Frances Rings is an Indigenous Australian dancer, choreographer and television presenter. She was born in Adelaide, South Australia and is a descendant of the Kokatha people.
Frances joined Bangarra Dance Theatre in 1993 after graduating from NAISDA Dance College. In 1995 Frances studied at New York’s Alvin Ailey American Dance Centre, focusing on Martha Graham and Lester Horton techniques.
Narelle Benjamin & Frances Rings: Forseen A Bouble Bill
Choreographers Narelle Benjamin and Frances Rings have combined forces to remount their delicate, evocative works as a double bill.
Along with film-maker Samuel James, Narelle Benjamin has used Magritte's painting The Tomb of the Wrestler as the projected film element for The Dark Room. In the work, the rose becomes the symbol of life itself, or perhaps the memory of life? In the photographic dark room, it is the memory of someone that is brought back to life. A dream, like a photo, can restore someone in our mind's eye. As the light of dawn begins, their image fades.
The Rose is perfumed air but it is also cruelty. Magritte
We perceive the rose's faint perfume by means of a heart-rendering memory. Paul Nouge
The Dark Room was created for the Australian Ballet's 2007 Bodytorque season as part of Narelle Benjamin's Hepzibah Tintner Fellowship. Through its Bodytorque program the Australian Ballet invites independent artists to create new works on the company alongside its resident choreographers.
Debris is inspired by middens- the ancient mounds of debris that tell us of human activity. Enter a subterranean landscape weathered by seasons and nurtured by time where the debris of the past comes to life to relive habits and rituals. Beneath our feet lie the echoes of gatherings that tell a story of occupation, evidence that we existed - we were once here.
Debris was choreographed for the West Australian Ballet for their 2007 Quarry season as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. In this work Frances Rings explores the idea of modern day middens and how we take responsibility for what we leave behind. She considers middens as a universal theme relating to all people and their connection with ancestral roots. Other inspiration came from ideas of excavating, unearthing and layering - as well as the question of possessions and what we regard as valuable.
Both choreographers are inspired by ancient philosophies - movement begins as organic gestures that build to create a sensory experience where the body is no longer human but the embodiment of the natural world. Yoga has been an inspiration in Narelle's life both as a practice and informing the movement quality of her choreography. Driven by the breath it is the connection of the mind and body that stimulates the physical intention. This ideology of working inside out is one that Frances is also very familiar with and stems from her Indigenous background. Taking her inspiration from a rich cultural heritage her style is derived from ancient beliefs and customs embracing a contemporary expression through its fusion of the old and new.
World premiere of Debris, WA Ballet at The Quarry for the Perth Festival, Febuary 2007
World premiere of The Dark Room, The Australian Ballet Bodytorque, Sydney Theatre, 2007
Narelle Benjamin & Frances Rings: Forseen A Double Bill
DANCE BITES 2011
Western Sydney Dance Action and Riverside Theatre
6 - 9 April 2011
Bangarra Studio Theatre
15 - 16 April 2011
Choreographey: Narelle Benjamin (The Dark Room) Frances Rings (Debris)
Music: Huey Benjamin, Philip Glass, Peter Sculthorpe, The Necks
Performers: Eric Avery, Jana Castillo, Benjamin Hancock, Chrissy Norford, Katina Olsen, Paul White
Film: Samuel James
Lighting Design: Karen Norris
Costume/Props: India Flint
Production Manager: Neil Fisher
Producer: Rosalind Richards Artful Management
"Both were originally choreographed in 2007, The Dark Room for the Australian Ballet’s ‘Bodytorque’ season, and Debris for the West Australian Ballet’s ‘Quarry’ season. Both Benjamin and Rings have previously worked together with Bangarra Dance Theatre, and as choreographers of the double bill INTO for the 2008 Sydney Festival show, About an Hour.
Memory is a crucial part of the experience of returning to the works four years afterwards for Benjamin and Rings, not only in the remounting of the steps, but in remembering who they were as artists then, and why these particular works were produced at that time.
For both works, the cast of six dancers (Eric Avery, Jana Castillo, Benjamin Hancock, Chrissy Norford, Katina Olsen and Paul White) is superb.
Narelle Benjamin’s work is first, opening with a striking column of light on sculptural movement. Overall, the work has a dreamlike quality, as if we are in the world between sleep and dreams. Samuel Jame’s projections are most effectively used – in one section of film the dancers are trapped in ‘bubbles’ that look like the Earth, and there is a wonderful segment of a mouldy haunted house, quite fairytale like. Some of the show is quite sci-fi in a way too – is there a rift in time and space and we can see into a parallel universe? Another possible reading is that it is about broken and/or lost relationships.
The hypnotic, pulsating sharp edged score incorporating music by Huey Benjamin and The Necks is brilliant.
The dancers are mostly in black trunks and grey tops. Benjamin’s choreography is fluid and flexible with lots of floor work and an emphasis on using the back. It is quite sculptural, a concentrates on circular floor patterns. I also noted a liking for ‘fourth position’ with extremely neatly turned out feet. There are some brilliant duos/trios (especially for White, Castillo and Norford) and a terrific male pas de deux ( Hancock and White).
After interval was Ring’s Debris, based on the idea of Aboriginal middens and sacred spaces; and also, perhaps, the haunted debris of discarded emotions/relationships. You can see Rings’ Bangarra ‘style’ to some extent in the choreography, but it is subtle. The Aboriginal influence is also evident in the baskets the women wear and the white face paint.
Texture in the intriguing costumes by India Flint is very important (I loved the tattered, layered costumes for the opening section for example, and the layer of white mesh over the spattered tops in another).
Again there is a sense of loss, haunting and returning to a previously loved space. Are the dancers in one section in their white dresses ghosts? In another section there is a sense of flying, floating in the space. There is some very strong, athletic work, particularly for the men. White has an enthralling solo and Hancock is also featured.
A most exciting double bill that leaves the audience entranced and wanting more. "