Meet Courtney Allen :
A multidisciplinary artist & model cross-pollinating her work across dance, photography & videography. Having grown up in Canberra, where she cemented her photography business & to where she often returns, Courtney has now relocated to Wollongong as she embarks on her next chapter.
You work across multiple disciplines including photography & dance, what are your earliest memories of discovering these art forms?
My earliest memories of dance were Irish dancing through school as well as the dancing I would do by myself and with friends at after school care. Since I was about 7, I would choreograph dances after school and teach other girls and the younger ones. I’ve always had such a love for performing and consuming myself in the other worlds that dancing took me to.
Photography was something that arrived when I was in high school. I’ve always been very drawn to portraiture and capturing people. I remember doing photography assignments and always being fascinated with the body, intimacy, form and nature. One of my earliest influences was Sally Mann, I remember my teacher Peter Ranyard introducing me to her work and I was fixated on it for years.
Your current work aims at ‘capturing the social, physiological and environmental realities of our time...to tell stories and share wisdom that may allow for meaningful change and healing’, could you introduce and elaborate on a project that is dear to you?
Yes of course, Return to the Womb would be an example of this.
Return to the Womb was an event I curated inspired by my own personal experience in a float tank. I felt very incubated, safe, playful and free with the colourful lights surrounding me on rotation. For every colour that arrived a memory would form accompanied by a vision. When the colour magenta would appear, I would be brought straight back to the energy of my mother, the womb space, the comfort and the all encompassing feeling of unconditional love. This colour felt the truest and most powerful to me at the time. The playfulness inside this space & colour was healing. I came out of it in tears of happiness. This experience led to my interest in the womb space, what happens inside of it, the life and death cycles associated with it, the illness, the pain, the trauma, the sexual organs and the human experience of sensuality and sexuality.
I draped the room in magenta velvet fabric and covered it with cushions and blankets.The immersive film projected on the back wall explored the senses & the womb spacethrough dance, texture, intimacy and emotionality. My boyfriend at the time was the ambient DJ on the night and I danced live to the Hang Drum. I wanted this space to feel safe, allow for safe discussion, storytelling around the subject of birth and all that comes with it.
Back in March, you worked on a dance project “Owl”, can you tell us a bit more about that time and experience?
For the last 6 months I’ve been working with an intergenerational group of artists across a range of different modalities in the inaugural artist residency at Belco Arts Centre in Canberra. Our aim was to fuse all our modalities together to work towards a theatre production on climate change. Through our art practices, we explored the question:
What would it be like to be in harmony with nature again?
I was working alongside visual artist Sally Blake, storyteller-singer-composer Glenda Cloughley, singer-songwriter-musical director Johanna McBride and musician-performance poet Danny Pratt. Our theatre consultant and dance choreographer was Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM and we were assisted by dramaturge Craig San Roque.
Elizabeth Cameron Dalman is who I worked incredibly close with for the majority of my time this year. We choreographed the Owl Dance together which told the story of an Owl calling for a mate amongst the silence and devastation of the burnt forest. Our time together was spent focusing on deepening my dance practice. Elizabeth is 87 years old and founded Australian Dance Theatre in Australia, one of the first to bring contemporary dance to this country. I would travel out to her property/ studio every week for rehearsals and training. I was also doing contemporary and ballet classes to improve and maintain my technique. I’ve learnt so much about the body, the world of theatre and performing. She has been a dream mentor and I feel like I’ve known her my whole life, like a sister.
On June 26th we performed our end of residence production called Invocation, and had a sold out show selling 200 tickets which we were so happy about! The show included storytelling, dance, visual art, songwriting, music, electric guitar grooves, choral music and poetry. We had a Q&A afterwards which was amazing to talk to our audience about our journey together and receive feedback. This last 6 months has been by far the most growth orientated time of my life so far.
It appears you are a true renaissance spirit and wear many hats as you also dabble with music. You shared a beautiful sentiment with me “music is medicine”, who do you listen to when you’re in need of healing?
Yes! I’ve been teaching myself the piano for the last 3 years by ear and also love
songwriting. Music has definitely been my newest most liberating creative modality because I choose to view it as pure play!
To heal I listen to a large variety of music depending on my mood. Lately I’ve been
listening to a lot of sound healing bowls that I like to play in the background at home when I go about my day or to meditate to. When I’m needing to heal I’ve found listening to sound without lyrics calms me right down and puts me in a super open trace like state to just receive. Yann Tiersen is also one of my go to’s, specifically the EUSA album.
How do you stay grounded and calm in times of flux and uncertainty?
I try to do a regular yoga practice, baths, long walks in nature and meditation. Yin yoga I find particularly powerful for grounding and acceptance. Also just focusing on the simple things like cooking myself good food, lighting a candle or burning some incense and making sure I get outside, tech free for at least 30 mins a day. Walking barefoot. Also turning to a book instead of my phone has been a great habit I’ve adopted during lockdown.
What is your approach to beauty and style?
My beauty regime is very minimalistic, I always let my hair dry naturally and sleep is integral. I love using a good serum or gel based moisturiser on my face morning and night. For the last year or so I’ve been using the brand Antipodes from NZ and love it.
When I moisturise my body before bed and I’m wearing sunscreen during the day I know I’ve got my sh** together!
My approach to style is very relaxed, comfortability and movability are key for me. I love neutral colours, obsessed with chocolate brown, musky pinks, creams and whites at the moment. I love hunting for unique vintage pieces and pairing them with something new and fresh.
Is there a sentiment or piece of advice that has struck you and stuck with you on your journey?
Your vulnerability is your superpower.
No one is you and that is your power.
What’s next and what are you hopeful for?
I’m remaining open to the unexpected at the moment. I’m hopeful to be out there
dancing with friends to live music soon and to be able to travel back to the UK & Europe.