Halcyon – Jack Lister Creates An Experience Of Dance, Vision And Sound

The halcyon days of old Hollywood come to the fore, in Jack Lister's new work for Australasian Dance Collective (ADC): 'Halcyon’.


Enter a world of femme fatales, hardened detectives and elusive suspects. Each has their secrets. Dance and cinema come together in 'Halcyon', through the interlacing of live performance and digital projection, the latter created by Ryan Renshaw.

This video work appropriates scenes and text from classic films.

'Halcyon' is more than a performance – it's an experience, created specifically for Brisbane Powerhouse, allowing the audience to stand and roam as it unfolds.

Ahead of the work's presentation at Brisbane Powerhouse, we speak to its creator Jack Lister.

Jack joined Australasian Dance Collective in 2020, and since his appointment has collaborated on new creations with a number of creatives. Last year, Jack was appointed Creative Associate at ADC.

This is your new full-length work for ADC. Tell us a bit about it.
'Halcyon' is a really exciting show and a big project. We are bringing together the worlds of dance, electronic music, live-feed cameras, film and lighting to reimagine the era of 1940s cinema. From the high tension of film noir crime thrillers to the high glamour of MGM song and dance classics, 'Halcyon' takes the troupes and flavours of this iconic era of cinema and creates a really unique, absurd, dark and thrilling experience.

How is it to be a part of the Australasian Dance Collective family?
I’ve been with ADC since 2020, and it is very special to be a part of a company that pushes the envelope in regards to what dance can be and how it can be experienced. We are a dance company at the core, but our long list of collaborators spans well outside of the traditional scope of theatre makers. Recently, our collaborators have spanned from Zurich-based drone technology company, Verity Studios, to esteemed London-based designer Es Devlin – both of whom have created for clients such as Beyonce, Adele, Justin Bieber, and Drake. We take dance from theatres to warehouses, outdoors, screens, and beyond. We are small but mighty, and 'Halcyon' continues the company’s interdisciplinary ethos to new creation, involving a myriad of collaborators from differing practices and working together on an immersive dance-theatre production.

When you begin a new work, where do you start? What gets you into that creative space?
At the moment, I am gravitating to ideas that feel fun, exciting, entertaining. It doesn’t mean that there can’t be light and shade to those ideas, but the prospect of both creating a world to play in as a performer and crafting an experience for an audience is paramount.

How about with ‘Halcyon’? What was the inspiration with this piece?
I was initially really inspired by film noir films, and felt there could be an exciting cross over between the drama, tension and aesthetic of those films and contemporary dance. Often, in contemporary dance, we run in the opposite direction of troupes and narratives, instead gravitating to abstraction and metaphor, but 'Halcyon' really embraces the style of the era, and cinematic and dramatic ideas to form its vocabulary. The outcome feels really fresh, unpredictable, strangely nostalgic, and very tongue-in-cheek.

Halcyon ADC 2023 2

It’s been specially crafted for the Brisbane Powerhouse. When you create a work specifically for a venue, what things go into consideration?
I felt like I wanted to create more than just a show and rather an experience for 'Halcyon'. It will be presented in an immersive or promenade setting, meaning that the audience will be standing and can choose to move around as the show unfolds. We are taking over the main theatre, removing the seating bank, and building two big staging islands in the space – the show will take place in 360 degrees around the audience. It’s not an audience participation show, rather the audience becomes part of the world of 'Halcyon'.

There’s a bit of a crossover with the digital world. Why did you want to implement digital projection?
We are really fortunate to be working with my long-time collaborator and good friend Ryan Renshaw for 'Halcyon'. Ryan is an award-winning film director – his broad career in film includes creating numerous MTV music videos for some of Australia’s biggest names and our previous award-winning dance-film collaborations, which have been screened globally over the past five years. Ryan is creating some really special and powerful visuals to live within the work. We are also using live-feed cameras and projection for the work, meaning we are able to create a real-time film, projected at 12 meters high in the space. We have some amazing surprises coming.

What is the main message/take-away you’d like the audience to leave with after ‘Halcyon’?
I’m still digging for the take-away (if there is one!), but it really is my hope to transport the audience to a unique world that can feel familiar and nostalgic, unpredictable and mysterious, absurd and exciting. Our world is complex, and so too are our personal lives, so it has been a joy to create a work that doesn’t feel steeped in meaning and metaphor, and really find some purely entertaining concepts for the work. 'Halcyon' really takes its cues from the escapist nature that entertainment, be it film or live theatre, can afford us. I cannot wait to take audiences along on this wild trip.

'Halcyon' plays Brisbane Powerhouse 9-12 November.

This story originally appeared on our sister site, scenestr.