Torres Strait Islands born Ghenoa Gela won the 2016 Keir Choreographic Award in Sydney at the weekend. She won from a field of four finalists that included Rebecca Jensen, Sarah Aiken and Martin Hansen who showed heir commissioned works for the KCA over three nights at Carriageworks in Sydney which co-hosts the award along with Melbourne’s Dancehouse.
The KCA, begun in 2014, is the only award in Australia that supports the commissioning and presentation of new choreographic work “promoting innovative, experimental and cross-art form practice in contemporary dance”.
The jury was Bojana Cvejić (Belgrade), performance theorist and performance maker based in Brussels; Pierre Bal-Blanc, Documenta 14 curator and independent art critic based in Athens and Paris; US based choreographer Sarah Michelson, inaugural recipient of the KCA in 2014 and Eke and Phillip Keir who founded the Keir Foundation.
Phillip Keir awarded Ghenoa a $30,000 cash prize and also a $10,000 cash prize for the “audience choice” award. Keir said: “It is fantastic to see new innovative works take to the stage. The inventiveness of all the works stands without question and points to the health of contemporary dance in Australia.”
Gela’s work Fragments of Malungoka – Women of the Sea explores “what Ghenoa’s female ancestry means to her as a Mainland born Torres Strait Islander woman. By sharing her culture with an ensemble of non-Torres Straight women, Ghenoa integrates traditional influences with contemporary movement and technology”.
Ghenoa said: “I am overwhelmed by the support I have felt throughout this time and am proud that my work was considered as a possible reflection of the current dance climate. Big Esso (thank you) to my parents, from who I learnt the process of sharing our culture. They led the way for me to be passionate about my Torres Strait identity; something I will be able to continue sharing as a recipient of this award”.