Going Places: Callum Mooney Premieres 'WeAreSOUND'
Callum Mooney is a dancer, choreographer and actor based in Sydney, who is establishing a name for himself with his distinctive brand of movement which often breaches the boundaries of contemporary and hip hop, combining elements of both in a genre all of his own. For fans of the Dream Dance Company Callum is a familiar face with unforgettable performances in both this year's 'Enter the Vortex' and lasts year's production, 'The Secret Society'. After training in Sydney (in everything from Contemporary and Hip Hop to Ballet, Tap and Jazz) at the Village Performing Arts, the Urban Dance Centre, and attending Newtown High School of the Performing Arts, Callum moved to London at nineteen to train at Studio 68, London Contemporary and Greenwich Dance. Here he expanded his repertoire with classes in Hip Hop, House, Popping, Krump and Breakdance as well as Contemporary, Ballet and Floor-work over the coming year, before going on to teach at Studio 68, and around Amsterdam, Paris and Stockholm.
As well as joining the cast of DDC since returning to Australia, Callum has been training and teaching at studios and companies around the country, and in 2017, received a Residency through Ausdance which enabled him to expand even more as an artist, conceptualising and creating the beginnings of 'WeAreSOUND', a work exploring thoughts of strangers on public transport to self recorded soundscapes. Now Callum is bringing the fully developed piece to the stage with a cast of six phenomenal dancers. We caught up with Callum in the midst of rehearsing to talk about his dance journey and this exciting new project, see the interview below.
E: What was it that made you want to pursue dance as a career?
CM: I have loved dancing ever since I was a kid and never actually knew that it could be a job as opposed to a hobby until I was midway through high school. I loved how creative and expressive it was and how it opened me up as a person. Being in the creative industry brings me a lot of joy as you can be surrounded by like-minded, humble people who are equally as willing to grow, learn and forward their careers. I find the dance environment to be a safe-haven for my creative outlet. Therefore, I wanted to strive and push in this industry without taking the easy way out and finding a “normal” 9-5 job.
E: How would you describe your natural dance style?
CM: I am someone that is interested in everything and anything especially in terms of dance. I usually allow the music to drive my movement quality, texture and style. Often I fuse Contemporary and Hip Hop, and blur the line between them. Although, I believe that I am forever changing as an artist and dancer and want to think of my ‘style’ as movement rather than genre.
E: : In what moments are you happiest as a dancer?
CM: Firstly, I think the most fun I’ve actually had in the dancers’ life is being in class. There is something very special about being in class and learning and absorbing and challenging yourself and having optimistic goals to improve yourself. We are endlessly training and growing as people, so we should always be learning and challenging our art.
Secondly, being able to inspire others to keep dancing or pushing. When students or other dancers that have you watched you perform speak with you about dance and their careers or training. Being able to help younger dancers or performers through giving back knowledge about training and where to go and what to do is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had. Thirdly, dancing and improvising with no one watching me and just being able to be free. Fourthly, performing on stage and feeling the energy of the audience and being able to give your all on stage. I love this moment but my first three points have always come first for me, because being grateful and being able to take class and train, inspire others, dance for yourself will only make your experience on stage and in turn your life, more enjoyable.
E: This week you’re premiering your new work ‘WeAreSOUND’, which explores thoughts of strangers on public transport to self-recorded soundscapes - where did the concept for this work originate?
CM: This concept originated a few years ago when I was living and training in London, constantly getting public transport several times a day. I would observe others on trains and would often wonder what they were thinking about. Majority of commuters were often on their phones or laptops so I assumed they weren’t really thinking about anything other than their work or what was on social media at the time. I found it to be a strange environment to be in as it almost felt that everyone wasn’t living and being aware of what was around them. It was almost as if it were limbo and it would be a place everyone could mechanically switch off and isolate themselves and disregard manners and courtesy to others. Even though the trains would be filled with other human beings.
I thought of being on trains as almost a metaphor for life, in the way that the train wasn’t their destination it was a way of transitioning to their destination. Each person in life is constantly going through their own individual transitions to get to various destinations. But in life we care and nurture those around us along the way. Because we are only on transport for a brief moment in time we forget that we could take more time to connect with people. Even if it were for only a brief period, instead of locking ourselves in our brains or our phones.
When I was away, I played around a lot with dancing to the sounds of trains and people’s conversations and often tried to interpret an inner monologue of what people were thinking about through dance.
E: How would you describe your process as a choreographer; are you concept-driven or movement-driven, or other?
CM: I am a choreographer who takes inspiration from all approaches to choreographing. In particular, for WeAreSOUND, I spent years on and off thinking about concepts revolving around people on public transport. In our first development the work was heavily concept-driven. Whereas in the studio rehearsing for the show a number of sections of the show began with purely movement and then the concept became clearer through development. I wouldn’t describe or label myself as either it would really depend on the work. WeAreSOUND is also very sound-based so movement was often created based on creating a visual form of the sound.
E: You have an incredibly talented cast performing WeAreSOUND (including fellow members of the Dream Dance Company), did you begin rehearsals with fully-formed choregraphic ideas, or has the rehearsal process been a collaborative one?
CM: I began the rehearsal process with many ideas and when we began rehearsing some of these ideas had formed new ideas. Movement would come in the rehearsal space mostly on the spot although some movement heavy sections were pre-choreographed or structured. In terms of the rehearsal process being a collaborative effort, each individual cast member has helped in some sections of the show movement. As the cast has a diverse range of styles, I would often give a base of movement for the individual solos or duos, and we would amend sections of this to fit their styles and qualities. There are some sections of the show that I have outlined ideas and movement qualities to the performers and they have the license to improvise with those intentions.
E: How did you find working with a larger group as opposed to choreographing for yourself?
CM: I found this to be one of the biggest challenges as all of the dancers move very differently to the way I move. So there was a lot of trial and error for choreography on my behalf in order to fit the performers bodies. I haven’t created a lot on large groups prior to WeAreSOUND so being able to create constantly varying transitions and use of space was a tough element for myself. Also, choreographing synchronised sequences was also a challenge as all movers are uniquely different so being able to find ways of executing the movements to fit all performers was another challenging part.
E: What’s been the most fun you’ve has during the rehearsal period?
CM: The most fun I’ve personally had during this rehearsal process would be our afternoon sessions. Usually after lunch, after a productive morning we would come back and all have the giggles. Everything anyone did would be incredibly hilarious and surprisingly these moments became the most productive and stress-free moments. Being able to have a cast of close friends - not just dancers - made the rehearsal process a lot more enjoyable. To be surrounded by each individual’s energy in the room often made me leave the day with a big smile on my face.
E: What do you hope audience members will walk away with after seeing WeAreSOUND?
CM: I would love audience members to walk away with a smile on their face first of all. Secondly, I’d love them to not only enjoy the show but also have a think about how they can be more present with those around them and not always turning to their phones or ignoring people. Thirdly, I would love to inspire the audience to make their own works. I am constantly flooded with ideas for shows or creative career choices and would love audience members that are thinking about putting on their own works to just do it. I made WeAreSOUND happen on a very strict, small budget and have had struggles on the way to make this work happen. I’d rather go through the struggle of making it happen than sitting back and having the thought, ‘could I have?’ ‘I wonder if I had put on a show?’ In the words of Shia Labeouf and Nike, ‘JUST DO IT.’
E: What other events/projects are you looking forward to in the future?
CM: At the moment I have a lot of options about what’s next on the agenda for myself. I am thinking about continuing WeAreSOUND and applying for funding and festivals to have another run of the show with a bigger budget. I am also going to start creating a series of well-filmed choreographic and artistic video projects. I am also going to push to find more dance performance work, TV and stage, as I love and miss performing and would love to have a bit more of a career in dance whilst still forwarding my choreography and shows.
Train of Thought is performed to an original soundscape of everyday noises; recorded, manipulated and arranged by Callum. The versatile cast of six performers (Robert Mclean, Alice Robinson, Neale Whittaker, Jasmin Luna, Neven Connolly and Samantha Smith) create a whimsical world in which the sounds of trains, social media, office equipment, bodily functions and kitchen appliances orchestrate the movement. The choreographic debut from WeAreSOUND will have appeal to a wide audience, with relatable, engaging themes and a humorous touch.
The show is being performed at Annandale Creative Arts Centre,
81 Johnston Street Annandale, 2038
November 17th, 18th and 19th at 7pm
Article by Elly Ford.