Artists in iso: David McMicken and Tim Newth, Tracks Dance Company

In the second part of our new series we look at how the co-ADs of Darwin’s Tracks Dance Company have adjusted their collaborative practice in isolation.
Artists in iso: David McMicken and Tim Newth, Tracks Dance Company Tim Newth (left) and David McMicken, the co-Artistic Directors of Tracks Dance Company. Photo credit: Mathew McHugh 
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Richard Watts

Sunday 3 May, 2020

Tracks Dance Company is located in Darwin and produces original dance works that celebrate an important part of Australian culture – the frontier of the Northern Territory. Co-Artistic Director David McMicken has training in education, dance, theatre, literature and music with a successful career as a performer and director, founding several companies along the way. He has lived and worked in the Territory since 1991.

Co-Artistic Director Tim Newth trained as a visual artist and moved into directing with works in dance, theatre, and community arts. Based in Darwin since 1988, he is well known for creating spectacular outdoor performances in diverse spaces that connect people, place and culture.

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McMicken and Newth have an extraordinary ability to work collaboratively, honed since the early 1990s. This is a core value of their creative process. They approach the making of their work through a multi-arts lens, backing up their skills in dance, visual arts and design, drama, music, and literature. They use performance to inspire Territorians of diverse cultural backgrounds: from youth through to the elderly, city to remote community.

How has COVID-19 affected your arts practice ‒ your day to day creating, choreographing and working?

David (D): I love being with people, big groups of people. I have had to adapt from having lots of personal physical contact. We have moved our Grey Panthers Older Adults classes online as they are most affected by the isolation. I am trying to maintain strong interaction and connection while still creating new dances. It is hard to make group dance when you cannot be together. I am spending a lot of time touching base with people.

Tim (T): I am thriving within my natural hermit instincts, working from home has given me focussed time to imagine. When we are able to go out into the world again I will have my batteries fully charged.

Were you personally impacted by cancellations/loss of income?

We've had to suspend some activities and postpone others and put our major works into development but regardless of this, we are committed to keeping staff on and employing artists and arts workers regardless of the performance outcome.

Have you found new opportunities ‒ collaborations or projects that have arisen out of COVID-19?

We are currently collaborating online with artists based in Darwin, Melbourne, Anglesea, and the remote Aboriginal community of Lajamanu, during a time where we would have all been together in that community.

D: We have been able to expand our Grey Panthers Classes to include someone from Nhulunbuy, people that are working from home who would not normally be able to attend our classes, and some who live more remotely.

T: Nature has always been a key inspiration. Being at home in Darwin (in an un-airconditioned room behind louvre windows) has allowed me to become more closely in tune with the birds, breezes, and changing light of the day. I know my neighbours so much better now.

What have you become obsessed with during lockdown?

We have three decades of knowledge about how to work with the community through dance, and we have now been given an opportunity to go back into our archives of writings, photos and videos and then imagine how this could become knowledge bases that we could share with the world.

We have created a huge grid that maps every project, artist and person we have worked with since 1988, we think of this as the Tracks Galaxy. It feels like we are creating a solid path to move into the future.

What is the first thing you want to do post-Covid-19?

D: Hug a dancer while running workshops with 30 people, especially my Grey Panthers, and eat out with friends.

T: Book some travel to go see my family on the other side of the country and share a cup of tea with friends.

More in this series:

Artists in iso: Tony Albert

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R FM, a program he has hosted since 2004.

Richard currently serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management, and is also a former Chair of Melbourne Fringe. The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, he has also served as President of the Green Room Awards Association and as a member of the Green Room's Independent Theatre panel. 

Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend in 2017. Most recently he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize for 2019.

Twitter: @richardthewatts