20 years in the making, 50 dancers moving, 4 days only – Colossus is a spectacle not to be missed.
Stephanie Lake is a multi-award winning choreographer, dancer, and director of the Stephanie Lake Company, known for her complex yet delicate choreography. Her works have toured internationally and have featured in theatre, film, TV and visual art. The recipient of the Melbourne Fringe Take Over! partnership, Lake has worked in collaboration with Arts Centre Melbourne to create a stunning new contemporary work to feature in the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Much like its namesake, Colossus is a larger-than-life ensemble work that showcases the simultaneous wildness and composure of a huge cast. I spoke to Stephanie about this unique piece ahead of its opening next week.
Tell me a bit about your relationship with dance and devising.
I’ve been dancing since I was a small child. I used to twirl around the house and perform for my parents and friends. My sisters were roped into a few of my early choreographies. I didn’t take up serious training until I was in my teens though, which is quite a late start, particularly for a female dancer. I got my Bachelor at the Victorian College of the Arts, an intense three years of bootcamp training and subsequently began working with some of Australia’s best and brightest choreographers and companies including Chunky Move, Lucy Guerin Inc and BalletLab. I’ve had a wildly wonderful career as a dancer, touring all over the world and performing in some truly brilliant works. I’ve always choreographed – performing and choreographing have gone hand in hand for me. I had some amazing breaks early in my choreographic career and choreography has become my primary focus over the past 5 – 10 years. My own works are now touring internationally and I get enormous satisfaction from the creative process.
What inspired Colossus?
I’ve wanted to make a big, mass work for a large cast of dancers for many, many years. I love the impact of a big swell of bodies on stage. It’s phenomenal – the sound of their breathing and weight of their bodies into the floor. I’m exploring ideas around personal freedom in relationship with communality or solidarity and how we navigate co-existence in densely populated environments. It’s about connection and rejection and the human tendency to find and follow idols. And it’s about strength in numbers.
How will this piece be different from your other dance works?
The scale is very different. The last work I made, Replica, was a duet! There are many new choreographic ideas in this work but I want to leave some surprises for the audience. But what I can say is that Colossus is a big hit of adrenaline.
Have you worked with students before? Has this influenced or changed your process?
I’ve worked with young dancers quite a bit. I’ve been a guest lecturer at VCA on and off for many years and taught master classes and workshops all over the world. I love being in touch with new dancers and emerging talent and ideas. It helps keep me current. There are challenges, of course, because they are early in their careers and we have a range of skill level. But what they lack in experience they make up for with exuberance and incredible commitment and energy.
How do you manage such a large cast of dancers in rehearsals?
God knows! It’s intense. I come home from rehearsals utterly exhausted from the energy output. I have to be very organised prior to rehearsal and really clear in my directions. But I’ve had 20 years to skill up for this show.
What makes Colossus unique amidst such a large Fringe season?
It’s a full-throttle dance work for 50 dancers! I don’t think there’s anything else like it in the program. Colossus couldn’t have happened without the commission from Arts Centre Melbourne and Melbourne Fringe. Their Take Over! program is a brilliant initiative and I’m so honoured to be the recipient of this support.