Ghenoa Gela’s work, ‘Fragments of Malungoka – Women of the Sea’ has won her the prestigious 2016 Keir Choreographic Award.
The Sydney-based choreographer, a proud Torres Strait Islander, won the sought-after award from three other finalists, Rebecca Jensen, Sarah Aiken and Martin Hansen.
The awards, sponsored by the Keir Foundation, Carriageworks and Dancehouse, with the Australia Council, is the only award in Australia that supports the commissioning and presentation of new choreographic work promoting innovative, experimental and cross-art form practice in contemporary dance.
‘Fragments of Malungoka – Women of the Sea’ explores what Ghenoa’s female ancestry means to her as a mainland-born Torres Strait Islander woman. By sharing her culture with an ensemble of non-Torres Strait women, Ghenoa integrates traditional influences with contemporary movement and technology.
The jury included Bojana Cvejić (Belgrade), performance theorist and performance maker based in Brussels; Pierre Bal-Blanc, Documenta 14 curator and independent art critic based in Athens and Paris; US based choreographer Sarah Michelson, inaugural recipient of the KCA in 2014, Atlanta Eke and Phillip Keir, Keir Foundation founder.
“I believe these awards are invaluable for the contemporary dance scene in Australia,” Ghenoa said.
“The notion that eight new works have been commissioned and multiple artists have been employed through the award is very inspiring for the sector.
“I am overwhelmed by the support I have felt throughout this time and am proud that my work was considered as a possible reflection of the current dance climate.”
Phillip Keir awarded Ghenoa with a $30,000 cash prize and, to her overwhelming surprise, a further $10,000 cash prize for the audience choice award.
“It is fantastic to see new innovative works take to the stage. The inventiveness of all the works stands without question and points to the health of contemporary dance in Australia,” he said.
Carriageworks Director Lisa Havilah said; “Supporting artists and the making of new work is at the heart of the Carriageworks Artistic Program and we are delighted to support and nurture the next generation of choreographers. Congratulations to all the commissioned artists and to the extraordinary Ghenoa Gela for her incredible work, a very worthy winner.”
Angela Conquet, Artistic Director of Dancehouse, said; “Looking at what these works investigate, we may be looking at the future of dance. All works seem to explore the moving body as thinking, embodied matter – positioned at the intersection of time and history; of space and the politics of their context; of the inner self and our ensconcement in social media.”