2014 – the 1st year of Mill Street Studios

2014

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

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MILL STREET STUDIOS – Launch

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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.

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GUIDED TOUR:

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.

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THE BLACK SPACE:

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.

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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.

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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.

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THE WHITE SPACE:

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.

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Retro themed food and drinks were served:

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

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PHOTOS

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.

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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 :)

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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!!!

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MILL STREET STUDIOS – an idea to hard yakka renovations

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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.

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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.

  

Renovations:

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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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And black it was!

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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.

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

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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)

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A freshly painted floor:

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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.

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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 ;-):

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The Kitchen:

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

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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.

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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:

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My Dad and brother helped build the screen and Mum and Dad panted a lovely selection of plants.
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I had initially wanted to put astro turf inside, but it seemed to suit outdoors.

Reception area:

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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 :)

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

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

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

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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.

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