About Geoffrey’s Residency

“During this Moving Forward residency I will be working with Claire Leske to snap our minds and bodies back into a reconstructed memory of the past 2,000+ years of the Tarantella.

The Tarantella has survived this expanse of time through morphing its identity toward and away from different cultural pressures: beginning as an orgiastic Dionysian ritual, it became pathologised in order to avoid suppression in Christianised Europe (the participants didn’t want to dance… they “had to” because it was both the symptom and cure¹ to a spider’s bite², a poison that would reactivate each summer).

Once the spectacle became a tourist attraction, economic stimulus contributed to its codification³ into the folk dances/tunes that are recognisable today. The form became so popular by the 17th century that Louis XIV’s court incorporated it into their classical ballet syllabus, where it still resides. The drastic, opportunistic shifts between Dionysian/Apollonian, subversive/sanctioned, buying/selling as embodied by this history are the makeup of this project.”

– Geoffrey Watson

¹ Both a placebo and nocebo, the afflicted could dance themselves to death through their erratic, spasmodic, often sexually explicit movements if the right music couldn’t be found to accompany them and expel the poison.

² The bite was sometimes real and sometimes metaphysical, and sometimes from a scorpion.

³ Local musicians were paid for their curative services, and therefore incentivised to encourage Tarantic behaviour beyond the point where it could be sustained as a spontaneous, cathartic eruption… so ‘steps’ had to be introduced

About Geoffrey Watson
Geoffrey Watson is a Melbourne-based artist whose work is rooted in choreography but has branches in wearable design, text, lighting, sculpture and photography. Geoffrey’s performance works include Camel, Loving You Ad Nauseam, DISTRACTION: Smackdown!, DISTRACTION: T.C. F’d Up, Geoffrey’s Corpse: Violet Spurlock, Rachael Wisby, and ongoing visual arts mission Reverse Fruit. As a performer, Geoffrey has worked with companies and artists including BalletLab, Nana Biluš-Abaffy, Lucy Guerin Inc, Lee Serle, Alisdair Macindoe, and Gekidan Kaitaisha.

About Claire Leske
Claire Leske is a Melbourne based performer and collaborator from Wagga Wagga NSW. A graduate from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2014, Claire has worked with Rebecca Jensen and Sarah Aiken, (What Am I Supposed To Do? (WAISTD 2019), Underworld (2017) and Deep Soulful Sweats); Jo Lloyd (CUTOUT and Garden Dance), Prue Lang (ZAURAK – performed with the MichaelDouglas Collective, ALTO AIR – inside the work of Belle Bassin), Sarah Aiken (Tools for Personal Expansion), Shelley Lasica (Behaviour part 7), Rebecca Jensen (Deep Sea Dances), Brianna Kell (Observation). Claire was a collaborator for the Artist in Your Backyard Program (Sarah Aiken – Dancehouse) and is a recipient of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust and the NSW Young Regional Artist Scholarship. Claire is the initiator of Dance Is; a ‘what’s on’ website for contemporary dance in Melbourne.

Image: Rachael Wisby (PIECES 2019). Photography by Gregory Lorenzutti.