Harper's BAZAAR Australia, June/July 2013.
Alice Topp, Ballerina & choreographer
It’s hard to believe, but after 50 years of The Australian Ballet, there is yet to be a resident female choreographer. Bendigo-born Alice Topp is on her way to being the first. Three years ago, when a choreographer pulled out of Bodytorque, an annual showcase of rising ballet stars, The Australian Ballet artistic director David McAllister invited Topp, who clocks up eight shows a week as a dancer in the corps de ballet, to create a work for the series. Naturally, she jumped at the chance. “I was a wild card,” she insists. “I was just a corps dancer — no one had heard of me. The other choreographers were principals, and were all men.” (It should be noted that the first Bodytorque series, Women on Men, had an all-female choreographer list.) Topp says she went into it without expectations, created a work that was about fashion and dance, and it turned out to be her most rewarding experience yet. In fact, her 2010 work, Trace, was so well received she was invited back twice more and this October she will premiere a collaboration with fashion designer Toni Maticˇevski for the series. “Choreography is a very specialised area, and I’m lucky to be in the best position to learn, so being the first female resident would be a dream,” she says of the future. “But I will never get sick of dancing Swan Lake.”
Alice Topp is currently dancing in Vanguard, in Sydney until May 18 and Melbourne June 6–July 17; her Bodytorque.Technique work is performed October 31–November 3, australianballet.com.au.
Art as inspiration: “I draw on different art forms more than I do watching dance. Photography, drawing, illustration, paintings and text can be a reference, or a provocative thought I might come back to when trying to describe a mood or a feeling that I want my dancers to convey.”
Favourite ballets: Manon; Divergence by Stanton Welch; and Dyad 1929 by Wayne McGregor
Beauty must-haves: “[Dancers’] skin can get irritated due to all the heavy makeup and washing our faces often. Aesop Oil Free Facial Hydrating Serum and Camellia Nut moisturiser are my holy grail products.”
Image: Tim Richardson
Elizabeth Debicki, Actor
Some people have the power to alter the air
of any room they walk into. Cate Blanchett has it, Tilda Swinton has it, Kate Moss has it, and 22-year-old Elizabeth Debicki has it. And 2013 is her year. This month she stars onscreen as society girl Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby, and onstage alongside Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in Sydney Theatre Company’s The Maids. Of Gatsby, her second feature film, she says playing Jordan felt surprisingly natural. “She’s callous — not exactly sugar and spice and all things nice. But I found the part incredibly liberating — she’s just so ballsy. It really gave me courage to make bolder choices.” With her theatre background, Debicki admits she sees The Maids as a dream job equal to Gatsby, being a huge fan of Blanchett, Huppert and the play’s director, Benedict Andrews. Debicki intends to balance theatre and film work, both here and abroad. “There are wonderful things happening in Australia all the time,” she says, “but when you are overseas, because of people like Cate, Nicole [Kidman] and Geoffrey Rush, you feel real pride as an Aussie actor. These people have given us a great reputation for being interesting, individual artists. I would just love to uphold that name and tradition.”
The Great Gatsby is in cinemas from May 30; The Maids is at Sydney Theatre Company from June 4–July 20, sydneytheatre.com.au.
Reading: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Inspirations: “I drink coffee, I read books, I go to galleries — and I love travelling and being in cities.”
Sophie Cape, Artist
In early April, the cream of Sydney’s eastern suburbs art set gathered for the opening of Sophie Cape’s Magistra Natura at Olsen Irwin gallery in Woollahra. A series of red dots began steadily appearing around the room, but above the dots were not the usual blue-chip trophies of art collecting but, rather, epic gestural paintings festooned with bleached white bones and sprayed with dirt, bitumen and blood (they might have been dusted with gold, the way they were selling). Since graduating from Sydney’s National Art School in 2010, Cape
has been that rare breed: a painter unafraid of darkness yet a bright beacon for collectors. For Cape, blood and bones are “a symbol of all that I look for in a work,” she says. In her previous life as a champion downhill ski racer, she was exposed to both: “I’d either win or I’d crash — no in between.” But after retiring from sport following a serious injury, Cape (the daughter of Mosman painter Ann Cape) found her second life at art school. “Art is very much my saviour,” she says. “It’s my way of getting that adrenaline, that physicality.” She’s fast gaining momentum.
Represented by Olsen Irwin (olsenirwin.com.au), she will show as part of an Australia China Art Foundation residency in China.
Studio soundtrack: Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits
Artist inspiration: Hermann Nitsch. “I love
the blood and the guts and the theatricality;
[his work is] very visceral and alive.”
Film: Lars von Trier’s The Idiots (1988). “Raw, emotional and beautiful but horrific at the same time.”
Book: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
– Written by Michael Fitzgerald, image: Tamara Dean
Anna Davis, Curator
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia’s “accidental curator” says she fell into the profession after studying media arts and having a strong desire to support her art-school colleagues. “I wanted to help make things happen, not just for me, but for other artists, and then at some point realised that that was actually curating,” she says. Prior to the MCA, Davis cut her teeth at small galleries and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where she assisted Wayne Tunnicliffe, now head curator of Australian art. She’s learnt that it’s about balance, support and creativity. “It’s having the artist in the gallery and encouraging them to make the best work they can, considering how it will translate to an audience and creating an experience or story through different works,” she says. Davis has curated the past two Primavera shows, the MCA’s annual young artist showcase, and her gift for spotting the next big thing has made her a valuable asset to the gallery. “I think being an artist and becoming a curator has given me empathy for the artist’s perspective,” she says. “I would say my approach is more artist-led than art-historical. I respond to what I see being made by artists.”
Reading: The Wild Life of Sailor and Lula by Barry Gifford; Geoff Dyer’s essays in Working the Room
The last piece of art I wanted to buy: Justine Varga’s Moving Out #6, 2012. “Her photography is quiet and [at 2012 Primavera] she had three works, almost white, with fine wire circles and what looked like a sunburst hitting the room. I fell in love with that sunburst.”
Right now I’m into … “ephemeral practice: work that appears and disappears, like Rebecca Baumann’s work made of smoke or confetti”.