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Q&A with OUTBOUND Festival Co-Director Ruby Donohoe

Gaga/Dancers workshop

OUTBOUND Festival is a brand-new 3-day contemporary dance x live art festival happening 6-8 October. Bringing together local, national, and international artists to the Sunshine Coast, the festival is an invitation to pursue improbable, inevitable and elusive moments of connection.

We're looking forward to intimate performances, unique choreography, installations, live music, projection works, workshops, and more. We are THAT excited to see this program of events on the Sunshine Coast, and sat down with the OUTBOUND Festival Co-Director Ruby Donohoe to hear more.

You're offering a truly intriguing line-up of events. What are some key themes and what are you hoping audiences will experience at OUTBOUND?

The festival is for dance and art lovers. Those who normally have to go to the city to get their fix! But it's also for the curious. People looking for an adventurous weekend experience who are interested in unique, out-of-the-box ways to spend their time. An art party that will make you feel, make you think, and surprise you.

OUTBOUND Festival Co-director Ruby Donohoe

There’s going to be a tonne of different ways to experience live performance. We're really looking forward to taking dance and live art out of the sterile, alienating blank box of theatres and galleries. There’s The Proximity Series - short, intimate audience experiences in unconventional spaces. These are up close and personal, immersive experiences. Audience sizes range between 4 people and 12 people. The length of the performances range from 5mins to 15mins and some ask you to decide how long you stay for yourself! This series is all about what it means to experience beautiful, fleeting moments of live art.

Unregistered Mitchie Runcie Builder

Then there’s a few performances on the Main Stage which is this bullshit-gorgeous, two-walled white cyc photography space. Contemporary dance works and live projection and sound performances will perform in that space. These will feel more like a traditional audience experience. And then on Saturday night we have a DJ, so people will get a chance to dance too! Plus heaps of workshops on Saturday and Sunday.

The idea is to provide lots of different ways for people to move and be moved. Each of the works deal with different ideas. Seed by Soleil Harvey and Abstract Human Radio deals with dis/connections between the self, the perceived self, and how projected understandings come from both within and the world around us.

Tenancy by Mia Hollingworth

Tenancy by Mia Hollingworth looks at our over-identification with the body and cultural hyper-fixations on how to modify it. Unregistered Mitchie Runcie Builder by Joseph Burgess and Mitch Runcie looks at the ticktocification of the moving image and lived experiences. Snail Trail by Tay Haggarty is an intimate invitation to explore gender euphoria and collective rest through witnessing the artist’s joyful recovery from gender-affirming top surgery. Amber McCartney’s work is about the maggot- finding ways to slip between realms. Part horror, part bananna-coloured clown doll, part body-builder barbie, the work is a kaleidoscope of transformative distortions of what is here and what is gone.

Bloom Forever by Nimrod Freed

Nimrod Freed's work is a breathtaking ode to the experience of growing older, evolving, and unmasking. And Kellie O’Dempsey x Mick Dick’s live drawing x sonic performances are spacious, beautiful x haunting reflections on how movement awakens us. The work offers an insight into what expanded choreographic practice looks like. What dance without the body can be.

There are also loads of really exciting digital components to this year's festival too! Live projection drawing, digital mapping, and responsive AI technologies! Cutting edge technology in conversation with what it means to be in a living, breathing, disappearing body.

We're so excited to see this calibre of performance artists making their way to the Sunshine Coast! Can you tell us a bit about how you make connections with these artists to participate in OUTBOUND Festival?

We're genuinely floored, my Co-director Courtney Scheu, and I. We're still getting over it ourselves. This is our first year so we did call-outs for most of the programming. Just to see what's out there and to see who might be interested, you know. But the artists that applied… wow. Being on people’s radar like this, so early in our journey, it surprised us. And it’s also super revealing. There’s a massive hunger from artists. They want to share their work and there's not a whole lot of places for contemporary and experimental performance art to live. Especially on the Coast!

Amber McCartney's Tiny Infinite Deaths

To be fair, being able to offer a supported month-long residency by the beach, rehearsal studios, festival performances, and opportunities to run workshops is pretty attractive! So we won over Naarm/Melbourne artist Amber McCartney and Tel Aviv Company Tami Dance that way. But 9 out of the 13 artists are from the Sunshine Coast - they grew up here, live here, work here. For The Proximity Series, we were able to offer a month-long residency in June, mentorship with internationally renowned dance artist Joseph Lau, and the festival opportunity. All of this was made possible by teaming up with ArtsCoast x Sunshine Coast Council.

I mention all of this because relationships take time- between festival and artists, between the seed of a performance idea and what it eventually becomes, and between audiences and artists. Some of the local artists aren’t known names or faces for the Coast audiences, and we wanna change that. Connections don’t happen overnight and how we nourish these artist relationships and the work is a really important value of ours.

Artist Tay Haggarty

But some of the artists I've crossed paths with previously… Tay Haggarty I actually met in 2016 when they stayed at the AirBnb I was running in New York to pay my way through acting school and is also presenting work with IN | artist run initiative at the end of the year, which is an arts space I co-run out of The Old Lock Up - an old jail - with visual artists Sharna Barker and June Sartracom. I met Mitch Runcie and Unregistered Master Builder (Joseph Burgess) through my work with Aha Ensemble - a performing arts collective I joined in 2015 when I was struggling with coming to terms with living with Epilepsy and was really artistically and personally fuelled by working with other artists who had lived experiences of disability.

Kellie O'Dempsey x Mick Dick

Kellie O’Dempsey I met through one of the best timed accidents of my life. I ended up being part of a program designed for visual artists in 2021 - something I definitely didn’t identify as at the time. We both live in Coolum and have collaborated on her upcoming work she does which will be programmed at Noosa Regional Gallery next year. And to be honest, I’d just fan-girled over Amber McCartney on Instagram. Totally entranced when I saw them performing at places like Dark Mofo (Tas), Rising (Melb), and their work with artists like Chunky Move and Jo Lloyd. When you see her move - it looks physically impossible, like a warped animation. Truly spectacular! Her floor work is next level.

We've never seen anything like this festival on the Coast. Why is OUTBOUND Festival important for the Sunshine Coast?

The festival brings world class companies and artists to the Coast and celebrates the most innovative makers in the region. This gives dancers, artists, and audiences the opportunity to be inspired and discover new art experiences. The festival is about witnessing compelling art works that spark conversations about new ideas, new feelings, and new connections. Hopefully it’s an opportunity to see contemporary dance in a new light. We want to offer different ways to access contemporary dance and live art - whether you know a little or know a lot.

BABY GIRL, Amber McCartney

We think the festival will expand and challenge what people think of when they hear the words 'contemporary dance and live art' and who it's for! Hopefully the festival will contribute to keeping our amazing dancers and performance artists on the Coast! Offering a new platform dedicated to dancers and live artists is really important. There is great training and some residency opportunities on the Coast but not a lot of opportunities to share new work.

We know how much work is required in creating unique experiences for people through events! What's it like to pull together an event such as OUTBOUND?

IT'S A BEAST! A thrilling, wild, beast. And an honour to be in service of it. In a funny way, OUTBOUND has always had a pulse of its own. It had a will of its own way before Courtney and I even dreamed about it. Supercell Festival Kate Usher planted the seed in a conversation with us one day and we started having more and more conversations with artists, councils, creatives, friends, family, embassies, breweries, mentors, designers, philanthropists, galleries, barbers, strangers. We talk to anyone who’ll listen. My barber up in Noosa - Captain Sip Sops - is even spreading the good word.

Soleil Harvey's work, Seed

Festivals take a lot of people to get off the ground. It’s often felt like it needs to happen - like the festival itself wants to be born. Maybe that’s because we’ve got a bit of luck on our side, maybe it’s because we’re busting our asses trying to make it happen, and maybe the Coast is just ready for something new!


OUTBOUND | Contemporary Dance x Live Art Festival is on 6 - 8 October 2023 at FrankX Studio, Warana.



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