11 Dec 2016

The choreographer and the supermarket trolleys

From Standing Room Only, 2:50 pm on 11 December 2016

Supermarket trolleys as dance partners - who'd have thought? Yet Australian choreographer Shaun Parker has been working with Kiwi dancers to create a street ballet leaping into, out of and around trolleys for Auckland's Summer in the Square.

Parker has choreographed more conventional works for groups such as the Australian Opera and the  Sydney Theatre Company, but he has a particular love of street dance.

“What I love about outdoor theatre is taking art to the people. Not everybody has always gone to the theatre. For some people it hasn’t been part of their life, or they can’t afford it.

“That notion of discovery I think is fantastic. Anybody can come and watch it and the performance is free so whole families turn up.”

Trolleys is a ballet for five supermarket trolleys which appear randomly in a public space. Two meet and fall in love. One grapples to find a friend. The others revolt and ignite a dance of anarchy.

Parker says the trolleys become balletic props.

“It’s twenty minutes of driving trolley dancing where the dancers soar and surge and spin and lift and twirl the trolleys.

“It was about taking the everyday object like the trolley and giving it human qualities.”

Parker, from rural Mildura in New South Wales, says his own background has similarities to the film Billy Elliot.

“I saw Billy Elliot … when I was living in New York and when I watched the film I was absolutely shocked at how similar it was to my life.

“My brother was [an] Australian boxing champion, I wanted to do ballet and my dad didn’t really want me to it and so when I watched Billy Elliot I said ‘Oh my gosh’ because obviously Billy’s father was involved in boxing as well.”

Parker, following his father’s wishes, did a science degree and then went on to study at the Victorian College of the Arts. The science training, he says, didn’t go to waste.

“Sometimes with my artistic work I’m drawing on a lot of scientific principles without even realising: momentum, centrifugal force, centre of gravity, all within the movement, I absolutely love it.”