Sib­ling strug­gles

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Dance - Tanya MacNaughton

WATCH­ING her sis­ter’s strug­gle with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis (MS) com­pelled 42-year-old con­tem­po­rary dancer Shona Ersk­ine to chore­o­graph her first in­de­pen­dent full-length work, White Mat­ter.

As­sisted by a STRUT Seed Res­i­dency, Ersk­ine said she wanted to bring aware­ness to the mag­ni­tude of the dev­as­tat­ing dis­ease.

White Mat­ter aims to cap­ture the lived rather than the named ex­pe­ri­ence of MS, fo­cus­ing on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween two sib­lings.

“Hav­ing a loved one suf­fer­ing from MS, it is of high pri­or­ity for me to find ways to con­trib­ute to the di­a­logue on the dis­ease,” she said.

“Her life is be­com­ing pro­gres­sively more chal­leng­ing. Re­cent events in our lives have brought the dev­as­ta­tion of the dis­ease, and the com­plex­ity of hu­man con­scious­ness con­cern­ing life and death, to the fore.

“I want to make so­cially rel­e­vant per­for­mance work that ex­plores the nexus be­tween dance and psy­chol­ogy; works that delve into the com­plex play of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence and in­ter­ac­tion in so­cial con­texts.”

Ersk­ine said MS was the most wide­spread dis­abling neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion of young adults around the world and, al­though the ar­eas of neu­ro­science and im­munol­ogy were rapidly ex­pand­ing, peo­ple liv­ing with the dis­ease still did not have ef­fec­tive safe medicines and of­ten lived with­out a clear prog­no­sis.

There is also a large gen­der dif­fer­ence in MS preva­lence and for this rea­son Ersk­ine’s work will be per­formed by an all-male or all-fe­male duo on al­ter­nat­ing per­for­mances.

“I wanted to ex­plore how men and women man­aged the con­tent of the work in their own ways as a re­flec­tion of this (dif­fer­ence),” she said.

“As ex­pected, the same duet is vastly dif­fer­ent on the men to the women.

“Each duo han­dles the ma­te­rial with dif­fer­ent lev­els of sen­si­tiv­ity, at­ten­tion, en­ergy and imag­i­na­tion.”

Ersk­ine said she hoped au­di­ences left with a more acute un­der­stand­ing of the emo­tional re­al­ity of liv­ing with a de­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease and the im­pact this had on fam­ily.

“And I want to bring peo­ple who do not nec­es­sar­ily have any strong theatre pa­tron­age, but a con­nec­tion to MS, into the world of cre­ative ex­pres­sion and per­for­mance.”

Dancers Scott El­ster­mann and Harrison El­liott in

White Mat­ter.

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