Shaun Parker On Queer Bites, The Yard And The Queer Community

Written by Staff Writers
Category: Arts Published: Friday, 06 March 2020 14:08

Shaun Parker is the Artistic Director of Sydney dance theatre organisation Shaun Parker & Company.

Along with that, he's the brains behind something called Queer Bites, a workshop mentoring emerging artists in the queer community.

Last year, Shaun slipped on his dancing shoes again to take centre stage in a remake of one of his earliest works – 'Blue Love'. This was after spending many years focusing on mentoring emerging talent and taking the arts world to disadvantaged communities.

In the lead up to National Day Of Action Against Bullying (20 March), dance programme 'The Yard' will tour across Sydney and regional NSW primary and secondary schools. It carries a vital anti-bullying message.

Here, we profile Shaun and ask him a bit about Queer Bites, 'The Yard' and the queer community.

You're the brains behind Queer Bites. What inspired you to create it?
I really wanted to create a platform for emerging queer artists to give them the chance to have fun with their work in a studio. We’ve had everyone from singers to drag artists, and directors to actors taking part and it’s really wonderful to bring them all together. They get to know each other as they create performances with queer perspectives which is amazing to see. Queer Bites is all about giving them visibility, the opportunity to network and create new associations as well as works. They all still keep in touch and continue to bounce ideas off each other which is fantastic to see.

What do you love about being a part of the queer community?
I definitely love the sense of freedom, the creativity, the flamboyancy and the non-conforming attitudes that vibrate through our community. I love the energy and the strong sense of the inner child within many of us. Our community has had a lot of hardship and the feeling of shame because we don’t fit into the heterosexual mould, and I actually think that inspires our creativity. We want to have fun and enjoy life, and we can do that through the arts so easily which can also help us heal.

And what do you love most about all the work you do?
I love being with performers, spending time with dancers and laughing when something fun emerges out of no-where. We give so much to society through the performances we create and topics we explore. We’re trying to make the world a better place through dance and the arts, and I love that!

Aside from Queer Bites is there anything else on your radar in terms of LGBTQIA+ people that you'd like to create/partake in?
I recently went to Roadwerk Festival in Marrickville and the musical talent there was incredible. New young talent is the kind of talent I really want to support, whether that’s through choreography or direction, there’s so much potential with these performers. I always try to attend as much of the Mardi Gras Film Festival as possible as I really love supporting our community and our talent. And of course I attend Mardi Gras every year, but I feel like there is a great opportunity to create an even bigger arts festival around it. It’s a huge celebration but I’d love to foster even more live performances. I think this is something that Destination NSW could really support. Sydney is Australia’s gay capital after all, so I think there’s real potential to bring even more of us together. Finally, a phenomenally talented artist I’m currently mentoring is JamarzOnMarz. He has incredible talent as a rapper and I can’t wait to see how far he goes in the industry. I’m supporting with multiple aspects of his performances – he really is one to watch!

ShaunParker Simon Wachter
Image © Simon Wachter

Tell us how you're participating in the lead up to National Day Of Action Against Bullying.
Our programme – 'The Yard' – will be touring across Sydney and nearby regional NSW primary and secondary schools in the lead up to National Day Of Action Against Bullying. We’ve been running this programme since 2011. It targets children from as young as eight and carries a vital anti-bullying message with aims to help educate children on the importance of seeking support if they come across troubling circumstances. It’s been wonderful to see 'The Yard' grow and watch how it has impacted so many people’s lives. Teaching children about respect and kindness from a young age is crucial for us to live in a happier world, and I’m so very proud of the team involved.

What is your main motivation and inspiration?
I find the complexity of human behaviour to be a huge inspiration. For me it’s about looking at humans as incredible beings but also flawed and frail – I find it absolutely fascinating and it gives me so much inspiration. I like to look at how we celebrate the joys of being alive and how we interrogate ourselves to shed light on who we are and to help us grow. I really feel that we can evolve as a species through art.

How do you get amped for a big day?
When I have a big day ahead I’ll go for a run down to Coogee Beach and then a swim in the ocean to really wake me up and get my blood flowing. I’ll then do one hour of yoga to focus my mind ahead of getting straight into the day. I also make sure I eat a nice lunch – that’s a priority for me!

What advice would you give your younger self?
Never ever be ashamed of who you are, and trust your instinct. Always remember how powerful and truthful your instinct is and go with it – it’s there for a reason.

'The Yard' tours Sydney from 10-16 March.

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