Dancer, Choreographer and Director Sammie Williams (Elements Collective) is pushing the boundaries of hip hop with the latest incarnation of her dance-theatre piece 'One Way', which will be performed at La Boite Theatre.
The show is made up primarily of dance, with some spoken word, and was inspired by poetry from Saul Williams and Robert Frost.
“It’s called ‘One Way’ because the purpose of life has been a one-way journey, obviously, and I’ve felt often in my life that there’s been times where I feel like I’m not quite sure whether I’m on the right journey or not,” Sammie says.
“So it’s kind of exploring those feelings of sometimes feeling trapped or stuck in a certain situation, and trying to think about what are the choices that we make to them move ourselves in the direction that we want to be.”
Sammie first started the project in 2010, and developed on it further in 2016 during her Metro Arts Brisbane residency.
Now having received a grant through MAD Dance House, this will be the first time ‘One Way’ is performed in a theatre.
“This opportunity has meant that we are able to use lighting, to have a large audience, there’s some extra scenes that we’ve developed in this next period,” Sammie says.
The dance is, of course, hip hop, and Sammie is hoping to break new ground in self-expression by creating an entire piece around the genre.
“It’s not like your regular hip hop dance where it’s about fun entertainment kind of thing, we’re portraying a theme, it’s abstract, it’s quite dark at times,” she says. “So it’s kind of pushing the boundaries of what hip hop dance is and the purpose of hip hop dance.”
‘One Way’ puts hip hop into a different context, and asks the audience to watch it and reflect on their own lives, rather than just providing entertainment.
The development process was also much more akin to contemporary dance than regular hip hop, with Sammie implementing improvisation and tasks to create material.
“Most of the dancers come from a commercial hip hop background, where they go in, they make up the choreography, they learn it, they polish it, then it’s done and they go and perform it,” she says. “Whereas I have been asking them to do tasks and generate movement themselves, which I then mould or shape to fit in more with the show.”
“So that’s been an interesting process, to kind of bring these dancers on, to show them that way of working.”
The music is a mix of original tracks, created by local artists, and already existing electronic beats.
“Quite often my creative process is to put a track on while I’m driving or around the house, and just play it on repeat and just kind of see what comes to mind, what kind of images I see,” Sammie says.
“Then often I’ll take it into the studio and I’ll ask the dancers to do a task without hearing the music, so that they’re just generating movement, and then I’ll put the music on top of that, and see if we can just kind of fit the movement to the music.”
In all, Sammie is hoping she can introduce her dancers to a new kind of creative expression, and leave an audience feeling inspired to be themselves.