Your Festival Our Story - Daisy Sanders
Daisy Sanders was fresh out of school and newly arrived at WAAPA when she had an encounter at the 2009 Perth Festival that changed her life.
She went and saw Irish dance-maker Michael Keegan-Dolan’s earthy, confronting contemporary dance-theatre take on the classical ballet Giselle. It turned her world upside down.
Daisy was training in ballet but this Giselle, which she remembers as “angry, sad, painful, poetic, beautiful, grotesque and stunning”, put an end to all that.
“I could feel it with my whole body”, she says. “It was everything that we all are, captured in a show. I realised I wasn’t studying dance to perfect how to make shapes, but to express something very deeply human and reach people with that expression.”
“The impact of Giselle has never eased in terms of allowing me to imagine what it is possible to communicate through the body.”
The visceral thrill of Giselle led Daisy to switch from classical to contemporary dance and four years later she graduated from WAAPA and began her career as an independent dance artist.
That door first opened at the Festival by Keegan-Dolan and his Fabulous Beast company, now known as Teaċ Daṁsa, has stayed wide open. In 2020, Keegan-Dolan is back – and this time Daisy is immersed in the new work he brings to Perth Festival, Màm.
Daisy returns to Perth from 14 total weeks in Wellington (New Zealand), Dingle and Dublin (Ireland) as Teaċ Daṁsa’s artist-in-residence. She assisted the creation and world-premiere of Màm ahead of its Australian-exclusive season here just 12 months after Keegan-Dolan’s raw and rebellious 2019 Festival hit Swan Lake/Loch na hEala.
“Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe it,” Daisy says of the full circle she will complete with her return to Perth with Teaċ Daṁsa.
Daisy contributed choreographic, poetic and dramaturgical support for Màm, rigorously dancing, writing and conversing with Keegan-Dolan and company artists every day, at times also assisting the youngest company member 8 year old Ellie Poirier-Dolan. Daisy is excited by the prospect of experiencing the energy of this major international work radiating from the stage at the Heath Ledger Theatre, where she worked as an usher for nine years.
“I am just so hungry and curious to be in the middle of that energetic exchange between the audience and performers on stage on the night.”
The impact of a major international artist and his acclaimed company on an emerging artist like Daisy gets to the core of the purpose of Perth Festival.
That initial 2009 audience-artist relationship was converted into something much more dynamic and reciprocal when Daisy took part in the 2018 Perth Festival Lab immersive development program.
Festival Lab participants get to dive into as many shows as possible, attend workshops, share big ideas and work with and learn from a diverse range of visiting Festival artists from around the world.
Daisy’s Festival Lab experience inspired her to co-found (together with fellow independent artists Alex Desebrock and Elizabeth Pedler) FLOCK; a monthly forum that connects Perth artists across disciplines. By activating regular exchange of local artistic practice and igniting critical dialogue, FLOCK aims to empower, inspire, celebrate and strengthen the WA artist community.
“The Lab was a profoundly positive experience that demonstrated exactly what local artists need to thrive. I realised I have to be an advocate for artists as much as I pursue my own artistic work. The Lab also increased my confidence to interact with artists from all disciplines and corners of the world: I am an artist with my whole life inside me and they are too.” she says. “So we can meet and connect as artists, as humans, beyond any other definitions. It’s invigorating to discover your own passions and concerns reflected in Festival work of all genres and origins.”
Soon after the 2018 Festival Lab, Daisy commenced an extended, career-changing engagement with Keegan-Dolan and Teaċ Daṁsa, generously supported by The Australia Council for the Arts and The Ian Potter Cultural Trust. This 2-year process culminates in Màm arriving at Perth Festival in 2020.
Daisy is a passionate emerging Australian artist committed to promoting critical discussion, joy and social cohesion through her work.
A period of enforced rest due to a protracted illness led her to explore sustainable ways of moving, working and living. It saw her return to WAAPA in 2017 to cap her degree with a First-Class Honours research project into cycles of energy, waste and rest in the body and broader social systems. She examined the relationship between intentional rest and embodied activation in light of the physical demands placed on dancers and chronic burn-out affecting artists and the wider community.
Growing up in Canberra, Daisy performed in community musical theatre with her family and sang at nursing homes and community events through a unique music outreach program.
Academically strong across many subjects, she was expected to take up university scholarships but kept returning to dance.
“Dance was where I could match my intellectual and cognitive rigour with physicality,” she says. “In dance I can learn through my whole self, through all my senses, through intuition. It’s only through dance and artistic environments that I feel fully satisfied in pursuing my capacity to connect to myself and other people.”
“Dance is, in my humble opinion, the most direct artform because it doesn’t require any artifice or materials. At its best, dance is a pure form of expression that can speak both the ordinary and extraordinary and transcend language and cultural barriers. Because we are all bodies – all humans are bodies.”
Daisy is particularly interested in the role that the arts play in challenging and enriching our communities. “The arts are where we can meet ourselves. Art experiences allows groups and individuals to ask hard questions in a safe and creative way or realise how our stories cross with others’ stories.”
She says the Perth Festival is far more than a series of events for people to attend. “It activates the whole city because there are so many activities sewn through the tapestry of the Festival, all designed to get people to meet one another.”
The Festival balances unmatched opportunities for diverse local and international artistic voices to share a forum and their different perspectives, she says. “We have this rich reciprocal learning and nothing else achieves that in quite as glorious a way.”
“Festival time is when I am inspired as an artist and filled up as a tank of thinking and feeling. It’s when I contemplate the utter complexity of our world and realise how big, weird and wonderful life is.”
Daisy performing 'Solo' at The Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne: Jeff Busby
Rachel Poirier, Zen Jefferson, Michael Keegan-Dolan, Keir Patrick, Daisy Sanders: Stephen A'Court
Daisy dancing: Stephen A'Court