A Farewell statement from BalletLab Artistic Director Phillip Adams
"I never did anticipate this moment of bidding farewell to my playground of untamed, whimsical and queer mayhem, would come to pass...."
BalletLab’s scandalous affair with Australian contemporary dance began with ‘Amplification’ on the 9th of the 9th, 1999, at the Athenaeum Theatre II on Collins St. From that moment forward, BalletLab took on an eccentric persona of its own, innovating dance as a multi-dimensional idiolect of transformative and queer language that merged into a peculiarly Australian-conscious contemporary dance. I rampaged widely alongside an unruly band of audacious devotees, who in my dance literary realm, stand unmatched and unchallenged. We ushered forward a baroque, godly horror and ecstatic beauty of Saut de Basques and feathers, writing a new Queer Testament of steppage.
By the early 2000s, my work had ventured into the explorative counterculture of Australian contemporary dance pushing exponentially at cultivating a vitality, a love of theatricality, and a propensity for sudden violence and homosexuality. My attempts to make ‘queer’ a visible discourse did not come off as convincing for some time. A treasure trove of memorable works I hold dear to heart include Amplification (1999), Origami (2006), Brindabella (2007) Axeman Lullaby (2008), Miracle (2009), Aviary (2010), EVER (2017), Glory (2019), and Triptych (2023).
I can’t thank the hundreds of collaborating dancers and artists enough. I hold them in the highest esteem for every joyous encounter we spent in the studio and on stage. We fell through history with choreography, as fellow acrobats shooting out of cannons, like skydivers, embracing falling as part of our every rehearsal. I have never ceased falling in love with the figures around me – they are super-trooper silver screen movie stars, every one of them; they appear the same, in falls of terror or emancipation: you are all dancers to die for and some of you almost did!
In 2016, my work found a ‘temple’ that could adequately furnish my childish, cultish, cinematic and holy dances. Temperance Hall opened the doors to become a safe haven for queer inhabitants and their posses of accomplices to create the DNA of work that speaks to ‘togetherness’ on Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Country. BalletLab made home of every nook and cranny of Temperance Hall, but sadly we have to go, because there is no cash left in the poor box, nor passing around the holy plate to run our daily services anymore.
BalletLab has run the gauntlet of the then Australia Council and now she takes her final curtain call of unfunded excellence under Creative Australia’s latest peer review guillotining.
Against all odds, I rouged heavily and made an occasion of every unsuccessful outing, until my final hour finding solace with Francis Bacon, in a paradisial world of rear-end sex sling postmodern reverence. Adieu, mes amis… I bow out elated, knowing BalletLab ushered in new queer revelations into Australian dance history. May the gods rest her queer soul.
The process of shutting down BalletLab has been a deeply deflating experience, carrying both a sense of emotional release and catharsis. Some days, tears flowed freely, while on others, there was a sense of relief from the weight of constantly proving worthiness in the eyes of crucial Government stakeholders. BalletLab leaves behind a legacy of work that put forward queerness to reflect upon its own history in Australian contemporary dance and I hope remains integral to the institution of dance while also relevant now to younger generations of dance makers and scholars. My heartfelt gratitude extends to the numerous producers, staff, Board members, technicians, bookkeepers, and front-of-house personnel who have tirelessly kept the flame of passion alive. And to the artists, your genius is unparalleled, and I am humbled by your invaluable contributions. To all the BalletLab fans, I am eternally grateful for you rocking up for over three decades to support me even in my worst hour – which, as we all know, is when I’m at my best. I climb a stairway to a heavenly queer altar adorned with enough BalletLab memories to last a lifetime, or two…because everyone knows this queen has nine lives.
To those that know me, it’s no secret I’m forever teetering on the edge of my next whirlwind in the world of dance. Hence, I am elated to step into this next phase of my work that aligns perfectly with this current chapter in my life. I am truly grateful for the chance to revisit the site of my inaugural dance education in 1986, where I, as a youthful student donned ripped jeans, steel-capped Doc Martens, and a rebellious mohawk. I am elated to announce that from next week, I will commence in a new role as MA Coordinator, Senior Lecturer Dance at the VCA. My affection for VCA over the course of my career is profound, and I have a great energy for teaching, mentoring and fostering creative work among the students of VCA Dance. Talk about coming full circle, folks. The dedication to nurturing BalletLab and shaping Temperance Hall now paves the way for this new phase in my career. Transitioning into Dr Phil academia feels like a natural and deeply fulfilling progression. I eagerly anticipate making a new dance family at VCA while persisting as a pioneering renegade independent choreographer for all the years that are still to come.
In the interim l will continue to serve on the Board of Temperance Hall and champion every effort of the staff and artists to keep the doors open. We mustn't turn the page on this centrefold pinup of Melbourne's queer dance community.
Love Mr. P xx
1. For "Glory"; image by Georges Antoni and 3 Deep
2. From "Aviary"; image by Jeff Busby
3. From "Ever"; image by Jeff Busby
4. From "Triptych"; image by Jeff Busby
5. From "Laceship"; image by Gregory Lorenzutti
6. From "Kingdom"; image by SARAH WALKER
Temperance Hall acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land in which we dance and create, the Boon Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation, and pay our respect to Elders both past and present and, through them, to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.