Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dance scholar unveils findings

Three members of the Canberra Critics Circle were present at the National Film and Sound Archive on February 29, when Canberra dance scholar, Michelle Potter, also a member of the circle, unveiled some of her findings made as part of the NFSA’s Scholars and Artist in Residence program for 2012.
The first of this year’s scholars, Potter has undertaken research on theatrical designer Kristian Fredrikson, (1940–2005) a giant figure in the world of Australian theatre designed best known for his work with the Australian Ballet and in her view, “perhaps the most awarded and acclaimed designer to have pursued a career in theatrical design in Australia to this point in our cultural history.”
“In a highly diverse and prolific working life that spanned some 40 years and resulted in the creation of around 140 works, Fredrikson was equally at home designing for dance, opera, theatre, musicals, film and television and was also one of a team of designers who worked on the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympiad.”
While Potter’s ultimate aim is to produce a book on the work of Fredrikson, this research project was specifically aimed at Fredrikson’s film and television commissions.
After giving an account of Fredrikson’s long career, Potter outlined his work as a costume designer for film and television, drawing some fascinating contrasts between the highly artistic and colourful artist’s impressions of the costumes for “Oedipus Rex” at Wal Cherry’s Emerald Hill Theatre in the 1960s, to the more austere black-and-white pencil drawings of costumes for a TV mini-series about Australia's involvement in the Vietnam war produced by George Miller and starring Nicole Kidman.
But the main focus of her work was on “Undercover,” the 1984 Palm Beach Pictures’s film about the Berlei underwear promotional enterprises of the early 20th century. Potter’s trained eye discerned connections between the original costumes of dancers promoting the Berlei product and those created by Fredrikson for both the film and other productions, like the 2001 Sydney Dance Company-Australian Ballet collaboration, “Tivoli.”
Finally, Potter unveiled some of her preliminary findings about Fredrikson’s designs for an eccentric film, never made, called “The Magic Telescope.” We look forward to further revelations after she has a chance to meet the director.
Helen Musa, March 3 2012

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