing of time and the inevitability of death – at least that’s what I took from it. Unsworth has never been one to spell anything out.

Early in the production, a singer (soprano, Susannah Lawergren) rises angel-like from the illuminated pit beneath the stage through a trap door, disappearing through a hole in the ceiling, chanting “again, and again, and again”. Later she descends in a space-age looking bubble (pictured) and at the end of the production descends back into the pit.

The vocalists all have a fair amount to do while singing. Alto Hannah Fraser flies through the air on a swing. (Mathew Lynn’s portrait of Unsworth in this year’s Archibald Prize features the sculptor on a swing, referencing Fragonard’s famous Rococo painting The Swing). The six-strong vocal ensemble climbs a frame along the back wall of the stage and pass wine from glass to glass. An archangel-type figure in long golden gown with stick arms and legs (baritone, Mark Donnelly) is suspended over the stage from an overhead track.

Visually, as in all the collaborations between Unsworth and ADA, the tumult of images never ceases to surprise and delight, enhanced by Pamela McGraw’s costumes and Eddi Goodfellow’s lighting. Barling reclines in a quivering bed of flowers, Philip interacts with a leg and arm from a mannequin, Harding-Irmer hangs listlessly in a hammock while Frankenhaeuser clambours over him in cajoling fashion. A large doll crosses the stage on a wooden rocking horse as a baby’s cries fill the space and, in a beautiful moment using video, Frankenhaeuser appears to levitate.

The choreography is by the four dancers, with Hall as choreographic collaborator. One of the most powerful moments is a duet between Frankenhaeuser and Harding-Irmer. He stands on an illuminated ball, back to the audience. From behind him, Frankenhaeuser’s hands, arms and feet float and flutter in a dance of their own. Appearing at his side, her body seems charged with an agitated, buzzing energy, which she then plucks and flicks from her, channeling it into his body until his hands and arms start to shake as hers had done.

The duets between Harding-Irmer and Frankenhaeuser seem to speak of nurturing and symbiosis. Those between Philip and Barling suggest something spikier, edgier, more tempestuous and perhaps combative.

Without the budget of a big commercial production where hydraulics and computerisation make for fluid scene changes, some of the scenic elements judder, clank and bang but that is part of the charm of a production, hand-made with so much love, unfolding there for us, so close to us.

The collaborations between Unsworth and ADA are unique, idiosyncratic and special. There is an element of the weird and wonderful as well as the impishly playful, yet the work is underpinned at every turn by a sense of humanity and layered emotion. It is a shame these productions aren’t being picked up and given another life. I’m surprised festivals aren’t tuning in. As it is, Unsworth and ADA have already started talking about the next one.

* The singers from The Song Company also included Clive Birch, Richard Black and Anna Fraser, while Ollie Miller played cello, Lamorna Nightingale played flute and Jason Noble played clarinet.

Patyegarang, Bangarra Dance Theatre

Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, June 24

Jasmin Sheppard and Thomas Greenfield. Photo: Jess Bialek

Jasmin Sheppard and Thomas Greenfield. Photo: Jess Bialek

Patyegarang is a luminously beautiful work in its staging, its performance and the story it tells.

Choreographed by Stephen Page as the centerpiece of Bangarra Dance Theatre’s 25th anniversary year, it is the first Sydney story that the company has tackled – and what a fascinating “first contact” tale it tells.

The inspiration was the relationship between Patyegarang, a 15-year woman of the Eora nation, and Lieutenant William Dawes, an astronomer, linguist and mathematician who arrived with the First Fleet and became the colony’s timekeeper. Patyegarang befriended Dawes and taught him her language and about her culture – which he detailed in his diaries, rediscovered at the University of London in 1972.

In creating this 70-minute work, Page successfully avoids literal story telling. Instead the piece unfolds in haunting, almost dreamlike fashion through 13 scenes, which take different themes that evoke the spirit of the land and people before the arrival of the early settlers, their culture, the notion of time, conflict, intimacy, resilience etc.

The choreography is lovely, combining the grounded traditional movement now so closely associated with the company with contemporary dance. The contrast between the movement for Dawes and the other indigenous men could have been highlighted a little more initially but there are some stunning solos, duets and ensemble numbers.

Jasmin Sheppard is radiant as Patyegarang, dancing with a lithe, gentle, expressive fluidity. A tiny figure next to guest artist Thomas Greenfield who is a strong, striking presence as Dawes, they are gorgeous together. Elma Kris and Waangenga Blanco are also standouts.

The Bangarra ensemble in Patyegarang. Photo: Jess Bialek

The Bangarra ensemble in Patyegarang. Photo: Jess Bialek

Jacob Nash’s stark, rugged set, Jennifer Irwin’s costumes and Nick Schlieper’s richly coloured lighting make for a work of stunning visual beauty, while David Page’s score, which combines traditional, classical and electronic music with spoken words, has a mesmerising, pulsing quality.

Dawes built up a relationship of trust with the local Aboriginal people. He wanted to stay in Sydney but was ordered home after he defied an order to take part in a punitive expedition against them. Patyegarang’s grief as she lies with his red jacket over her head is here a deeply moving image.

Richard Green, a Dharug man who acted as the cultural advisor for the project puts it simply: “Dawes was different, he listened.” Patyegarang intimates what might have been had there been more people like him. A beautiful work.

Patyegarang plays in Sydney until July 5 then Canberra July 17 – 19, Perth July 30 – August 2, Brisbane August 15 – 23 and Melbourne August 28 – September 6.

Lucinda Dunn’s Swansong

Lucinda Dunn in one of her Manon costumes. Photo: Lynette Wills

Lucinda Dunn in one of her Manon costumes. Photo: Lynette Wills

Lucinda Dunn was dancing the coveted role of Manon in Brisbane in February when she knew instinctively that the time had come to end her long, brilliant career with the Australian Ballet.

Last month, she announced that after 23 years with the company she will retire at the end of the current Sydney season of Manon, giving her farewell performance on April 23.

Dunn is the AB’s longest reigning ballerina having joined its ranks in 1991 at age 17. Promoted to the top tier of principal in 2002, she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in January for service to the performing arts through ballet.

She admits that the decision to retire wasn’t easy. “It was hard deciding when to go. It was always going to be difficult. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to leave. I haven’t made the decision lightly or without thought – I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” she says.

Making her long-awaited debut as the tragic Manon in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s beloved, sumptuous ballet ­ – to rapturous reviews – clinched it for her.

“It’s such a fantastic role and ballet that it seemed a fitting way to end my career rather than with a contemporary ballet,” she says. “I was scheduled to dance later in the year but I decided to go while I still have a lot to offer on stage and to an audience.”

Although Dunn has had the odd injury of late, she has been dancing as beautifully as ever despite turning 40 in December.

“(I’ve spent) more than half my life in the company. It’s a part of me but the fact is that when you get older your body is not as resilient. I feel a little bit compromised so I didn’t want the audience seeing that and feeling that,” she says.

“Also, I have two beautiful girls (Claudia and Ava) aged five and two. They mean the world to me and I need to give them more time.”

Dunn is married to the AB’s associate artistic director Danilo Radojevic, who recently announced his own retirement from the company after 17 years. Meanwhile, Claudia and Ava, who have spent a fair amount of time at the AB studio, are already showing signs of wanting to follow in their parents’ footsteps.

“They both love it, coming to ‘mummy’s ballet class,’” says Dunn. “Claudia, my eldest, did her first ballet concert last year and Ava won’t take the tutu off which Claudia has passed down to her. They have been around the dancers and the studio quite a bit. It’s been fantastic that I have been able to have them here.

“I’m extremely lucky that I have been able to return to dancing, because you don’t know what pregnancy will do to your body. I’m so grateful that I was able to return twice and finish my career.”

For Dunn, who has always had a particular love of story ballets, Manon seemed the perfect role for her swansong.

Set in 18th century France, it tells of a beautiful, young woman who is torn between her love for a poor student called Des Grieux and the seductive lure of the wealthy lifestyle of a courtesan offered by the wealthy Monsieur GM. The tragic ending has her dying in Des Grieux’s arms in a Louisiana swamp.

Hard though it is to believe, Dunn hasn’t danced the role until now. “I’ve been in the ballet numerous times in other roles but in 2008 when they last did it I was pregnant with my first daughter so it has been something that I’ve wanted to do,” she says.

“I’ve known the complexity of the character and it’s such a beautiful ballet. At this point in my life I have the artistry to portray her and say farewell.”

She agrees that it is an emotional rollercoaster to perform. “You do have to get to the crux of the character. You can’t hold back. The audience can tell if you are faking it. The end is devastating. I’m drained by the end of it.”

At the beginning of next year, Dunn will become artistic director of the Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching College and the Sydney City Youth Ballet – a return to the Academy where she herself was a student as a teenager.

“Tanya Pearson was influential in my early career,” says Dunn. “My aim was to perform in musicals. My Mum performed in the West End as a singer, dancer and actor and on cruise ships and I thought that would be my path. But Tanya Pearson saw potential in me in the classical field. I entered (and won) the Prix de Lausanne when I was 15. That’s when things changed. As a result of the Prix de Lausanne I won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London and then came back to the Australian Ballet.”

“I’m grateful to have that in front of me,” she says of the new job. “It’s going to be a mourning process, that realisation that I won’t have class everyday or be performing on stage but I will be able to transition to a new career.

“I hope I can pass on what I have learned to help get the most out of a dancer. I have done a bit of teaching and coaching at Tanya Pearson in the past so I have had some experience. I hope I can pass on things to them (to help them) in their early stages. There’s that thing of ‘if I only knew then what I know now.’ I’ll need to learn some new skills in the coming months to be an artistic director. But I’m looking forward to it.”

Manon plays at the Sydney Opera House until April 23. Bookings: or 9250 7777

An edited version of this story appeared in the Daily Telegraph on March 22

Dance Clan 3

Bangarra Studio, Pier 4, November 21

Beau Dean Riley Smith and Leonard Mickelo in Nala. Photo: Greg Barrett

Beau Dean Riley Smith and Leonard Mickelo in Nala. Photo: Greg Barrett

For Bangarra Dance Theatre’s contribution to the inaugural Corroboree Sydney festival celebrating indigenous arts and culture, artistic director Stephen Page commissioned four new works for Dance Clan 3 – a program he initiated in 1998 to nurture storytelling by the company’s artists.

In a bold, pro-active move, he decided this time to commission four of the company’s senior female dancers – Deborah Brown, Yolande Brown, Tara Gower and Jasmin Sheppard – all of whom rose to the occasion with pieces full of beauty and promise.

Performed in the intimate space of the company’s rehearsal studio on Pier 4, the evening began in high spirits with a playful scene at an outdoor cinema in Gower’s Nala. Jumping from deckchairs to dance with giant crisp bags on their feet, it got the night off to a joyous start. Drawing on the love affair between her grandparents in Broome, Nala then turned more serious with duets suggesting social and cultural divide as progress takes its toll on the land and way of life.

Sheppard’s Macq, centred on and around a large table, explored the 1816 ‘March of Macquarie’ on Aboriginal people after Governor Macquarie’s well-intentioned social policies fell apart, with the might of the colonial power set against the anguish of the Aboriginal people. Daniel Riley was a commanding presence as Macquarie, some of the choreography around the table was wonderfully inventive, while a stunning image of hanging men shook you with its simple beauty and shocking, haunting power.

Beau Dean Riley Smith and Daniel Riley in Macq. Photo: Greg Barrett

Beau Dean Riley Smith and Daniel Riley in Macq. Photo: Greg Barrett

Deborah Brown choreographed a dance film called Dive about pearl fishing in the Torres Strait, shown on a large screen hoisted up on ropes. Interweaving film extracts with choreography featuring two dancers in large diving helmets and dancers depicting the pearls, she created a wonderful underwater world.

Yolanda Browne’s Imprint, inspired by the 1978 women’s Batik project to support native title and Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s yam-dreaming stories, used images of threads, weaving and fabric as a woman is covered with the colours of the earth, eventually becoming part of the land.

All the pieces had a distinctive feel, but they were staged so they flowed one into the other without breaks.

Performing as a true ensemble, the dancing was lovely with Elma Kris shining, while the music by Huey Benjamin, David Page and Steve Francis, set design by Jacob Nash, costumes by Jennifer Irwin and lighting by Matt Cox supported each piece beautifully.

Though the Bangarra style, aesthetic and vocabulary was understandably evident in each work, all four choreographers showed moments of real individuality, suggesting much promise and potential. The night I saw it the performance certainly struck a chord with a packed audience who sat rapt and applauded wildly at the end.

Dance Clan 3 plays at Bangarra’s Studio, Pier 4 until December 1. Bookings:

Les Illuminations

Rafael Bonachela, Katie Noonan and Sydney Symphony Orchestra violinist Emma Jezek discuss their new collaborative project Les Illuminations


Katie Noonan with SDC dancers Jessica Thompson and Thomas Bradley. Photo: Ellis Parrinder

Katie Noonan with SDC dancers Jessica Thompson, Charmene Yap and Thomas Bradley. Photo: Ellis Parrinder

While performing with Sydney Dance Company on their 2011 production LANDforms, Katie Noonan asked artistic director Rafael Bonachela if he knew Benjamin Britten’s song cycle Les Illuminations.

“She said she’d sung some of it and would love to sing all of it one day,” recalls Bonachela.

Bonachela – who had previously choreographed a work for London’s Ballet Rambert to another Britten song cycle, Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings – had a listen and loved it, but didn’t think too much more about it.

“Then, later, Katie reminded me, ‘do you realise that 2013 is the centenary of the birth of Britten so it would be a beautiful thing to do,’” he says. “And that’s how it happened. It was her suggestion.”

Bonachela talked to the Sydney Opera House and the project was earmarked for the Spring Dance Festival. The SOH subsequently canned Spring Dance but Les Illuminations survived.

And so, in what promises to be a sexy collaboration, eight dancers from Sydney Dance Company are joining forces with Noonan and 16 string players from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to perform a 45-minute work choreographed by Bonachela to two of Britten’s compositions: Les Illuminations and his Simple Symphony.

They will perform on a T-shaped stage in the intimate space of the Sydney Opera House Studio with Noonan and the musicians along the top and the dancers on a catwalk jutting into the audience.

“Be ready for some sweat!” laughs Bonachela as he and Noonan joke about needing plastic covers for the audience similar to those used for the water-spraying Bath Boy in La Soireé.

Les Illuminations was first performed in 1940 when Britten was 27. In it he sets nine poems to music, chosen from a suite of 42 by French poet Arthur Rimbaud written between 1872 and 1873 when he was aged 19 to 20.

Rimbaud was having a torrid affair with another poet Paul Verlaine at the time with whom he was leading a wild life fuelled by absinthe and hashish.

Britten’s cycle – which Bonachela describes as “dark and erotic” – was originally written for a soprano but is also performed by tenors – most famously by Britten’s own partner Peter Pears.

Simple Symphony is a simpler, more playful piece, composed when Britten was 20 using parts of a piano score he wrote as a teenager.

“It’s a really innocent, lovely little piece that is often played by school students,” says Emma Jezek, SSO’s Assistant Principal Second Violin. “Les Illuminations is completely the opposite. (The poems) are wild when you read the text and the music is absolutely beautiful.”

Though Les Illuminations is challenging musically for the performers, Jezek, Bonachela and Noonan agree that it’s not difficult for audiences.

“I think it’s one of his most accessible works. They both are,” says Noonan. “We wanted to make it very inclusive so that someone who likes my music but who has never seen an orchestra or Sydney Dance Company will feel welcome.”

Noonan has loved Britten for as long as she can remember. “Mum (singer Maggie Noonan) sang a lot of Britten,” she says.

“I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t in utero, I was a very young children when she did (Britten’s operas) Albert Herring and Peter Grimes. I sang in the chorus of the War Requiem when I was eight or nine, which is an incredible piece.

“I did some excerpts from Les Illuminations with the Australian Chamber Orchestra five years ago and I thought, ‘these are so beautiful,’” she says. “One of the poems has words along the lines of ‘I love you so much I have stretched garlands from window to window; golden chain from star to star, and I dance. I thought it’s made for it (a collaboration with SDC).”

“There are quite a lot of dance and movement references in the poems,” agrees Bonachela.

Bonachela – who celebrates five years as Artistic Director of SDC in November – is basing his choreography around duets, using two different sets of four dancers for the two compositions. He has enjoyed creating something intimate, after choreographing a series of large-scale works for the company.

“The limitation of the space have also been an exciting challenge,” he says. “I remember asking Anne Dunn, who was our Executive Director, ‘which is the front (of the stage)?’ and she said, ‘there’s no front.’ I said, ‘there must be a front’ and she said, ‘no, everywhere is the front,’” says Bonachela laughing. “It’s made me reconsider my future choreography, even when there is a front.”

Bonachela, Jezek and Noonan all agree that they find collaborations like this incredibly exciting.

“It’s fantastic doing crossover projects. It’s so exciting,” says Jezek. “They bring a different perspective to the work I suppose. I haven’t worked with Katie for a number of years but she has done projects with us before and it’s always fantastic. She’s so innovative and talented and incredibly fun to work with.”

“Collaboration is my main passion really,” says Noonan. “I’ve always loved working with people from different walks of life. I guess the way I approach my music is all about connectivity and connection. The genre doesn’t matter – classical, opera, jazz – as long as it comes from a good place and a place of integrity.

“But I love working with artists who are equally passionate in another vernacular. So I’ve worked with Bill Henson the photographer (and the contemporary circus group Circa) and with Raf in 2011 (on LANDforms), which was so beautiful. That is kind of my main passion now, moving forward: breaking down the boundaries between genres and different mediums.”

Bonachela is also thrilled at the chance to collaborate with Noonan and the SSO. “I could use some recorded music but the ultimate pleasure for me is to perform to live music, to give audiences that gift where there are 16 individual people making that sound, and Katie singing, and then these amazing bodies dancing. For me it cannot get any more ultimate.”

With a running time of just 45 minutes, there are two performances each night. Audiences who go to the earlier one can then hot foot it to the SOH’s Drama Theatre and catch a performance of ITMOI (in the mind of igor) – a celebration of Stravinsky by the wonderful British choreographer Akram Khan.

Les Illuminations plays at the Sydney Opera House Studio, this Wednesday to Saturday.

An edited version of this story ran in the Sunday Telegraph on August 25

Hunter Page-Lochard interview

Hunter Page-Lochard made his first appearance for Bangarra Dance Theatre in Praying Mantis Dreaming at six months of age, when his father Stephen Page, the company’s artistic director, played a bit of a trick at one performance by substituting him for the baby doll usually used.

“The story was that he comes on stage and hands me to another dancer and the light fades on them. He didn’t tell the other dancer and apparently as the lights were fading I reached my hand up to touch his face so it got a real reaction,” says Page-Lochard.

Now 20, Page-Lochard is making a guest appearance in Bangarra’s new work Blak. In the interim he has appeared in their productions of Skin at age seven and Boomerang at age 12.

Hunter Page-Lochard (centre) with Leonard Mickelo, Luke Currie-Richardson and Daniel Riley McKinley in Blak. Photo: Greg Barrett

Hunter Page-Lochard (centre) with Leonard Mickelo, Luke Currie-Richardson and Daniel Riley McKinley in Blak. Photo: Greg Barrett

His professional career began in an episode of Water Rats when he was five. “Ever since then I’ve loved performing,” he says.

His other credits include, among others, Bloodland for Sydney Theatre Company, Wayne Blair’s award-winning short film The Djarn Djarns, and the feature films Bran Nue Day and The Sapphires.

Later this year he will seen in a new film called Around the Block by writer/director Sarah Spillane in which he stars alongside Christina Ricci and Jack Thompson, playing a troubled Aboriginal teenager who is helped by his American drama teacher.

“It’s like a Billy Elliot (meets) Hamlet but instead of dancing he’s a drama student that has one foot in crime because of his older brother,” says Page-Lochard. “It’s a nice little film. It’s not too dark and it’s not too fun-loving.”

Page-Lochard grew up “with the smell of theatre backstage. I was always around it,” he says.

Like his father, his American mother, Cynthia Lochard, was also a dancer, performing with New York City Ballet and Sydney Dance Company and is now one of the leading Pilates instructors in the southern hemisphere. But despite his heritage, Page-Lochard acts more than he dances.

“Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake are my teachers. I never had technical training. Mum and Dad tried and tried to get me into ballet classes when I was little and dance classes but I just didn’t want to dance. I wanted to act and create things,” he says.

“So being with these guys (Bangarra) for the last four months has been quite tough because I’ve had to do ballet and I’ve had to do contemporary. I can’t deny that it’s in my blood but it’s still really tough. I’m sure my mum can still do a better arabesque than I can.”

Blak has three sections: Scar, choreographed by Daniel Riley McKinley with the male dancers, which explores young men’s rite of passage to manhood and initiation from an urban perspective; Yearning, choreographed by Page with the female dancers, which explores domestic violence, youth suicide and the connection of the female spirit to the land; and finally Keepers in which the dancers pay homage to the land and the legacy of their elders.

The company spent a week and a half on Bremer Island in North East Arnhem Land before the start of rehearsals where they workshopped ideas.

“The girls went off and did some women’s business like weaving and the boys took the time to get together and (discuss) just normal questions – what is a man to you? What is your version of initiation in the modern world? Is it sharing a beer with your Dad for the first time? Or having sex? It’s a lot different to the traditional males (initiation) up there,” says Page-Lochard.

Page-Lochard, who is featured in Scar, says that his character embodies the six other men. “He is their flaws and traits. He makes up all of them and carries them through whenever they need to be carried. He’s always there. In a sense he’s kind of that spirit character who was in Skin and Boomerang.”

Page-Lochard is aiming for a future in film. He did a one-year screenwriting course at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) and hopes to study screenwriting at the New York Film Academy. He has already written numerous screenplays that he’s keen to develop.

“I definitely want to make a film,” he says. “I have just as many (creative) visions as Dad does but not for the stage – it’s more film.”

Blak, Sydney Opera House, June 7 – 22; Canberra Theatre Centre, July 11 – 13; Queensland Performing Arts Centre, July 18 – 27.

An edited version of this story appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on June 2.