50. Blink Dance Theatre - Assembly Room.jpg

Geelong’s Blink Dance Theatre Company’s latest production Assembly Room is a merging of concepts designed to create visibility around the changing role of women in Geelong.

Assembly Room – a ten-minute, abstract dance piece – will debut at this year’s Geelong After Dark, transporting the audience back to the industrial age and a time when women’s voices were silenced, and their community contributions widely unseen.

Artistic Director and a founding member of Blink Dance Theatre, Lyndel Quick, said the piece – to be performed amongst the brick and bluestone buildings of Shorts Place - reflected the transformation of Geelong while opening people’s minds to how we have also changed our view of women over the past two centuries.

“We’re exploring this idea of Geelong moving from an industrial city to a vibrant more creative city. We’re looking at things like the textile industry, newspaper production and the importance Corio Bay had as a link to the outside world.”

“It’s an abstract movement piece exploring themes like community and the individual and the body as a vehicle to embody both unity and difference.”

The performance involves eleven women from a diversity of backgrounds and ages. The dance will reflect the rhythmic nature of the city’s former industrial printing presses and looms against a background of historical images and videos of Geelong’s past to be projected by the Little Projector Company.

The title – Assembly Room – is itself a marriage of two concepts. In the 18th and 19th centuries, assembly rooms were gathering places for entertainment and one of the few locations where both men and women were able to mingle. From the industrial age onwards, the term took on a new meaning with its connection to factories and manufacturing.

The ideological significance, where both connotations of the assembly room placed women behind a stone or brick façade for recreation or work, is not lost on Lyndel:

“Back in the 18th and 19th centuries women were not seen on the street… home was very much their place and the streets were not. Even the terms ‘you’ll end up on the streets’, ‘she’s on the streets’ or ‘she walks on the streets’ reflected the gendered nature of outside spaces.”

“I like the fact we are out on the streets in an alley going ‘yes, we are here’ and reclaiming that a little bit.”

Established in 2013, Blink Dance Theatre consists of a core team of four women: Lyndel, Jessica Lesosky, Elise Wilkinson and Jane Acopian. They bring together experience in contemporary dance, ballet, theatre and fine arts.

Past work has involved collaborations with Deakin University, City of Greater Geelong and, most recently, the Geelong Regional Library Corporation for the opening of the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre.

Their home base is the former Rutland Street woollen mills in Newtown. Lyndel was one of the first people to set up a business in the old mills some 15 years ago. Undoubtedly, the transformation of the Rutland Street precinct from an industrial heart to a creative hub is a microcosm of the wider transition of Geelong.

Lyndel says the precinct was deserted when she first arrived and is excited about how the area has been reactivated by new and creative ventures.

“Geelong should be proud of its past. It’s got a wonderfully rich history and I’m incredibly proud of that. I feel so deeply connected to my town, but I love to see the changes happening.”

With the increased visibility and role of women in high profile ventures in Geelong, that change goes beyond revitalising the city’s bricks and mortar.

“It’s about quietly stepping into your own power.  There are huge shifts happening in Geelong for women including with the football club. We are more visible across different industries.  There has to be a community shift and it’s happening.”

Assembly Room will be presented at various times throughout the evening on Friday, 3 May.