<p>“I’ve discovered and created a great deal of who I am, and what I care about, on the dance floor,” Freya McGrath says. </p>
“I’ve discovered and created a great deal of who I am, and what I care about, on the dance floor,” Freya McGrath says. “It’s where I feel the most in touch with, and at home in, my body.”
“As a young person who carried a lot of shame, with poor body image and coming to terms with my bisexuality, I felt eyes of judgment on me when I danced … but for some reason, when I danced, I didn’t care.”
McGrath explains that dance has became a defiant act for her as it is for others in the LGBTQI+ community, referencing classic dance films like Billy Elliott and Flashdance that frame dance as rebellion.
On 29 September, McGrath is taking her love for dance to the next level in a 24-hour performance for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. You heard that right: 24 hours of dance.
The 24 Hour Dance Project is based on a 12-hour performance McGrath presented at the biennial University of Melbourne student arts festival, Mudfest, last year. She explains that for the Fringe Festival version of the show, they have incorporated more performance art elements and developed the themes behind the project.
“I’m writing a manifesto and an artist contract that I’ll sign which outlines the ‘rules’ I’m setting myself, and we’ll be making the playlist so we can really bring a sense of an arc to the project as a whole,” she says.
To construct this arc, McGrath and her team have come up with themed hours and shaped the playlist accordingly. Lady Gaga’s ‘Edge of Glory’ and Laura Branigan’s ‘Gloria’ are some bangers attendees can look forward to. McGrath says, “I also just added ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ to a section that is about dancing your rage—so that’s gonna go off!”
“I’ve also been thinking quite deeply about how interlinked dance and queerness are for me, and how dance can offer a way out of shame and fear, but that also means acknowledging that shame and fear is there,” McGrath says. “So there is also a lot more sadness in the project this time, as well as rage and protest. But the length of it also means we can offer gentler parts, parts focused on nurturing, as well as of course a couple of big parties too.”
The project has been selected to be a part of Critical Mass, a selection of works within the Fringe Festival curated by performance venues Brunswick Mechanical Institute, SiteWorks and Testing Grounds. While the Fringe is an open access festival, McGrath says being a part of this more select group has been great. “It’s really nice to be validated in a way … it can sometimes be hard to know if anyone actually thinks your idea is interesting!”
“So far it’s meant meeting up with the other artists, which has been brilliant—and coming up with a plan for the Critical Mass Rally.” This rally, she explains, involves the cohort of Critical Mass artists exhibiting on the streets of Brunswick a piece McGrath calls “a rally come public art happening.”
“This is taking place on the 22nd September, although we can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s going to be great!”
To cover the costs of running the 24-hour dance project, the team are offering prizes through the crowdfunding platform Pozible. These include being able to pick a song for the project’s playlist to an exclusive tote bag and survival kit. There’s also the opportunity to be involved in a flash-mob dance choreographed and taught by McGrath.
While the performance remains weeks away, the team are hard at work. McGrath is one of the creative arts officers in the University of Melbourne Student Union, responsible for managing all of the creative arts department’s events, programs and grants. As part of her role, McGrath has been part of weekly casual dance classes on campus. In addition to dancing she explains, “Harriet (the producer) and I have been going for jogs at 6:30am, I’ve been doing yoga with my sister and work out sessions with my friend Bronya.”
This project is evidently more than the movements themselves to all involved.
“Choosing to dance for 24 hours means using my body, and encouraging others to use their bodies in a radical way,” McGrath explains. “To dance is to break from the restricted, gendered and socially imposed ways we use our bodies in our day-to-day settings, to stop going through the motions, trying to make yourself as small as possible on the tram, walking home at night and feeling afraid.”
Ultimately she says she wants to create a space “where we can dance through our fears, in the face of our fears and remind ourselves of the power and beauty of our bodies.”
When: 29 Sept 9:00 AM – 30 Sept 9:00 AM
Where: Testing Grounds in Southbank
Prices: Children $14, concession $24 and full fare $27
Who: Freya McGrath, Harriet Wallace-Mead (Producer), Scout Boxall (Marketing/Publicity Manager), Alexandre Guerin (Sponsorship Manager), Kareena Dhaliwal (Lighting Designer) and Sunday Sommerfeld (Stage Manager)
Buy tickets for the event.