In relation to its classical cousin ballet, contemporary dance is younger, faster and more agile. It is often less structured, more jarring, the costumes sharper, the lighting dim, and the movement more free. For this reason it appeals to a broader and certainly younger audience. Perhaps it is the association it has to contemporary culture, but these days modern/contemporary dance is becoming a popular art form in its own right.
Adam Wheeler is a teacher at Chunky Move and also Youth Australian Ballet, so is very familiar with this. “I teach contemporary to both groups [and] what changes is the pace of the class. The Chunky Move dancers rock, so we can get down and dirty. The ballet kids don't get to see too much and work very hard on their genre but I still get them into the ground and give them a real taste of what I think the industry is doing right now.”
Wheeler’s most recent project, however, is a dance collective called 2ndToe, a group that is providing a platform to work with young and emerging dancers. The group is based in Melbourne, though none of its members are locals; rather they came from all over the country to study at the VCA, and when they graduated, decided to stay in Melbourne to base themselves in St Kilda.
“The name 2ndToe comes from the idea that we find parallel through our second toe, making it the foundation of our genre. And people generally find toes are quirky or left field, which I think represents us and our work,” says Wheeler.
The group began in 2006, when Wheeler met a bunch of first years at the VCA and began collaborating with them. There are now eight in the collective, and the main focus is to get these dancers working with the bigger dance companies such as Chunky Move, Lucy Guerin Inc. and Future Perfect. “One big dream at the moment is to work with Hofesh Schechter in London,” he notes.
But in one of their most exciting projects to date, 2ndToe debut their first major production, Something Blew, a contemporary dance work with some hard-hitting images, tight ensemble work and raw human emotion. “The work brings together some of Melbourne's freshest emerging artists [as they] tackle a work about love, desire and relationships,” says Wheeler.
Something Blew runs from October 27 to November 6 at Theatre Works.