2020 – The Year That Was…

Part One – The Summer From Hell

“Under the fury of the burning summer sun,
Languish man and flock; the sunburnt earth is scorched.”
Vivaldi’s Summer Sonnet, reimagined by Bonnie Curtis.

As I reflect back on the year that was, I came to the realisation that 2020 wasn’t all bad.

Woman wearing black shorts and tshirt with dark brown hair tied back sitting on a small blue chair inside a timber cell with coloured string and vine like flowers hanging down vertically

Sara Moad sitting inside her Wonderland gaol cell.

We did some things I never would have dreamed of, both good and bad.

Starting off the year we were choked by bushfire smoke, having survived Christmas hellfire that threatened many peoples lives.

We welcomed 4 new dancers into the BCP Tribe and began working on a more disturbing version of Wonderland.

Things started off great. My experiences during summer inspired me to make changes to Wonderland to express more apocalyptic, hell on earth vibes than before. We added some awesome new elements to the work, more audience interaction, close proximity in small spaces, new props and costumes and we worked with fight director Scottie Witt on an explosive scene that was to be the climax of our Wonderland version of hell on earth.

Little did we know that the flu emerging in China would quickly interrupt our plans of getting up close and personal with audience members and each other. The decision was made to postpone Wonderland as it was not safe for the performers and audience to perform our vision of Wonderland. Later we would realise that Wonderland fit the description of “COVID unsafe.”

Person taking a selfie in a mirror wearing white protective coveralls and a grey gas mask

Berni in her new Wonderland costume.

We made the difficult decision to postpone a week out from the opening night and only a couple of days before our dress rehearsal. Making the decision to postpone before we were forced into lockdown was an incredibly difficult accomplishment in itself. We became one of many performances postponed or cancelled thanks to the Rona.

For me, there was an incredible sense of loss. Wonderland was like my child that never reached their full potential. I had to grieve the loss of my Wonderland baby and my life as I knew it. For the dancers who put their blood, sweat and tears into making this work for it to be snatched away so close to the performance was awful. It took me months to accept that live performance wasn’t unlikely to happen again in 2020.

The question threw me for six was:
Do I get stuck in a depressive rut and wait for the world to end or do I get on with life as best I can and continue to create?

Part Two – Lockdown Life

“The peasants celebrate with reduced commute time, pyjama zoom meetings and wine,
The joy of a new world.”
Vivaldi’s Autumn Sonnet, reimagined by Bonnie Curtis.
A zoom meeting of 25 people dancing in their homes

International Dance Day workshop with Olivia Hadley.

We entered a new world in March when Australia locked down. We soon learnt we should have bought shares in a thing called Zoom and that you can do months worth of work (like adapting things to online) in less than a week when you need to. After we started to come to terms with our “new normal” we decided to get out of our depressive rut and keep creating.

We ran a series of online dance classes taught by BCP dancers Kate Garrett, Olivia Hadley and Anna McCulla for International Dance Day. We danced with people from all over the world and celebrated our love of dance together. It was such a beautiful moment in amongst the darkness.

We started doing online rehearsals, working on some new and old things before things snapped out of covid hibernation and we were allowed to return to the studio!!! No more trying to do floor work in our kitchens! We can actually move again! To keep us motivated and out of the depressive rut, we returned to the studio to begin working on something new.

Part Three – A New Normal

“To spend happy and quiet days with Netflix,
While, outside, the crowned intruder consumes thousands.”
Vivaldi’s Winter Sonnet, reimagined by Bonnie Curtis.
A female wearing white protective coveralls with her arms crossed, standing in front of an orange fence and a screen displaying the word PROCESSING in white text.

Immersive performance at Artstate Wagga.

Like most Australian winters, our lockdown was quite short and relatively mild compared to the rest of the world. We sprung into some kind of normalcy after what felt like only a few weeks of avoiding people and rationing toilet paper.

Actually, I lie.

Rationing toilet paper felt like an eternity.

I was so thankful to be back in the studio with my amazing dancers, having to clean the studio like we were performing open-heart surgery was worth it. Especially when they helped with the cleaning. It took us a little bit to get into the rhythm of COVID safe dance life but found a way to make it work. We began working on some new ideas I had for a piece I was meant to work on when I went to Europe in July (like everything else, it was postponed.) Some incredible things came out of these rehearsals. It was beautiful, cathartic and profound.

Things started to really amp up and I went away to the final Artstate Conference in Wagga for a week followed by two weeks in Sydney for a residency with DirtyFeet. During the Choreographic Lab at Readymade Space, I worked with mentor Kay Armstrong and dancers Aroha Pehi, Holly Craig and Tammy Bouman on developing a new work. My time during this residency was beyond belief. I cannot thank Aroha, Holly, Tammy and Kay enough for their heartfelt contributions to my new creation.

There was one final element of the year that took it to another level.

Black and white photo of a group of girls dancing in the background with one female dancer on the foreground.

DirtyFeet Choreographic Lab. Dancers: Aroha Pehl, Bonnie Curtis, Tammy Bouman and Holly Craig. Hayley Rose Photography.

We performed on stage. To an actual audience.
Yes, that’s right.

The one thing I had given up on happened. We performed a snippet of the new work I have been creating at the AMPA showcase as Alumni with our intern students from AMPA. This wouldn’t have happened without the encouragement of Maya Gavish and the generosity and support of Adele Hyland and AMPA to give us the opportunity to perform again. 2020 has ended on a high and I am so thankful we could be on stage again.

If there is one thing I’ve learnt this year it is to be grateful for the positives.

2020 was going to be an incredible year. We were making a new Wonderland, I was invited to the ImPulsTanz choreographer program where I was going to make a new work, we were going to tour GIRLS regionally

Steph, Kate and Reina getting ready to go onstage for the first time this year.

and continue living the dream.

That didn’t happen.

We did do things we never thought possible, we adapted to change, learnt new skills like patience, became more empathetic to people’s struggles and we survived! I am proud of everything we have achieved this year. I am glad we have brought 2020 to close on a positive note and we all have survived this less than satisfactory year.

As for 2021, we have many things planned but we are mindful of how quickly things can change. 2021 will be about getting outside our comfort zone in a time where nothing is certain.

Watch this space!

I know that we (us humans) can continue to persevere the challenges that surely await us in 2021. We will come out of this scarred in varying ways but we will share this collective experience. An experience that (hopefully) brings more empathy and compassion into our lives.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the dancers and I this year.
Without your love and support, this year would have been that much harder.

Group of 10 women sitting around a large timber table smiling with drinks on the table.

Reina, Bridget, Olivia, Bonnie, Berni, Kara, Courtney, Ella, Sabrina and Kate celebrating the end of 2020.

Last but not least, I would like to say a huge thank you to my dancers who have continued to bring my wild ideas to life and bring joy to my life.

None of this would be possible without them and I cannot thank them enough.
They are the blood that runs through the heart of Bonnie Curtis Projects ♥️

Goodbye, 2020. It’s been a year.
Hello to the adventures that await us in 2021!

Xo Bonnie

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