When I Was Little is a series where we interview the theatre-makers and creatives who bring magic to our stages, and wonder to our little ones.
In this edition, we speak to dance artist Lucky Lartey, star of
Infusion, No Movement, No Sound, whose work draws from a rich Ghanan upbringing full of rhythm and dance.
Q: Tell us about how you’ve collaborated with other Sydney-based global artists to fuse contemporary dance and music.
Collaboration is inspiration and how I find a voice outside of my tradition. When I collaborate with other cultural artists and musicians we find a new voice together.
The title of the work relates to an African proverb, which connects sound (music) and movement (dance) as existing as one in my culture. So if you have no movement, you have no sound and vice versa. One does not exist without the other.
When I arrived in Australia I started to collaborate with dancers and musicians here and in 2015. I choreographed and produced my first intercultural fusion work, Jamestown! A tribute to the neighbourhood I am from in Accra, Ghana which included tap dance, body percussion, drumming and gumboot dancing and singing. This was the birth of the Jamestown Collective in Australia. In 2017, I then expanded the collective to include a balophone (African xylophone), more drums, a tabla player, a cajon and a keyboard player and gumboot dancing from South Africa.
INFUSION is a collaboration with six artists that now includes spoken word and video installations. The work draws on my Ghanaian culture and the spirit of African innovation as well as Senegalese, Indian, Greek/Spanish, Jamaican Canadian cultures and musical traditions and our very own Anglo Australian tap dancer. When the Jamestown Collective come together it is a mixing post of contemporary and traditional creativity
Q: What do you want children and other audiences to take away from watching INFUSION, No Movement, No Sound?
I would like children and other audiences to see how you can make music out of anything and everything. That creating rhythms through music and dance has no limits. The culture where I am from is a celebration of innovation where plastic bags make soccer balls and tin cans make drums and percussion instruments and toy cars to race. INFUSION is not only an exhibition of the beauty of fusion or intercultural music but a work that speaks to appreciate the diversity of music and dance and how different cultures can come together.
Australia is such a diverse place - art brings us together. We like to celebrate that!
“So my first memory of live performance was integrated into everyday life in Ghana, growing up surrounded by music, drumming and dancing.”
Q: What is your earliest memory of watching live performance as a child?
In Ghana, dancing and music are part of community life. Whether it is a naming ceremony (christening), funeral or other life celebration or event, there is always traditional drumming and dancing. So my first memory of live performance was integrated into everyday life in Ghana, growing up surrounded by music, drumming and dancing.
Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was young I studied to be an engineer but when I was 15 I decided that I wanted to be a dancer and so for the last 20 years I have been a dancer.
This went against my mum’s wishes, so I had to be self-supporting and self-motivated.
“Start dancing and never stop. Stay true to your heart's path.”
Q: Does what you do as an adult allow you to stay true to your childhood dreams?
Even though being a dancer and performing artist is hectic and unpredictable, I have stayed true to my passion and love of dance. In 2011, I moved to Australia to get married and pursue my career in dance. I have had the privilege of receiving grants and funding to travel and make dance works and collaborate here in Australia. My dance and choreographic works look for ways to negotiate what it means to draw on a rich history of traditional rhythm and dance whilst engaging with contemporary movement practices. It is my connection to culture and sharing culture that keeps me true to my dreams.
Q: If you could tell your 5 year old self something, what would you say?
Start dancing and never stop. Stay true to your heart's path.