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Jake Mangakahia on set of Icarus. Photograph by Phoebe Powell

Close to the Sun

Lumyth's new dance film “Icarus”

Jake Mangakahia, soloist with the Australian Ballet, embodies the one who dared fly too near the sun in the award-winning dance film, Icarus. Inspired by the Greek myth, Icarus is the first film project from Australian multi-media arts group Lumyth. The film, which was released online on May 30, has been officially selected for the 2020 Phoenix Dance Film Festival. I spoke with Lumyth co-founders, Candice MacAllister and Sage Fuller, about the creation of Icarus.

“The idea for a film came up at my birthday party,” says MacAllister, speaking via Zoom. But unlike many ‘party ideas,’ this one stuck. MacAllister and Fuller enthusiastically pitched the idea to their friends, Mangakahia and Troy Rogan, screen composer, who were immediately onboard with the idea. The group applied for a project grant and promptly forgot about it. When Fuller was notified that the grant was successful, she says, “we thought, we had better make a film. So, how do we do that?”

They started with dance. “We all have a background in live performance, but dance is the art form that really unites us,” MacAllister says. Fuller and Rogan, both cellists, had played for dance companies, while Mangakahia introduced MacAllister to the ballet, giving her her first ballet ticket. MacAllister, previously a set designer with Victoria Opera now works for Rambert in London.

The project came together over several months in 2019, with Rogan composing 30-second segments of music for Mangakahia to choreograph, while MacAllister storyboarded the film. As producer, Fuller recalls the overwhelm when first switching on the projector, filling the studio with a moving backdrop of glorious flame-coloured cloud. “We wanted more people to see it, to be in the room with us,” she says. The result is a harmonious synthesis of dance, music, light and projection charting the tragic rise and fall of Icarus.

Icarus was filmed in just one day in studios in Melbourne with cinematography by Niv Novak, who previously created the dance film missed nuance.

Joining Lumyth gave Rogan the chance to break out of the typical media-composer role, and to challenge himself creatively.

“Usually, I’m brought into the creative process towards the end of a project. The narrative will have been finalised, a musical map and cues outlined, and I compose music to fit these parameters and to bring the project to life,” Troy wrote in an email.

For Icarus, the composition informed the choreography and set the tone for the design. Inspired by the legend of Icarus, Rogan composed the music in three sections. “I started with a very simple harmonic progression which outlines the humble beginnings of the story. I then developed the music into a full sound as Icarus soars with a violin solo [by Navin Gulavita].” After the climax of the piece, the sound comes “to a very simple and harrowing conclusion, to mark the end of the story.”

Jake Mangakahia on set of Icarus. Photograph by Phoebe Powell

Jake Mangakahia writes that his choreography was inspired by the three words they used to describe Icarus: innocence, ambition and failure. “I drew upon my own personal experiences to create movement that symbolised moments in my life that I felt described these three words.

“Icarus to me really has been an expression of different artists coming together in Melbourne to create art,” notes Mangakahia.

He adds: “I believe Melbourne, or Australia really, needs more artists—if you are reading this and feel inspired to create art, start! Call up a friend and create something! Culture and art make us who we are; it helps us identify and be a part of something more meaningful than ‘the dust of life’ as Picasso put it.”

Icarus is currently available to watch online on Lumyth’s YouTube channel and Troy Rogan’s composition is available on Spotify. Lumyth’s second film project is underway, stay tuned for more from this talented outfit.

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