Local based dance theatre company, in Helvetica’s new work delves into contentious conversations around citizenship. In Helvetica is a contemporary performance ensemble, based in Upwey, making unique and quirky new work through improvisation and play. Comprised of contemporary dancer Sara Di Segna, performance maker Toni Main and musician Gene Holland, In Helvetica explores the everyday world through movement, storytelling and sound.
Their new work, Citizen 457, will open next Wednesday as part of the La Mama Explorations Program. Citizen 457 is an improvised dance theatre response to the legislation in our country regarding emigration, refugees and citizenship. In Helvetica have drawn from their experiences and struggles with national pride, visa applications, and ineffectual compassion. It explores the questions around what it means to belong.
To belong to Australia.
To be a citizen.
It gets harder to answer these questions in a world that more often raises walls, protecting the borders instead of the people.
Ensemble member Sara Di Segna is originally from Italy, currently living in Australia on the controversial 457 visa. She left Italy in the throes of economic turmoil and has been in Australia for five years. She has been creating and performing with in Helvetica for four of those years. Earlier this year, her right to stay in Australia came into question which became a springboard for the development of the work. Gene Holland explains what happened,
“We were working together on a children’s show, and in our breaks we would often find ourselves discussing the political climate, trying to come to grips with the decisions our government was constantly making for us, but this all came to the front when Sara’s ability to stay in the country came into question through no fault of her own. The government decided to abolish the 457 visa, the visa that enabled Sara to live here, and the ramifications of this decision where a big unknown. In the end there were no changes to current holders of the visa, but that moment of instability rocked us.”
The three performers felt hurt, let down, angry and afraid. So, they decided to express themselves by making a work that unpacked the situation that they, and many others, find themselves in.
There are two sides to the performance. On the one hand there is Sara’s story; the story of the migrant, trying to find her place, and on the other hand there is Toni and Gene. They are Australian, born and raised, but what does that mean? How can they have pride in their country when they are confronted with what Australia is doing, the disgusting way we treat refugees, the devastating destruction of our natural environment, and the complete disrespect for the indigenous people of the land on which we live.
Are you a proud Australian?
The in Helvetica ensemble asked themselves that very question and out came Citizen 457.
“Many of the values Australians hold dear regarding our country, such as mateship and a “fair go”, are not being upheld in our legislation, and we are passively allowing them to be eroded from our culture, particularly when it comes to people seeking a fresh start in this country. Many of these people have a greater appreciation than many of us for the relative privilege we live in, and feel an affinity to a society with a rich multicultural history. As someone who was born and raised in regional Australia, I’ve held pride in the opportunities my country has been able to provide people from many different backgrounds. Our diversity is our backbone. To feel belonging is to be welcomed with open arms.” – Gene Holland.
Citizen 457 is the response. It isn’t asking questions, and it’s not finding solutions, it’s exploring the response; those moments of confusion, frustration and anger. Coming to terms with our perceived inability to do anything about the politics and dealing with the possibility of displacement. In exploring these emotions, the ensemble found that there was also joy and companionship within the connection between people, the moments when someone supports you, stands up for your rights and helps you to continue the struggle.
Whether you agree or disagree with us, let’s start the conversation
6.30pm Wednesday 13th December
8.30pm Thursday 14th December
6.30pm Friday 15th December
La Mama Courthouse theatre
349 Drummond st, Carlton
Book at: http://lamama.com.au
All tix $15
Citizen 457 will be performing as part of the La Mama Explorations 2017 program.