The Antarctic dance

Female expeditioner posing next to statue of Mawson at the station, with icebreaker in the background
Tina Evans at Mawson station. (Photo: John Kitchener)
Expeditioner lowered down at a crevasse during field training near Mawson.

Tina Evans is an emerging director, choreographer and performer working across dance, physical theatre, music video and film. She travelled to Davis and Mawson on an Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship in 2009–10 to collect photographs, sounds and experiences for a live performance at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2011.

During my fellowship I aimed to see, experience and capture as much of the Antarctic ice as possible by taking photographs, recording sounds of ice, filming the ice and physically responding to it – recording choreographic and sensory stimulation of ice movement, patterns, texture, structures and illuminated colour.

From this experience I will choreograph and direct a live performance about the Antarctic ice – its diversity, movement, cycles and signs of climate change. My work will explore the creation and circulation of ice, the seasonal cycles of ice, the textures, patterns and movement encrypted in the ice, and it will look at ice from a large scale right down to the actions of ice molecules. The work will merge dance, sound, set, costume, photography and film and will be presented in a large outdoor space at Federation Square in Melbourne as part of the 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

My challenge during the fellowship was to see and experience as much as possible in limited time. I had a whirlwind adventure during two nights at Davis. It began with cruising on a zodiac boat around the icebergs off the coast of Davis, which was staggeringly spectacular. Almost as soon as we stepped off the zodiac boats a few of us were ushered into a helicopter to fly over the ice and land at Platcha Hut. The ice and lakes were shimmering and it seemed like we’d landed in paradise. I was struck by the silence as we hiked up the ice plateau. To experience as much of Antarctica as possible I slept outside in a bivvy (and was cosier than expected!).  Then it was time to fly back to the ship and sail on to Mawson, where more highlights awaited.

I was lucky to tag along with others who were undertaking field training at Mawson. After driving across the ice in a Hägglund we stopped and walked to a Russian plane crash site. Little did I know that I was about to be roped up and lowered down into a large ice crevasse. The experience of the ice from within was surreal. I kept yelling ’I don’t ever want to come out!’ The crevasse was a dazzling array of ice textures, patterns and pockets. More enchantment followed as we made our way to the hut at Rumdoodle, which is surrounded by frozen lakes and ice that extends forever. But I was soon back on the ship and as we pulled away from Mawson station it really hurt. I didn’t want to be leaving this extraordinary continent so soon.

Since returning I have refined the material I collected and am further developing ideas for the work. I have drawn a creative team together for the project including sound artist Philip Samartzis as well as set, lighting and costume designers. I have been further delving into Antarctic ice and climate research and I’m also in the process of securing funds for the project from sponsors and government.

The creation and facilitation of the work will take place through 2011 and will be presented from October 4–8 at Federation Square in Melbourne. In addition to the performances I will conduct workshops exploring the Antarctic ice with school children. The performance work will be filmed and further developed into a short film that will be distributed to media outlets, festivals and online.

TINA EVANS