New Breed Choreographer Spotlight: Chloe Leong


30 October 2020


Pedro Greig

Sydney Dance Company returns to the stage for the first time this year with four world premieres for New Breed 2020. This significant moment also marks Company dancer Chloe Leong’s choreographic debut. We sat down with Chloe to find out how the unique challenges presented by this strange year have shaped her choreographic process and gain some insight into what audiences can expect to see and feel through her work.

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Q. How would you describe your choreographic style?

Organic, fluid, soft but strong, minimal and intimate at times, human in parts and strongly connected to feelings and sensations.

Q. You had to start your creative process on Zoom with dancers in their homes. How was that experience for you?

Difficult, strange but rewarding. In the studio the creative process is normally very instantaneous; you’re able to feed off each other as choreographer and dancer, developing and refining movement, seeing it in space and in context, but online, it’s a totally different story.

I feel so appreciative to have such brilliant artists who were trusting of my vision; or more honestly speaking, my non-vision at the time! Although the initial part of the creative process was challenging, it was a welcome outlet for creative expression while being confined to the four walls of my apartment.

Q. What is the inspiration for your work?

I was drawn to the idea of nostalgia. The very notion of nostalgia is a paradoxical interplay, which I find interesting. Most favourably described as bittersweet, it opens the mind to the possibilities within time, creates connections between spaces, and the constructions of our past become malleable, shape-shifting to the needs of the present moment. It can be vivid, it can be vague, subjective, temporal and strongly attached to emotion. It can take an individual bound by the present into a state of fantasy, an insular space that can give rise to both tension and reassurance.

Q. You’ve been tasked with creating and staging your work with social distancing limitations still in place. How has that influenced your creative process?

The contact limitations and starting the creative process online completely shaped the way my piece has turned out, in the best way possible. Choreographing for the first time had already placed me outside my comfort zone, however with the limitations and predominantly working online, it pushed me even further past my safety net and forced me to allow the work to take shape on its own. There was a point when it looked possible that there’d be no show at all and although that would have been devastating, it took away the pressure of creating what I thought the audience would like to see. Instead, I asked myself, if this work is never to be performed or seen by anyone, what do I want to see, what do I want to create that will make me proud of what I have achieved? Thinking in this way allowed me to create from a more authentic place, which makes my heart very full.

Q. What can audiences expect from your work?

I wanted to invoke the concept of nostalgia, through the relationship of the dancers, the movement, sound and space. It is not for the audience to understand by being literal but for the audience to experience feelings, sensations, atmospheres, details and human conditions that are universal, through their subjective lens.

Q. What has been your career highlight so far?

All the choreographers and dancers who I have had the privilege to collaborate and work with, in-studio and on stage over the last eight years of my career. These experiences have shaped me into the artist I am today. Also, I’m still completely honoured and humbled to win a Helpmann for best female dancer for my role in Forsythe’s Quintett.  That was pretty cool!

Q. What are you currently listening to and which books are on your bedside table?

Currently, I’m listening to any podcast by Zach Bush, a holistic doctor who is extremely passionate about gut/brain health, the microbiome and soil science. A must for everybody!

For easy listening, always Moses, Tame Impala, Anderson Paak and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

On my bedside table, I’m slowly making my way through a novel by David Sinclair, professor of genetics and Australian Biologist, called Lifespan: Why we age and why we don’t have to. Also super interesting and I highly recommend it

Q. Who/what are your influencers?

The natural world has a big influence on all aspects of my life; being outside surrounded by nature’s beauty, the natural harmony amongst all the ecosystems, accentuating the organic chaos and stillness. Everything has its place and function. It helps me to stay grounded, to put things into perspective. There is so much to learn from a world that has been around for billions of years, if only we, as a collective made it a priority to live alongside it.

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