Q&A :: Jacob Nash from Bangarra Dance Theatre

July 25th 2012

Photo by Greg Barrett

The Lake Eyre Basin is the size of France, Germany and Italy combined and Jacob Nash had to fit it into the Opera House.

Bangarra Dance Theatre’s latest production Terrain called for Nash to design an atmospheric set which would visually transport the audience from Sydney to Lake Eyre.

This was not an easy feat given the fact that his set is competing with a sea of distractingly sculpted, minimally clothed dancers’ bodies. Nash chats to The Flog’s Nicola Cooper about makin’ it (Ter)rain.


Flog: You were appointed artist-in-residence at Bangarra Dance Theatre in 2011, congratulations! How has the past year been?

Jacob Nash: It’s a great opportunity to spend time with the other artists-in-residence. Creatively, our ideas get stronger and this is reflected in the work we’re producing.

You’ve worked on other productions for Bangarra, but also for Bell Shakespeare and the Sydney Theatre Company. How does Terrain compare to your previous work?

Terrain feels very special. We’ve had a year to create this show and the work is always better when you have really rich creative processes. Going to Lake Eyre and meeting with the community and elders fills you up creatively.

Lake Eyre is unique place and the Arabunna people have just received Native Title for that area. These factors make it a really important work.

How was your trip to Lake Eyre with Terrain‘s choreographer Francis Rings and composer David Page?

It was the beginning of the creative process. Fran has a beautiful, strong relationship with the land. She’s from South Australia and wanted to explore something in her own backyard.

I’d never been to Lake Eyre before and it’s beautiful. We traveled the land. We walked on it, drove across it and flew over it. It keeps revealing itself subtly. It’s vast and the colours and light are ever-changing. You realise you’re part of the landscape, but it’s foreign at the same time.

It’s a sacred place for Aboriginal people, of course. We got to meet Reg Dodd, an Arabunna elder. He came to the community night in Melbourne and the production affected him in a positive way; he said he felt like he was there in the land.

Reg thanked us and said he sees what Bangarra is doing and how it’s similar to what he’s doing; it’s sharing the same message.

Given the limits of the stage, how did you convey the enormity and the sparseness of Lake Eyre?

Traditionally most of Bangarra’s work involves a black box and we introduce objects, light and texture. In Terrain we have a white box to open up the space visually.

I didn’t want to hit people over the head with the landscape, but I wanted to suggest it through motifs and find a design language that allows people to dream and takes them there visually.

A dance production about a place is a little unusual. What was your initial response when you heard that Terrain would be about Lake Eyre?

It’s exciting as a designer because it’s such a visual landscape. When you fly over it you realise that it’s an ever-changing palate of beautiful colours and textures. For me, it’s all about painting and trying to capture the essence of the place.

What will your audiences get out of going to see Terrain?

The show is only an hour long and you just want it to last a little bit longer because it takes you on a journey which is far from sitting in the Opera House. People respond to Terrain, they have an experience and a reaction.


What: Terrain
Who: Bangarra Dance Theatre
Where: Sydney Opera House
When: Now until 18th August
How much: Adult tickets from $70, students from $25. Tickets here.



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