Flaunt 2.0 Tour 2016

FLAUNT 2.0 TOUR: The Flaunt set was bumped out of the Sue Benner theatre on the Saturday night of the 14th of April 2016.  The truck was driven up to Cairns by Felicity (Or Flick as she is know). Felicity had previously flown down to Brisbane from Cairns to operate lighting for Flaunt, and then drove the truck back to Cairns. I flew up on Tuesday the 19th of April 2016 as did set designer, and production manager Frances Hannaway, and technical manager Matt Staples.
Costumes had been neatly packed. Some needed to be washed so were flown up.
Arrived at the Cairns at the Centre of Contemporary Arts. (CoCA)

CAIRNS: The first stop was the theatre. It was good to see Charles Wiles who was running CoCA. I had been to CoCA in 2011 for a visit when Charles had SlowDive in town for the Cairns festival. That was however performed in a night club. Fran and Matt had already arrived before me and along with Felicity had already laid the tarkette and assembled the set. The dancers arrived on the Wednesday and we began to rehearse in the space. Things were going to plan. Charles had built a very strong contemporary dance audience up in Cairns. Audience development takes time, but due to the strong dance audience in Cairns we had two shows at CoCA. Charles even wanted to revamp the hero poster to suit his audiences there.

Every venue is different and that impacts on how much space there is, and especially on lighting. We had the time to tweak the lighting and there were some specific things I had wanted to fix following the Metro Arts season. I almost always choreograph with lighting in mind, so in such a highly technical theatre, I wanted to maximise all their lighting capabilities. Charles Wiles was originally a lighting designer and has worked a lot with contemporary dance including for Sydney Dance Company for a number of years. Below: rehearsing in the space at CoCA:
I thought it might be good to get some aditional photographs taken of Flaunt in a larger theatre.
Photographer Marc McCormack was recommended and was available.

Here’s some my favourite images he took of Flaunt 2.0 at the Centre of Contemporary Arts Cairns.

We bumped out of CoCA on Saturday the 23rd of April, and flew back to Brisbane on Sunday the 24th (not without a cast and crew photo before we left).

The truck was driven back down to Brisbane and ready for the next venue which was Toowoomba:


I had a few days of workshops in Toowoomba in the lead up to the performance in Toowoomba. I am told that Toowoomba only programmes one contemporary dance show per year. In 2016 it was Flaunt. In 2017 it was ADT! So it was a big deal.
We had one show in Toowoomba which was at the Armitage Theatre at the Empire Theatre.
I had been to Toowoomba the month earlier for the screening of my film Ward of State and I took some photos while testing the film to show Fran and Matt who were not familiar with the space.

Fran and Matt had the assembly of the set down to a fine art now, so our bump in was quite fast.
We didn’t have a photographer for Toowoomba, but here’s an iphone snap from during the performance:.

TOOWOOMBA: My producer Jo Thomas came up to see the show too. We bumped out of Toowoomba the night of the 14th. It was two weeks before the final show, so everyone was starting to feel a bit sad about it being over.  The final stop was the Ipswich Civic Centre on May the 27th.

IPSWICH: They say that dance is a hard sell in Ipswich, but I had a lot of connections there through Mill Street Studios being only 20 minutes away, as well as having the Mill Street Studios recital there annually in December. It was nice that the final show was in Ipswich with a lot of students, friends, and familiar faces in the audience. The local high school dance school teachers where’s I’ve taken guest workshops brought their students along. It was nice to feel supported. We also did a double bill screening Ward of State after Flaunt. Many people had not seen the screening in December 2014, so it was a good chance to show the film again.
Here’s the team at the Ipswich Civic Centre:

The Ipswich Civic Centre seats 500 people, and the Flaunt sales were close to 400 which is a massive fete for dance. I’d been told to expect 50-100 if I was lucky. Metro Arts and my people on the ground at Mill Street Studios worked so hard to encourage as many people to attend. It was a big success, and the show had some great feedback. It was definitely very different to what Ipswich audiences are used to. I can say this because I have some understanding of the demographic. Ipswich is a little bit conservative, and people there seem quite relaxed. The city is absolutely beautiful with some old building that have been restored or cared for (unlike the concrete jungle of Brisbane).

FAMILY HISTORY SURFACING IN IPSWICH: One strange thing did occur in the time between Toowoomba and Ipswich. In all my family research that informed my film Ward of State, I often wondered if my Great Grandfather Charles Thyer had ever performed in Ipswich. They had performed in Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, and New Zealand. I could never find any evidence that they had performed in Ipswich, but had a feeling that they must have. I have the same suspicions about Toowoomba too, but finding that Emily (my Great Grandmother) died there probably explains my connection to and interest in Toowoomba.

Occasionally I will search the Trove website every month or so and have never found any evidence of them performing in Ipswich. Then in the lead up to Flaunt and Ward of State in Ipswich, BAM, there it was in front of me. My Great Grand Father would have been too young to have joined his siblings in their toupee called “Les Thiers” at the time. But his older siblings, Ada, Maude, and Wattie (acrobats and contortionists) were on the bill as “Special Engagement by the Wonderful Thyer Family”. I read further below and their father “Mr Charlie Thyer” was also performing and listed him as a comedian and banjo soloist. I wondered if my Great Great Grandfather made Dad jokes.

They performed at the School of the Arts in Ipswich. It’s still there, directly across the road from where Flaunt was shown at the Ipswich Civic Centre.  I found something that my own family had published and promoted. The timing of this appearing was quite surreal. Here I was in Ipswich making a work that came about from my family research, (as a starting point in looking at how women pushed themselves in history), and on the final location of the Flaunt Tour, my show was performing literally accross the road from where performed in 1898, almost 120 years earlier!  This was the School of Arts in Ipswich Qld (now is the Art Gallery). I can’t see the clock tower in this photo.


But back to Flaunt:

BUMP OUT On Saturday the 28th of May, we bumped out of the Civic Centre and retuned to Mill Street Studios where the set would live. Post show blues had kicked in. I think that when you invest so much of your time, money, and passion into something, it’s so hard to say goodbye.

I think my words were “I’ll tie myself to the truck if I have to”.

Despite such a great tour, there was much yet to do. I had a few big things on the horizon at Mill Street, and I needed to cut together the footage from Flaunt. We filmed the Cairns show as well as Metro Arts shows, so it was going to be a challenge to cut together something from two very different sized venues with very different lighting. Thanks so much to all the venues who had us tour.





FLAUNT Jute Theatre Cairns, Queensland.


Flaunt 2.0  Redevelopment 2016

FLAUNT 2.0  Redevelopment in 2016photo by Mark Greenmantle

It had been a little over a year since Flaunt had its first season at the Brisbane Powerhouse. During that year there was so much planning in motion for a Queensland tour of Flaunt. My producer Jo Thomas at Metro Arts had been working hard to generate interest in the work. Why should people not be interested? It’s because contemporary dance is a hard sell to venues. A Kenny Logins tribute act (or something along those lines) is much easier to sell to audiences. It depends on the location,audience demographic, and how much audience development has been done.

We had the interest from Cairns, Toowoomba and Ipswich, but we would need to do a remounted season in Brisbane which Jo Thomas lined up to be at Metro Arts. If Flaunt had already received Arts Queensland funding, it would have been harder to get this tour up because Arts Qld only invest in a project once, and not a subsequent development of a work. Anyway, in late December 2015, I had confirmation that Flaunt would have a remount and a small Queensland tour.

I’d only ever toured once before. That was SlowDive and we took that show to The Arts Centre Gold Coast and to the Cairns Festival. Dance companies tour work frequently, but as an independent artist it’s a very big deal to tour work, and I was very excited.

Creatively, I had the voice of dramaturg David Fenton ticking away in my head from last time we worked together and there was aspects of the work I wanted to expand on further. Furthermore, when you edit you own show footage, it’s a great chance for creative reflection on the work. I’d edited Flaunt 1.0 and changes to that were at the front of my mind. How I envisaged the re-developed Flaunt 2.0 was very different to the 2014 Brisbane Powerhouse show.

The programme notes said it best:

Flaunt is about women’s gender, power, sexuality and projection of themselves.

Flaunt examines what women project, publish and promote about themselves over some pivotal red letter dates over the last century.

In each time-period, I examined what was happening historically for women as well as how they were projecting themselves, or being projected. The changes for women over the past 120 years have been significant, but are we there yet? Or are the current times of social media where women are socially conditioned to police each other’s ‘acceptable’ images a step back in time for women.

Background of the idea: While researching my family history I became interested in the lives of women at particular times in history. I found a photograph of an ancestor who was an entertainer – frequently photographed and often in the newspapers in the 1920s. It was strange to see a photograph of this woman who looked so familiar. The image depicted so much about her.

Simultaneously, some young people I knew were beginning to use social media to post photos of their bodies in various states of undress. I questioned the virtual identities that young women project and how they are often extreme and paradoxical. “Who is this for, to publish yourself in this manner? Do we post for ourselves or to compete with other women? Do we progressively become ‘monstrous versions’ of ourselves online?” I wondered what people in the future might think of these images and what they say about women today. I wondered what the women of the past might also think. I thought about the concept of a body frozen in time, brought back to life and dissected for investigation throughout history.

I wondered, “What might the body might say?”

Above three photos by FenLan Photography

TEAM:Rather than work with four dancers as I did in Flaunt 1.0, I thought it would be wiser to invest in some technical people, so we recruited Frances Hannaway (set designer and Production manager) and Mechanist (and Flaunt Technical Manager) Matt Staples on tour. Matt was head of Staging at the Brisbane Powerhouse at the time, and we were thankful that the Powerhouse let him take the time off work. Because there was a lot of safety risks associated with Flaunt, it was important that the set was constructed by people who knew what they were doing. In each location we had helped to build the set during bump in under the guidance of Fran and Matt.

CAST: I was feeling more clear about the direction of the new work and I had David Fenton’s mapping formulas in my head as a starting point. However, I had one small problem: of the cast of four from the first season, I only had one original member available: Amelia Stokes (who at the time was the youngest/ newbie/ still getting the “Claire Marshall movement vocabularies/ style” on her body). Marianna was pregnant, Kirri had just had foot surgery, Miranda was in her final year of studying physiotherapy. I was incredibly lucky to be recommended two amazing dancers who came on board for Flaunt 2.0.


Courtney Scheu, (center) who was about 25 and had been establishing a name for herself in Brisbane as a performer and independent artist/ choreographer.

Essie Horn, (left) who grew up in Brisbane but studied at WAAPA (as did Amelia Stokes). Essie was the youngest of the team as a recent university graduate.

Amelia Stokes (right) was no longer the youngest of the group and over the year and a quarter between Flaunt 1 and 2 had been busy on a lot of independent projects. She’s also become what we described as a total machine and had the Claire Marshall movement vocab on her body so well. It was so great to work with this new team.

REHEARSAL TIME: Taking on working with two new dancers would see a longer rehearsal time frame. Working with the original cast would have been faster because they would have remembered the choreography, and have the style on their bodies. In contrast, a new cast would have a lot of material to learn, which takes time. They would also need to pick up the Claire Marshal style too. The solution was an extended time frame for rehearsals, and I used Mill Street Studios for much of the re-development.

I’d just signed the lease of another space right beside the two studio spaces at Mill Street, so I was able to move the dance school classes around and claim a large studio for Flaunt and really immerse myself in the development of the work.

PRE-PRODUCTION: Digging out the set. The Flaunt Set had been living down in a shipping container for a year. Fran and Matt and the team retrieved that and assembled that at Mill Street Studios.

THE SET CHANGES: The additional rehearsal time meant we had a few extra days to just set up the set (or the titan as we called it). The creative process of working with Matt and Fran was collaborative in the second development too. For example, there had been discussions about being able to have more than one dancer at the top of the set. Previously, without any additional bracing we were only permitted one dancer. Fran and Matt had a play with some additional bracing of the set and I decided that this would be something really exciting to work with choreographically. So we very quickly had some steel bracing custom made. We didn’t need the ladder anymore, but handles were attached:

Time and care was taken for all the spaces we worked in. Matt made wooden pieces to support the set on the soft tarkette and wooden dance floor beneath it.

Below: the dancers excited to have the aditional steel bracing on the set.Working at Mill Street was such a great time. There was no time limitations on when we could be rehearsing or working on the set.Fran and Matt also had to find more tarkette (we had seven layers in the show) and work out how these could be rolled and re-set easily.The dancers learned too. Our pre-show set up of the rolls of tarkette would take about an hour as there was items of clothing that were revealed and some items of clothing ended up in the roll of tarkette. We had to retrieve these items of clothing at the end of the show to ensure they were washed and then reset for the following day.

REHEARSALS: We rehearsed at Mill Street Studios for two weeks commencing on the 22nd of March. During this time I developed a lot of new material and scrapped a lot from the first development. I pieced together the work in a time line in Final Cut Pro. It was easier to visualise this way. David Fenton and Fran and Matt would come in to watch rehearsals. David Fenton and I would discuss the work, my intention, and the creation of meaning in it. He would ask me questions and challenge me, and I’d come back the next day with a clearer mind about what I was making. Below: Lighting designer Michael Richardson attends a rehearsal with Fran and Matt.

Costuming was more elaborate for Flaunt 2.0. We had to find costumes representing the 1890’s, 1950’s, 1970’s, 1980, current times, as well as futuristic (just slightly). The 1980’s era was a last minute addition to the work. To be honest, I thought that including the 1980’s might be over doing it. However, it was important to the narrative and the women. The 1980’s section saw the dancers in power-jackets and the set was used as a representation of the glass ceiling. I used a snippet of Yazoo’s “Don’t Go” in part of this section. It turned out to be one of the really important parts of the work, connecting to the “fax” section, and the computer generated “Why don’t you love me” section.

Due to the 1980’s section being added quite late, Frances Hannaway had to go on a quick expedition of op-shops for some 80’s grey power suit jackets for costumes. I sent her some reference footage from a book I own called Fashion, Excess and the 80’s.  Matt Stapes had to try to source some really boring corporate looking vinyl for the set. I think they did a great job.

Reconnaissance (reckie) visit at Metro Arts (where the season would open):
Production meeting at https://www.facebook.com/metroartsbrisbane and a sticky beak imagining the set at the Sue Benner Theatre. Charles Wiles was also present. Charles programmed Flaunt in Cairns, as well as SlowDive for the Cairns Festival. Charles has an incredible background as a lighting designer for Sydney Dance company, but then heading the COCA (Centre of Contemporary Arts Cairns) and his work with audience development for dance saw Flaunt have two sold out shows there. We made the local news, and newspaper. But that is just testament to Charles’ commitment to the arts and to dance.  It was great to catch up with him in Brisbane at our reckie at Metro arts.

Here’s some photo of our reckie to Metro Arts. I had a work presented at Metro Arts back in 2006 as a part of the Brisbane Fringe Festival.  It was so nice to be back.

Metro Arts has a very interesting history. You can read about this here: https://www.metroarts.com.au/history/

Bump Out of Mill Street Studios and into the Sue Benner Theatre at Metro Arts: After two weeks of rehearsal at Mill Street Studios, we de-assembled the set, packed it onto the truck and bumped into the Sue Benner Theatre. We had help from family and friends, and Frances Hannaway’s family were such a great help with bump out.

Sue Benner Theatre: Bump in 4th April 2016.

In terms of the space at the Sue Benner theatre, the height of the space was a concern due to the height of the set. But I liked seeing the set in a smaller space. It gave the set more power compared to being on a larger stage or performance space.

The truck would be able to just fit down the lane way for bump in. All was going to be ok. Even the festival in the lane way had agreed to be quite during our Saturday evening show.Rehearsals Continued at Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts. We were refining the work/ culling sections/ adding details. Dramaturg David Fenton worked now with the dancers in developing their characterisation and performance. Set designer and production manager Frances Hannaway’s background in dance came in handy one day when I was held up trying to finish the soundtrack. Fran jumped in and cleaned a section of the choreography. We were all multi-tasking. Even the dancers helped with the pre-show set up. My producer Jo Thomas is also an actor and was very understanding of how stretched artists become in the lead up to a show. Jo would drop into rehearsals and see how we were going and orgnaise times for interviews and press without stress.
Below: photo of a full run in costume.


I probably should mention a bit more about the work and the inspiration in version 2.0. My brother Grant and his partner Jane had been renovating their apartment. They stripped back the 1990’s carpet and found 1980’s Lino, under that was 1970’s tiles, and under those was late 1960’s tiles. There were probably someone’s memories attached to those surfaces in time, and I thought that for Flaunt, as we travel over time, that the tarkette floors could also be wound back to revel another layer. There were costume changes too. I set a rule that every era had to have the following:

  • be a significant era in time for women in some way
  • include a popular piece of music of the time as a featured moment
  • have some costume referencing the era
  • have a movement trait that was specific to the era layered into the choreography
  • have a technical aspect of the work reflecting the era (i.e. Mirror ball in the 1970s)
  • have another layer of tarkette
  • have the spoken text relevantly woven in
  • have the tarkette rolled by the same dancer but in different ways appropriate to the era
  • have the dancers interact with the set “structure” in different ways
  • what was the dancer’s relationship with the set or the “structure” in every era visited in the work?
  • the dancers understand the relationship between themselves in ever era
  • what is she projecting/ publishing/ promoting of herself in the time?
  • what is her Power struggle in this scene

My creative process (under the guidance of David Fenton) became a massive chart/ document, but it gave the work more clarity. 

In a nut shell: I thought I would include a few photos of the surfaces/ tarkettes/ states.

The white tarkette was preset already. This was for the futuristic state where the body is unravelled and examined. (Photos are by FenLan http://www.fenlan.com.au)

Then we had a time travel interlude with stobing lights and sounds suggesting time travel backwards in time. The trio wove in motifs seen over the piece ahead, but performed retrograded (going in reverse).

We land with a thud in in the 1890’s. This was the 1890’s section, with the lino made to resemble floor boards (warm lighting helped) and costuming with heavy long skirts. I also had some Victorian jackets, but in the end they were not necessary and the restrictive heavy skirts were ample. The set was an unclimbable structure as the dancers kept falling to the ground in every attempt to climb it.Finding a popular tune from this era was a little difficult and popular music in the 1800’s was interesting to research. My rule was that all “popular” song snippets had to be by female artists.
The lino is rolled back again to reveal black and white check lino which leads into the 1950’s post-war section. Rather than looking at the idea of women entering the workfore during the war, the focus was on women who had to go back to their household/ housewife roles after the war. Ideas around training little girls to be doll-like and learned feminine behaviour was seen here. I used a snippet of Lesley Gore’s “You don’t own me”.From the 1950’s to the 1970s, we used this luscious green Italian tarkette and vintage frocks.
I referenced the sexual revoution and juxtaposed this with the 6 o’cock swill which was a slang term for the 6pm rush for last drinks before public bars closed (Men permited only) and the culture of heavy drinking among men. In between all of the more contemporary sounds and atmosphere in the score, I used Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” in one part of this section.  The Set (structure) represented the character’s missing husbands and essentially patriarchy in this section.For the 1980 section, Matt found some atrocious grey vinly from the late 1980’s. Unlike the luscious green tarkette, it was quite brittle and plastic. In a yin-yang flip to the 1890s section, the dancers were suited up in power jackets rather than skirts. Furthermore, they were able to climb the structure which represented the idea of the glass ceiling.  Again, showing the struggle for women, we looked at the flip side and human side of the stuggle and costs to get to the top (so to speak). I wove in a section of Yazoo’s “Don’t Go” and might have incoporated some of my favourite 1980’s shoulder moves.
Current times: looking a current times to make comment is easy when there’s social media, and I looked at the instant gratification of social media. The self-obsessed “selfie” era was referenced with the use of mylar on the floor (as a mirror to be constantly looking into) and the structure was essentially as a platform for the dancers to promte themselves. I went with a trashy night club track and trashy attire as Meryl, Cheryl, and Beryl trapsed around overly sexualised movements informed by images on social media.
The top of the set was also used more in Flaunt version 2.0. It was used often to show more depth to the charachters, or another side in terms of what we saw from them below.

The all-consuming self-obssession builded to the climax of the work. Death by the refelctive mylar.Following this was a reprise of the time travel trio, but in a forward direction.
The final layer (in terms of a surface) is was the clear vinyl that the dancer was wrapped in at the beginng (in the future). The scientists essentially wrap her up and put her back on the slab/ lab side.

The Flaunt v2.0 season at Metro Arts ran from Wednesday the 13th of April 2016 to Saturday the 16th of April 2016.

We had some good press in the lead up to the season:
We had positive reviews:

And here:


BUMP OUT OF METRO ARTS: We took a cast and crew photo and bumped out of Metro Arts on the Saturday evening.
“Lucky we’ve got a Titan”

Felicity from The Centre of Contemporary Arts Cairns (CoCA) was on board as lighting operator for Flaunt and drove the truck back up to Cairns ready for the season in Cairns.
I felt so happy that I was able to remount Flaunt, and was very excited that it was going on tour.
Below: A few more photos by FenLan


2015 -the 2nd Year of Mill Street Studios

2015 was a year focused on building Mill Street Studios as a business and school, as well as catching up on such a busy time for a few years prior.

After the Australian Dance Awards, (see previous post), I came back to reality and picked up my paint brush and finished some much needed repairs at Mill Street Studios. The floors in particular needed attention. The black studio space needed a better sanding job, and the white space (despite faily well sanded) saw the white paint yellowing again. I had to accept that an entirely white space just was not doing to look good for very long and a quick fix coat of white wasn’t going to do the job.This time I decided to call in the professional floor company (Southern Cross Floor Company). I thought it would be exciting to paint the floor in some different colours. I had an idea to paint the space in stripes alongthe floor boards. Silver and black was the choice, and the floor company were excited to do this. I learnt that the smoother the sanding finish, the less paint that was required. Seeing the space all sanded back again reminded me of the first time I rennovated in late 2013 in the lead up to opening the space and I was happy to see it finished. Thankfully the floor company worked quickly and cleaned up after themselves. I was impressed with their work.
The white space was revamped with black and silver stripes.I wasn’t originally going to do much to the black space, but the idea of the stripes continuing into the other space was enticing, so red and black it was!
The floors have held up well so far.

While I decided not to make any new work in 2015, I took the time to choreograph a few pieces on my students. It was important to take the time to invest in building the school by working with the students as much as it was imporant to invest money in fixing up the floor. I had a lot of fun working with the students creating some new pieces for them. Here’s a few photos.
This was an uptempo piece on student 10 years and under. It was a narrative about a deaf robot, and was about acceptance, and being unique.
The mannequins from Flaunt did not want to give up the spotlight, but rather multiplied.

I enjoyed designing the costumes. An amazing seamstress and sewer called Anna-lise Walker made these from my drawing I gave her. Anna-lise also made the Nun costumes in Ward of State. I am always impressed by the attention to detail in her sewing.

This was another very robotic piece, again made by Mrs Walker based on my design. And there was this sort of very “contemporary dance theatre” piece with a narrative and action packed with a lot of dramatic moments.There was a piece called Mirrors, created in response to some personal things related to friendship and self image for the cast.And a piece called Strut on the senior class (aged about 15-18).
Before I knew it, it was December and the end of year recital time for Mill Street Studios. The time I had invested in the space and the school was worthwhile and the growth was evident. To see the students grow and improve was so rewarding. We even had two of the senior students accepted into full time training in Sydney and numerous other successes over the year.

Following the recital. I also put together a little cut down of footage of the recital to use as promotional purposes on the Mill Street Studios website. https://vimeo.com/154330613

2016 was going to be a big year, as I’d recently leaned Flaunt had received funding for a Queensland Tour through Arts Queensland, (and with thanks to the brilliant grant writing of my awesome producer Jo Thomas at Metro Arts). More about that in my next post.


Australian Dance Awards September 2015

The beginning of 2015 was spent catching up on post-production aspects of 2014. There was Flaunt footage and recital footage to cut, a music video to choreograph, and a business to keep running (Mill Street Studios).

Some fantastic news came mid-year: the shortlisted nominations for the Australian Dance Awards:

Actually, prior to this step, there’s a list of eligible works for nomination, on which people can vote. To make the shortlisting is a massive deal. My film Pulse was shortlisted back in 2013, and I flew to Canberra to check out the awards and see some amazing performances.

To be shortlisted again was (this time for Ward of State) was an honour. In 2015 the ADAs were being held in Adelaide and the focus was on Australian Dance Theatre (being based in Adelaide). As much as seeing ATD would be enough to coax me to attend, 2015 was a very busy year and I initially I didn’t think I could take the time to attend. It took some convincing from friends and colleagues to get me to go. I was glad I went as I got to see some amazing work by ADT, and Ward of State won the dance on screen category!

Garry Stewart read out the nominations, opened the envelop and read out “And the winner is, Ward of State by Claire Marshall”. It was definitely a moment I will always remember. Being presented the award by Garry Stewart and Carol Wellman Kelly was probably as much a highlight as it was the film winning the category! To be presented by Mr Garry Stewart was such an honour as his work is amazing and ADT is one of my favourite companies for a long time. Here I was, this relatively unknown choreographer from Brisbane, being presented with an award by one of my dance heros.  It was surreal!

Her Majesty’s Theatre is so beautiful, and it was such an honour to be standing there in front of many of my dance heroes and thanking those who were a key part of the making the film (be it funders, cast, creatives etc). Following my speech, I was escorted backstage and out for some photos with Garry and Carol, all while feeling quite overwhelmed! Here’s a few of these photos (by Shane Reid), almost as proof to myself that this actually happened!

It was also amazing to have the support of Ann McLean and Ausdance Qld attending the awards with me. Former head of Dance at QUT Dr Cheryl Stock was also present and her encouragement was appreciated. ,

WARD OF STATE by Claire Marshall

Ward of State is a 30-minute narrative dance film about a girl who was taken from her mother and stepfather and placed the care of the state in a Magdalene Convent Laundry. Set in the 1930’s- 1940’s Ward of State depicts the journey for both the daughter and her mother characters and their relationship. It delves into subject matters of abuse, neglect, and mental illness.

Ward of State is inspired by research into my family genealogy and my quest to understand things that occurred in the past. A significant portion of the narrative and characters are based on what I learned about my family’s history going back a few generations. I also drew from research and interviews with women who were wards of the state.

On Ward of State my role was as a choreographer, storyteller and producer. I know a little bit about film from being on film sets over the past 15 years, and I made my first 10 minute dance film at the Powerhouse in 2012, which was inspired by the space and its history. That creative development became more about working with the camera, lens and the space/location.

Ward of State spanned 2.5 years from research and the birth of the idea to the screening in December 2014 at the New Farm Cinemas. However, despite things taking longer than I anticipated, with my experience working on film sets, I was aware of what when into a film and was involved in most aspects of the film or was able to go to my brother (film director) for advice, guidance and mentorship.

What makes this different to a traditional live dance work is that it is choreographed with the camera, the lens, and framing in mind. It’s also choreographed with the location in mind. We also rehearsed 
in a studio, so often that meant having to adapt choreography to a different space, or far more squeaky bed. Working with such high caliber dancers, we were all able to work quickly together.

I’ve learnt a lot from choreographing music videos over the past 15 years, but it was most rewarding to take dance – as an abstract form, and use it as the language of dance in conjunction with film language to make a narrative work about something so close to my heart. No dialogue was required – the movement and film and music allow audiences to read the narrative. Dance and film and “dance film” is also a highly transportable form.

As an independent artist in Queensland, it often seems like there’s an expectation that artists work from one project to the next. However, the past 2 years I have been operating more as a one person company with various projects on the go, some spanning a 2 year period and some ongoing through it. Projects were sometimes put on hold for other project, at other times I was working on 3 projects at once (ie, Ward of State, SlowDive, Flaunt), as well as managing a business, teaching, choreographing some music videos, and numerous other little short term jobs.


2014 – the 1st year of Mill Street Studios


The end of 2014 saw the last of some massive endeavours with the recital for the Mill Street Studios School of Dance. It had been a massive year with 2 shows, a film, opening Mill Street Studios (as a space and renovating it), and diving into running a school there over the course of the year.

1. With help of friends and family, I’ve renovated Mill St over December through to January. More here: http://www.clairemarshall.com.au/introducing-mill-street-studios/

2. Opened the space with a fancy launch on the 24th of January. More here: http://www.clairemarshall.com.au/mill-street-studios-launch/

3. Remounted SlowDive for APAM in February at the Brisbane Powerhouse. http://www.clairemarshall.com.au/slowdive-at-apam-in-february-2014/

4. Created a new work called Flaunt with the help of Metro Arts at the Brisbane Powerhouse over October and November. http://www.clairemarshall.com.au/flaunt-v1-2014/

5. Finished Ward of State (including doing the sound design) and organised the premiere for Ward of State in December. http://www.clairemarshall.com.au/ward-of-state-post-production-to-premiere/

6. Opened a dance school (Dance4300) based at Mill Street Studios with ten dance teachers across different disciplines, and other staff and helpers to run the school. The students do all the usual performances throughout the year (eg, exams andshowings), and I also spent time choreographing some new pieces on the students. To finish the year off, the Mill Street Studios teachers and I staged a recital for Mill Street Studios in late December. Read more below:


The first year of Mill Street Studios (2014).

Dance is my passion. Creating dance makes me feel happy and creatively fullfilled. It’s challenging to make work in contemporary dance: as I say “a moving piece of art that people read and interpret”.
Running a dance space/ studio and a school is a business, but with passion!

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, to open Mill Street Studios was a case of being at the right place at the right time, and having a light bulb moment idea.

Mill Street Studios aims to connect dance with the local community, as well as the dance community in all it’s different stages – students, youth, and professional artists.

I’ve observed that the dance school world can be disconnected from what’s going on in the professional world and vice-versa. At Mill Street, I try to have these sectors cross paths in a common dance space whenever I can.

For example, the SlowDive rehearsals at Mill Street Studios were viewed by some of the older dance school students, which was a fantastic experience for them. The other benefit was that the professional dancers in town for SlowDive rehearsals taught various guest classes for the students. That was a win-win situation being additional income for the dancers, as well as a great learning experience for students.

Having a dance school reside at Mill Street Studios isn’t just to have my own space, or to generate income to support my independent works. The school is actually something that I will continue to re-invest in. Specifically, I am investing in the students by providing high quality tuition, bringing in experienced teachers, and nurturing young dancers based on my values and industry experience.

Mill Street Studios supports the dance ecology by providing a space that is can be hired by various groups, and a subsidised space for other dance makers like myself. Space is limited in Brisbane, and Mill Street Studios is only 25 minutes from the Brisbane CBD.

Goodna was severely affected by the 2011 floods. I think people are excited that something new is happening in their area, and that they don’t need to travel to Brisbane or Ipswich.An exciting little dance hub is right on their door step!

In 2014 Mill Street Studios opened with 42 students and slowly began to build over the year. The first year was hard in many regards, but there was some loyal students who trusted my vision. The first year of Mill Street Studios culminated in the end of year recital for the students. I’ve shared a few photos here.

  For more about Mill Street studios, go to: www.millstreetstudios.com.au


Ward of State Post-Production to Premiere

Ward of State Post-Production to Premiere

I think I’d got as far as discussing the production stage of the work. However, following the shoot of the film there’s a huge section of making a film which includes post production elements such as:

Editing, sound design, foley, composition of the score, recording the score, the sound mix, colour grading, conversion to DCP format, poser design, printing, distribution, promotion of the screening, ticketing the premiere, testing the DCP, and showing up with a few hours sleep to the premiere.


  Jane Wallace and the edit: 

Initially my plan was to edit the film myself, like Pulse, because editing dance is essentially another choreographic layer. The person who edited the film must understand dance. When I realised that I was going to be too busy with my live work SlowDive occurring at APAM, and that the scale of Ward of State was significantly greater than my little film “Pulse”, I decided to hand the project over to Jane Wallace.

Jane Wallace was a former full time Tanya Pearson classical ballet student, who later trained in Germany before going to QUT to pursue contemporary dance.  Jane eventually moved into editing and into graphic design. Jane edits a lot of commercial film, and she also mentored me when cutting Pulse (my first dance film development first project at the Brisbane Powerhouse).

The edit was a massive job – 250 hours plus. I would visit Jane weekly to see how things were progressing. We would make a few changes and Jane would keep going until our next meeting. I learnt a lot from watching Jane edit and the creative decisions she made in weighing up which shots to choose (eg, best cinematographic shots versus best choreographic/ movement shots)


 Susan Hawkins and the score:

In the beginning stages, Susan played me some of her work that she thought I might like the vibe of for the film. I worked with some of the compositions as background “vibe’ of choreography, but I deliberately did not want to choreograph to anything specific initially.

Jane and Susan worked in an interwoven way. There is no dialogue in Ward of State. Because it was not choreographed to any music, and because we were recording sound on set, all of the movement was performed in silence.

This meant that every take was slightly different in pace and Jane had to find a rhythm in her edit from the movement (another reason why the editor needed to be a dancer). At about the same time Susan started composing to Jane’s edit in progress, but not locking down the exact pace.

Where footage had not been edited, Susan would use the wide shot to take her music cues from, however it was more handy for her to work with the cut version so she could emphasise certain sounds in the score to match how closely the movement was cut.  Susan would sometimes then move into composing the next section and then Jane would actually cut to the music. It was a collaborative process that worked in both ways, and that is definitely unique to dance film.

Collusion Music Australia and Jonas Hill:

Collusion Music Australia played Susan’s composition, which was recorded and mixed by Jonas Hill and then handed over ready for the final found mix. But the Foley, and atmosphere had to also be added.

Sound Design: Sound design was an eye opener, but I learnt so much about sound in the final stages of Ward of State. Sound is essentially half of the film. The score was sounding great, but it’s a dance film, and it also required all the film aspects such as Foley, and atmosphere.

When you make a dance film (or even a regular film) it’s not just about marrying the dancing and cinematography. The other important ingredient is sound. Under the umbrella of sound there three very important things to include. I have to thank my brother (who is a film director) for his mentorship here.

1. The score We had that under control to a point, but as I mentioned above, as Jane’s edit changed (using sections from various takes), the score also needed to change. This worked both ways as Susan would compose a section, and Jane would try to cut to the score, but then a change in the edit would see a change to the score. It was  a collaboration between the editor, and composer in this regard.

2. Foley Sounds of actual things occurring such as the sound of the dancer hitting the floor when they fall, or the sound of the curtain dropping. This is a whole job on its own. Three weeks prior to the premiere of the film (the week of my show Flaunt), the person who was engaged to do the sound design decided it was not for him to do, and left me with a USB with just a hand full of recordings. I tried to find someone to pick the job, but there was not enough time, so I had to learn quickly!

Using sound from “in-camera” and from my iPhone! Every sound was layered into Final Cut Pro. The meant editing out the sounds of talking on set, and matching the live in-camera sound from camera 2. The main camera did not record sound. I also had to access the sounds recorded on my iPhone – which I recorded for reference of choreography! It was strange because at the time, I had a hunch that I would need to use these files for reference, but I certainly didn’t think it would be for doing the sound design myself. I ended up actually using some of the sounds I recorded on my phone because the quality of the microphone is better than in the film camera. However, there were still sections where I had no sound to reference. Rehearsal footage did not sound realistic, so that meant trying to re-create the sounds. I was out of my league here.

Re-creating the dance for Foley with Kara. I had been recommended to work with a Foley artist called Kara who came over to Mill Street Studios and recorded the dancers performing the movement. It had been many months since the shoot, and the dancers would have to re-learn the choreography. Furthermore, lead dancer Richard Causer had been back in London for many months at this point, so dancer Gabe Comerford kindly offered to learn Richard’s movements. Fortunately, Libby McDonnell was in Brisbane, and Libby and Gabe re-in enacted some scene while we recorded the sound in 5.1 digital and 2.1 with Kara. We had a few laughs over this process as Gabe did his best to impersonate Richard (even down to his voice).

3. Atmos: All films require atmosphere to enhance the mood in places. This is not left to the composer or to the Foley artists. It needs to be done by the sound designer. I had to be that person. I was able to access a database with lots of available atmos. From here these were layered into my timeline, and listened to it over and over again as I tweaked it. The project at this stage then looked like this:

Final Mix The final stage was the final mix which occurred at Cutting Edge in Brisbane as i needed to have the sound professionally mixed and mastered. That meant setting the levels of the score, Foley, and Atmos. At Cutting Edge, they also fixed the placement and treatment of some of the sounds I had layered in, and placed effects on certain sounds.

We re- recorded some of the sounds that didn’t sound right including the “slops” sounds of the meals the convent girls ate. Rosco’s left over curry was perfect to achieve these sounds.The final master was exported at 24fps and 25fps because I was going to need both frame rates for the film.

Colour grade:

Before the edit and sound could be put together, the final edit had to be colour graded. Colour grading is the process of altering and enhancing the colour of a motion picture, video image, or still image, electronically, photo-chemically or digitally. This is to ensure that the entire film has the right tones, and that shot colours and depths match up. For example, the range of depth of blacks might be increased, or a particular hue removed.  This is very involved process of colouring every shot selected. There was over 1000 edits in the 30-minute film and took about 3 or 4 days.

The DCP: A Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is a collection of digital files used to store and convey digital cinema audio, image, and data streams. A DCP is the digital equivalent of a 35mm film print.  It is what you give to a commercial theatre so that they can screen your movie on a digital (also known as “D-Cinema”) projector. Like a 35mm print, a DCP is a worldwide standard.  If you walk into any D-Cinema theatre, anywhere in the world, they can play your DCP without a problem.

Once the DCP is created, it takes time to be “ingested” into the cinema’s projector, so I had to take it to the cinemas a week before the screening because checking it is crucial. Things can go wrong. Fortunately, all was good for the Ward of State DCP.

Screening Ward of State: As expected, there was a lot to organise for the screening. It was much like inviting people to a live show, with a longer list of people to include on the complimentary list. Jane Wallace designed the posters and premiere screening special poster, and we had them printed and distributed. Tickets were sold through try booking. Most were free tickets, but the sales supported the cost of the hire of the theatre for the two screenings.

Adam Tucker hosted the event as well as a brief Q&A at the conclusion of the film. As always, he did an amazing job. Most of the cast was present, as were most of the crew and team.


Over 300 people attended the premiere with 200 in the first screening at 7pm (capacity) and 100 people in the second screening at 8:30 on the 10th of December 2014 at the New Farm Cinemas. Some of my family members (who I had never met) but that who I had connected with through making the project surprised me by attending.  It was very exciting for everyone involved to see the final product.

Recently “CinéWomen” (made comments on Ward of State saying: We have been really impressed with your dance film, and we appreciate the way you capture subtle, unconscious emotional reactions, as well as your refined cinematography and choreography reminding us of Pina Bausch’s Die Klage der Kaiserin.”

The next step was to submit the film into some Dance film festivals and see how it would fare.




Flaunt Version 1.0 (2014)

Flaunt (version 1.0):  September 2014 – November 2014

After finishing my film Ward of State, and opening Mill Street Studios, in 2014 I was keen to make a new live work for the stage. The opportunity came with a call out from The Brisbane Powerhouse through an initiative called “Sweet”.

“SWEET! is Brisbane Powerhouse’s season for new contemporary performance. Quite simply, it is an artist-led program focused on assisting local performance makers to create and manage their own work, supported heavily by the infrastructure and resources of a major multi-arts venue”


Funding from the Australia Council was behind Sweet. I applied, as did 80 others. I was thrilled to be one of the 3 projects selected.

Brisbane Powerhouse Press release:

SWEET #2 | Flaunt by Claire Marshall Projects | Visy Theatre, 10 – 23 Nov 2014 Flaunt uses reflections and refraction of light scaffold and clear Perspex and occurs in the round and above the audience. The dancers move in and out of entanglements as they flaunt contemporary bold gutsy dance movements onto clear Perspex surfaces (visible to the audience below) exploring the sexualised representation of the human body against a humanless backdrop.

Being selected meant developing a new work at the Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse and with some financial and technical support from the Brisbane Powerhouse.

For Flaunt, I had a vision of a giant Perspex stage and the audience being able to see the action from above or below. The Visy is where I created Hey Scenester, (2010) SlowDive (2010), and shot Pulse (2012). It’s one of my favourite theatres. However,  to make this space look so different again was going to be a challenge, so the first step was a visit back to my favourite little Visy Theatre and to imagine Flaunt in the space.

On the stairs of the pit, there’s still fake blood stains from Hey Scenester in 2010. We like to leave our mark.

The inspiration for Flaunt came about when I was researching women in my family for my film Ward of State. I found a newspaper article about a distant relative who was a singer in the late 1880s. The advert was for her performance. It made me think about how women today advertise themselves on social media. I had the idea of examining women under a microscope on a giant slab or screen, and investigating how they publish and promote themselves today. Instagram, Facebook, selfie photos and researching the psychology behind how viewing other’s photos can impact on other young women.

The first thing required was a hero image. I worked with Mark Greenmantle on this, explaining the concept of what I envisaged, and as always, Mark outdid himself. We chose the above image for the hero image for Flaunt (featuring dancer Kirri Webb, and hair and make-up by Stephanie Patterson). The hero/ poster photo was taken at Mill Street Studios late one night in August with the smoke machine cranking and with a test piece of Perspex.

Below: Make-up artist under the Perspex for a cheeky photo.

My first point of call was budding set designer Frances Hannaway, who had helped with some earlier creative developments and with some of the renovations at Mill St. With Fran’s design background as well as dance background, I knew that Fran would be up for the challeges of Flaunt. It would become a massive learning curve for us both.

One night in August 2014 after classes at Mill Street Studios, we sat down and discussed the work. I showed Frances my rushed drawing for how I saw the space and set and Frances whipped up some drawings in CAD.

This is the Perxpex (plexiglass) sitting in the custom built frame. Each piece weighted 100kg. 
Assembly of the set in the rehearsal space at the Brisbane Powerhouse:

Rehearsals commenced in October 2014 with a few rehearsals at Mill Street Studios before moving to the residency at the Brisbane Powerhouse in October (at the Turbine Rehearsal space). Rehearsals we over 4.5 weeks and quite intense due to the amount of work I needed to create.

From the rehearsal space the set was bumped into the theatre for the performance season. As always, the powerhouse staff were exceptional and we had help from their production team: Simon, Matt, Minty, & Kev.

I had engaged 4 dancers who I had worked with before: Miranda Zeller, Mariana Paraizo, Kirri Webb, and Amelia Stokes (who I had not worked with since youth dance company Urban Ignition and before Amelia had gone to train at WAAPA. I knew that these dancers understood my movement vocabulary and that as a team, we would work quickly. We did. The rehearsal times were such a highlight of the development time.

Much of the movement material was developed without the main set due to hold ups in the confstruction. They were keen to work with the set once it arrived despite some inintal fear of the height and not being able to see below them.

I had a clear idea of what I wanted the work to look like, but making a new work in 4 weeks is a massive task. Just creating dance in the studio is time consuming enough, but to factor in the other roles I usually take on when creating a work, I definitely found myself stretched for time, and it’s often the work that suffers. For example, I would normally also produce the work, look after all aspects of the sound and audio, promote the work, costume the work, and take time for press and interviews.
Fortunately, a call from Metro Arts provided what was needed. https://www.metroarts.com.au

The back-story of Metro Arts (formerly Maps for Artists) is that they offer creative producing services to artists making work in Queensland. For many years I had been trying to have my work on their radar, however, there was no opening for any more artists. The phone call from Jo Thomas at Metro Arts in September 2014 was exactly what the work needed: a creative producer. The win didn’t stop there. Jo also suggested I work with a dramaturg and lined up the talented David Fenton. Working with David Fenton changed the way I create a work, and how I think about the structure of the work. It was possibly the greatest outcome for me as an artist in terms of my development. Touring the work would come in a close 2nd, but at the time in 2014 I could not have imagined that would be a possibility.


To dismantle the set and move it just a few metres into the theatre saw a lot of problem solving, but it was good to work all this out before touring the work. Flaunt assembly video:
We had a week in the Visy to finish developing the work in the space as well as rig, focus, and plot liting.

Below: photo of dress rehearsal (by Mark Greenmantle)

We even built a crypt for one of the mannequins in the floor (seen further below with dancer Mariana Paraizo)

In the first incarnation of Flaunt we also used projection and photographer Mark Greenmantle took some “Selfie-inspired” photos of the dancers that were projected in the piece. I think the dancers all felt a bit ridiculous doing these photos, but looking back, they are pretty tame in comparison to what we see on social media. Below: Dancer Amelia Stokes. Photo by Mark Greenmantle

The projections occurred during the performance too

The projections occurred on a large Perspex cube we filled with haze.

For a few creative reasons, I had mannequins included in the work and the “girls” also became a part of our publicity campaign. They had an Instagram account and made a few posts. Flaunt being about women and power, the mannequins were brilliant for posing as life examples of young women today. This actually generated interest in the piece among the non-contemporary dance audiences. No mannequins attended the show however.

This is Madaleine.Madaleine embraced life at the Brisbane Powerhouse, but not so much in rehearsal.
Madaleine also crashed some parties (and our instagram campaign)

Lighting designer Michal Richardson and Stage Manager Mitch Cooley were an integral part of the team too. Lighting is always so important and Michael Richardson was a brilliant young lighting designer to work with.
Here’s a few more photos of Flaunt 1.0 by Mark Greenmantle/ Mark Greenmantle Photography.

Working in the performance space is always the most exciting part of making a work. Things all start coming together. There’s late nights finishing decorative elements. There’s even sometimes the time to stop and think and enjoy it all coming together.

We also had some press in the Sunday Mail and a photo shoot with the dancers.

The18th to the 22nd of November was the performance season for Flaunt with 5 shows. Flaunt came close to a sell-out season with 4 of the 5 performances selling out.

This was the final outcome of Flaunt (in terms of what was created in 2014):
Flaunt is about women and power and how it can be ‘socially inscribed’ on the body – like a magnetic inscription on a tape, which repeats and repeats and then eventually runs out.
We are examining what women project about themselves, and how women are socially conditioned to police each other’s ‘acceptable’ images.
We are investigating well established tropes of women under glass, in the glass and the objectified and deconstructed body.
Some young people I knew were beginning to use social media to post photos of their bodies in various states of undress. I questioned the virtual identities that young women project and how they are often extreme and paradoxical. “Who is this for, to publish yourself in this manner? Do we post for ourselves or to compete with other women? Do we progressively become ‘monstrous ‘versions of ourselves online?” I wondered what people in the future might think of these images and what they say about women today. I wondered what the women of the past might also think. I thought about the concept of a body frozen in time, brought back to life and dissected for investigation throughout history. I wondered, “What might the body say?”

This was a rough edit,  just with a few sections loosely pieced together – as a snapshot of the aesthetic show, rather than in linear order or showing any story, humour, or the work in context.






On Friday the 24th of January, Mill Street Studios was officially opened. Guests included members of the community, friends, family, industry and students and parents of the new DANCE4300 school of dance. I was particularly delighted that Councilor of Goodna, Paul Tully came along.



I took guests on a guided tour of the space as I explained my intended use for the various spaces and showed guest the results of the eight weeks of renovations and refurbishments undertaken! I explained my intentions for the use of the different spaces, as well as the flexibility of the spaces.



The audience was lead into the black studio space where two demonstrations occurred, showing the space in performance mode and studio mode. I spoke about how I planned for the space to be used… and made a few notoriously bad visual jokes.


The first demonstration (photo below) was a ballet demonstration by dance students Anastasia Lonsdale, Imogen Crowell and Clare Cannons and saw the curtains opened, rostra moved, and rehearsal lights turned on – showing how the space is used in the context of a dance class.


The second demonstration (photo below) was a short snippet of a solo performed by Frances Hannaway – showing  the space in performance mode (for small scale showings of work). I used some rostra (from one of my shows), lights, and closed the curtains. Thanks to Christine Johnstone who snapped the above and below photo on her phone.

black space performance mode



Mill Street Studios is my new base where I will rehearse for my own projects, rather than hiring other spaces. So in the white space was a demonstration of a rehearsal – I picked something recent from a new project of mine, called Ward of State. Of course costumes were required :)

Sarah Fitzgerald and Hope Wilson (10 years) demonstrated a section of choreography from a scene and I spoke about using the space for my own projects.




Retro themed food and drinks were served:



And an amazing Mill Street Studios inspired cake was made by Cassy Lee:




I want the space to reflect that it welcomes dancers of all ages and stages so Frances Hannaway selected photographs of my choreography from shows, dance films, music video choreography, youth works, and student works to put up around the space.

Many of the photographs displayed at Mill Street Studios have been taken of my work over the years by dance photographer FenLan who photographed the launch.


I was happy to have the space officially opened after eight weeks of renovations and revamping the space. Here’s a few more of FenLan’s images from the Mill Street Studios Launch :)












The next challenge was getting the space operating on daily basis, setting up the school, hiring out the space, and putting the space to use!!!


MILL STREET STUDIOS – an idea to hard yakka renovations


Mill Street Studios is an exciting new dance space I opened on the 24th of January Mill Street, Goodna. Goodna is smack bang between Brisbane and Ipswich, and a few minutes walk from from the Goodna train station.

Mill Street Studios – How it happened?

Mill Street Studios came about very quickly in December last year. It wasn’t something I was planning to do, but in short, Mill Street Studios came about because:

1. I was at the right place at the right time.

2. I saw the potential in the situation, potential in the space, and

3. I had an existing long-standing connection with the local dance community.

Below: the white space at the end of renovations.


I had always imagined how great it would be to have my own space, but as an independent artist it’s not really financially viable. I was aware that I’d needed to work out a long-term solution to making my practice more sustainable, particularly because of my increased focused on making high quality projects, rather than ‘commercial’ freelance work.

My independent projects require a significant financial commitment. Even when I’ve been fortunate enough to have support in the form of funding, private investment, or fund raising, I usually don’t pay myself. I try to make ever dollar stretch as far as it can.

Commercial jobs such as choreography and movement coaching for TV commercials, music videos and workshops have funded a large part of my projects, and a lot of money has been spent on hiring venues and rehearsal spaces. Ausdance Qld has greatly improved this situation by subsidising spaces, but there is a limited number of spaces, and timing can often be a problem.

For example, rehearsals for my dance film Ward of State were held in seven different locations, and one venue cost more than $100 per hour to hire.


Why was Mill Street Studios established?

There was demand – I had taught at the previous dance school that existed in the space for a few years and had built a great relationship with the students. However, in November the studio principal announced that she was closing the school. A few students and their parents asked if I’d consider taking over the school. Initially, I didn’t think it was the right idea. Teaching is a big responsibility and although teaching is something I enjoy, I wasn’t prepared to give up my practice as a choreographer to take on the role of a full-time dance studio principal – teaching every class. That said, I had a very strong desire to continue teaching and remain connected to the students.

I needed rehearsal space – In October I started looking for rehearsal space for my work SlowDive, which was performed at the Australian Preforming Arts Market (APAM) in February 2014. Most spaces were very expensive and could not accommodate the props  and large set pieces used in the show.

I needed storage space – After 15 years, one acquires a lot of props. Four years of storage space hire for SlowDive cost more than the funding I had to make the work. It’s something no one thinks about when they submit a funding application. Unlike most independent artists, a company usually has a base and some storage space. Transport costs can also be significant. Mill Street Studios provided the much needed rehearsal space and an on-site shipping container meets most of my storage needs for just $2.20 a day!

Light bulb moment- About a week after the announcement of the closer of the school in November,  I had the ‘light bulb’ moment. Maybe I could lease the space for my own projects and continue to run the dance school – leading it, rather than teaching all the dance classes. I could re-shape the school and apply my industry experience in terms of the content and context of learning, and select a diverse team of high-quality teachers to teach a variety of dance styles.

It was a matter of putting two and two together: a space for rehearsing my own projects and the business partnership potential of managing the school. It was the perfect combination!


OUTCOME:  After a few busy months of renovations, and planning, and setting up all things business related, Mill Street Studios became home to the following:

Claire Marshall Projects – Mill Street Studios is my new base as a freelance choreographer and independent artist.

Test Pressing –is a new youth dance project group for 18-30 year olds, with a focus on projects that engage the local community.

DANCE 4300 – DANCE 4300 is an exciting new school of dance that resides at Mill Street Studios under my direction with specially handpicked teachers & staff.

More info about the above later, this post is about the realisation of the idea to renovating the space.



With lots of help from family and friends, Mill Street Studios was renovated between December 2013 and January 2014.  It was important to re-brand the space and make it my own.

Here’s some photos of the journey of the renovations.

December 2013:

studio 2

Sanding the floors. The floors were already in existence, and had been rebuit after the 2011 floods. But they were in need of a sanding and repairs. I recruited the help of “Robert Floor Sander” to help. Robert and his team (of family helpers) did a terrific job.


If the floors needed sanding, then why not paint them before the top coat? There’s only a few colours in my vocabulary. So black it was! The only problem is that you can’t buy black floor paint in Australia. There’s a UK brand, that can’t be imported. I tried staining the wood initially, but it wasn’t black enough.


Determined to find a solution, it was suggested that I use an exterior paint. And it looked spectacular with the semi-sheen!


There was just one problem: It didn’t dry! The paint remained tacky for over a week. Time was limited with a deadline to open the space in January.  But it was back to square one.


Sanding the second time took a lot longer than the first time… because the floor was essentially still damp.  The dramas with the floor meant getting a different sort of exterior paint and starting from scratch. It meant missing out on my brother’s new years eve party and spending the time at Mill Street Studios painting. This time using a different brand of paint and using a low sheen exterior decking paint. I made sure I did thing properly – which meant starting at the edges of each panel of wood. Happy New Year indeed!

floor attempt 2

Recruiting more help (thanks Fran & Will), once the floor was painted, we undercoated the walls. Hospital Grey undercoat wasn’t exactly inspiring. I couldn’t wait to see them painted black!


And black it was!


The last thing was the top coat on the floor which made it look shiny. I was so happy with the result that I wanted to hug the floor. So i did. Nice floor.



Simon Cook rigged my lights that had been sitting in storage. He did a spectacular job!


The intention with the black space was that is could be used for small scale showings and performances as well as for regular classes and rehearsal. At the launch, a demonstration of how the space could be adapted was shown.

Here’s some of the other spaces at Mill Street Studios:

The White space before re-vampifications commenced (December 2013)


A freshly painted floor:


Like the black space, there were issues with the white space: the floor yellowed, and unfortunately it needed to be re-sanded and painted with a non-yellowing top coat. This was a massive set back, but we powered on and had both spaces ready just in time for the launch.

DSC_3057 IMG_7606

The checkered space:

The Checkered space wasn’t always a checkered space. It was once a green space. I quite like green, but green is just not black ;-):



The Kitchen:

In its former days, the kitchen was used as an office.


Whist pretty much everything in Mill Street Studios was formerly a prop or set part from a show, I did lash out and purchase some 2nd hand orange retro chairs for a bargain and recruited some help by Sarah and Cassy to restore them.


I should also mention that whist all the floor sanding, painting, re-sanding, re-painting was occurring, in my realisation that time was slipping behind, I needed to call in some additional help – the big guns of renovators: my parents! My Mum and Dad are DIY renovating legends. I have to say that I was well trained in the ways of renovating – I remember spending time in the school holidays helping with renovations at home. I enjoyed it, and I learnt so much from my clever parents. I have to admit that my Mum and Dad originally agreed to help in the garden, but got roped into helping with lots of other things and were spending almost every day at Mill Street Studios to help get it finished.

Here’s outside before they started work:


My Dad and brother helped build the screen and Mum and Dad panted a lovely selection of plants.


I had initially wanted to put astro turf inside, but it seemed to suit outdoors.

Reception area:


Mill Street studios requires the time and skills of some business minded people.  I was fortunate to be connected with Kerri who is a huge part of Mill Street studios and the operations of the school there. The reception area is important as it’s the first point of contact with visitors. So I wanted to make it look special.

Another thing I remember helping my Mum and Dad with was wall papering. Feeling confident about knowing how to do this , I recruited the help for Fran and Will with the wall paper. The chandelier was a prop from a show called Video Set that I created in 2011. Good to see it being put to use :)



Upstairs: I think that upstairs was formerly used for storage. A good idea, but i needed somewhere for office space.


The floors were sanded and painted by Mr Robert Floor Sander.


More of my lights that were previously in storage were put to use by Simon Cook. Not bad for an office!



During the 8 week renovation time frame I was spending between 16 – 18 hour days at Mill Street Studios. Various people would show up to work on certain aspects of the renovations at certain times. On a low DIY budget, most of the work was done by family and friends, with only a few ‘trade’ jobs  required. At about 5am on the 24th of January I finished painting the foyer floor, and hoped it would be dry in time for the launch that night.