No one could ever really accuse Gideon Obarzanek of being a faker. The celebrated choreographer and founder of dance company Chunky Move has built a career on award-winning productions such as Tense Dave, Mortal Engine and Glow.
“For some irrational reason I’ve always felt on the periphery of dance even though I’ve been at the centre,” Gideon says. “The idea of doubt and this feeling you are faking it often plagues you and it never really ends, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have.”
This month Gideon returns to the stage with Faker, his first solo dance performance since founding the company in 1995.
“I realised a few years ago I wasn’t doing much of the thing that interested me in dance initially,” Gideon says. “I was very busy running a company and I wanted to re-engage with my relationship to dance.”
The concept for Faker originated during a break Gideon took in 2009 to explore dance on his own terms. During this period he worked with a dancer to choreograph her own solo performance – an experience that failed to meet both their expectations.
“Choreography doesn’t exist without the dancer and they are hugely influential in what you can and can’t do,” he says. “I realised to make a work about trying to make that work was actually more interesting than the outcomes we reached.”
Gideon questions his own mastery of dance and choreography in Faker by swapping his role as choreographer for that of the student.
“As soon as you claim to be the expert, you are just put in a defensive position and in doing that you can’t learn much more,” Gideon says. “I try to do some of the choreography that I did for her [the student], so in Faker I am the dancer trying to impress.”
The maturity Gideon has developed as a choreographer has given him the confidence to explore his vulnerabilities as a dancer.
“When I began as a dancer I was interested in my ability and physical appearance,” he says. “I think now I can focus more on nuance by understanding the piece as a larger work, rather than being in the moment.”
Faker is set in an intimate performance space with full lighting to create a direct dialogue with the audience. “Normally the audience sits in the dark and have this comfort of not existing,” Gideon says. “I talk to the audience, which is slightly uncomfortable for me and for the audience.”
Faker also references an off-stage juncture in Gideon’s position as artistic director with Chunky Move. He has announced he will be leaving the role at the end of 2011 to pursue new projects.
“The company’s strength has been a group of people orbiting strong ideas,” Gideon says. “Chunky Move and my identity have been extremely bound, so in making that shift I’ve had to think about myself and how I’m positioned in dance.”
Gideon has no intention, however, of relinquishing his commitment to choreographing strong performance pieces.
“In some ways it’s harder to make new and innovative works as you get older, but I am interested in thinking of new ideas and [turning] them into productions.”
Faker plays at the Malthouse theatre until April 2.