Artist Profile: Flic Manning and Josh Duke

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I’ve been asked a few times to expand the various mediums the artists in this column work with. So whilst searching for a genital shadow puppeteer or similar, it turned out there were a suitable pair of candidates right under my very nose. (I sound surprised, but really shouldn’t be. That’s why we all love this place, right?)

We meet at Leroy on Acland St, and I’m confronted by a lithely beautiful pair of individuals who manage to simultaneously greet me with genuine warmth, whilst exquisitely draping themselves over their chairs with an air of casual nonchalance. It’s a neat trick that only dancers seem to be able to pull off.

St Kilda residents, Josh Duke and Flic Manning work together to create and execute dance pieces fusing multiple styles. Whilst having danced extensively, and currently teaching dance, Flic’s passion is as working as a choreographer and Josh is dancing in her new piece, Toxicity. More on that later.

Growing up on the Gold Coast, Josh moved to St Kilda two years ago to train in & study dancing full time. He didn’t study it during high school, but always had an interest. “Friends of mine were in the dance troupe at school, they’d learn, and I’d learn from them.” On completing school he decided it was what really he wanted to do, and moved down here to complete two years full-time training at Dance World studios in South Melbourne, graduating with a Diploma in performing arts. He has also undertaken extensive training in gymnastics and acrobatics since being here, as abilities gained in these fields dramatically enhance his dancing skills.

Since moving here, Josh has quickly proven it was the right move for him. He’s been in a couple of music videos; Art vs Science’s “Higher”, Nate James’ “Walk like that”, which he also choreographed, and worked in a TV mini-series called “Killing Time”, filmed right here in St Kilda. Most recently, he has just finished a run of “La Cage Aux Folles” at the National.

Another interstater who saw the light and moved here, Flic is originally from Perth and has now been a St Kilda local for three years. She’s been dancing as long as she can remember, “…So at least for 25 years. At two and a half, I remember going to my older sister’s dance recital and during the performance walking up on stage and trying to copy all their moves. I realised then that that’s where I felt at home.”

A natural triple-threat performer, Flic has found herself more and more drawn to the creation of a dance, rather than the performance of it. She already has an impressive body of work. It includes choreography of; Music Videos (“Hurricane by “Fixd” and “Counting What Ifs” by Boychild), short films, stage shows, and musicals (love the title of this one; “The Balinese Princess and the Funky Monkey”, played at the Palms at Crown).

The Show

Called Toxicity, this piece has been created from scratch by Flic, and falls under the category of a dance stage show. I plead ignorance at this moniker, and she explains that it is a pure dance piece without any dialogue. Based on the idea of “Toxic Love”, the piece showcases all those relationships that consume one’s being, but not in a positive way. It explores sexuality and gender issues, love triangles, getting together, breaking up, confrontation, fighting etc. She describes it as having a rather heavy vibe, but everyone will recognise parts of themselves in the performance. So if you’ve found yourself having unrequited love, love for more than one person, or love for non-standard gender preference, you’ll identify strongly with those themes being expressed through dance.

In order not to distract from the choreography the six performers (one of which is Josh), work with one prop (a rope) throughout the whole show. It is a fusion piece, based primarily on contemporary, but also incorporating jazz, latin, ballet, hip hop, acrobatics and gymnastics. All the music for the piece is original.

It will be the first full production by Evixa (Flic’s dance company, which means that she is putting all her available emotional and mental energy into it, and them some. As well as aiming for a fantastic production, Flic is also pushing a couple of personal missions. “I’m really trying to put fusion dance on the map in Australia, as well as trying to get some fresh performers into the group of ‘usual suspects’ who tend to secure all the available work. Fusion dance is a fantastic way to develop up-in-coming dancers, both by expanding their capabilities through all the different styles required and also simply by expanding their CVs. The industry can be quite cliquey, and I’d like to change that.”

I ask them to try and explain the intangible appeal of their art. Josh explains that the nature of time changes while he’s performing. “It becomes a timeless moment of intense focus and yet freedom, with nothing else existing except his movement.” He further explains that with an original piece like Toxicity, there is a bit more latitude to create, rather than simply act as a ‘skilled technician’.

For Flic, “Dance is the only place I feel safe being vulnerable and flawed. And ironically, this very freedom of imperfection allows me to express the truth of my thoughts and emotions, which is where my art comes from.”

She goes on: “In choreography – whilst having more latitude than a dancer in an existing piece that I’m working on, boundaries still exist.” Starting a new piece from scratch really allows her the freedom to truly create. The art in choreography for Flic actually comes from the concurrent writing of the script and the choreographing of the dance.  This allows her ideas to change based on inspiration that naturally occurs through rehearsals and workshops.

Toxicity is being performed as part of a showcase of performances called “Underground” being put on at Revolt in Kensington. I kicks off on the 23rd of June, and tickets are available through revolt’s website, from the 1st.

By Aaron Webb

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