White Elephant

Stephen Bush & Lee Serle

STEPHEN BUSH: What’s interesting to me is that you viewed my exhibition ‘Steenhuffel’ (2014) without prior knowledge of my work, yet found some impulse to create a new choreographic work based on this experience. White Elephant was part of the 2014 ‘New Breed’ series for Sydney Dance Company, performed at Carriageworks. I am curious as to what you saw in the show that could be translated into the languages of dance and performance? Perhaps a related question is: how do you apply your process of looking/seeing into a physical, time-based event? This type of thinking seems somewhat impossible to me.

Performance still from White Elephant 2014
Choreographed by Lee Serle for Sydney Dance Company’s ‘New Breed’, Carriageworks, Sydney, November 2014
Photography Jack Saltmiras
Courtesy of Lee Serle

LEE SERLE: That’s right, I wasn’t very familiar with your work. But I am so happy I wandered into the ‘Steenhuffel’ exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art in Melbourne that day! I was walking home after a rehearsal and my mind was preoccupied with what I was going to create for Sydney Dance Company, and within a few minutes of seeing your paintings I could already imagine how this could translate into a performance.

I was immediately struck by the by the use of vibrant colour, and the surrealist landscapes that spilled out from a central figure, animal or object. The paintings appeared to be in motion, and I could imagine them coming to life. Looking at these paintings I could see a space saturated in colour inhabited by dancers; an abstract scene. The choreography within that scene would happen later in the studio, but immediately I could imagine what it would look like in relation to your work. I took the aspects of colour, mood and narrative to begin creating.

Then there were the elephants. In your series ‘The Lure of Paris’ it is Babar, and ‘Type Cast’ it was people in elephant costumes. I was so intrigued by this narrative, I wanted to know more, and was curious to see if I could incorporate an elephant into my work. That is when I contacted you.


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