‘Liz Lea mines the very female environment of Anna Pavlova. The world’s most famous ballerina, back in the 1920s she famously crossed the globe in a series of exhausting and exhaustive tours. In 120 Birds, a cast of four recreate both the brutal toughness and the exhilarating glamour of a ballet company out on the road, mixing live performance with vintage film footage’.
Winner of the Canberra Critics Circle Award 2011 120 Birds comes to The Street Theatre – glamour glitz and girls…
Premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 120 Birds is a critical acclaimed, sell out show. Liz Lea has woven a fabulous tale of feathers, finery and fashion inspired by the early modern dance pioneers. 120 Birds follows the fictional story of the rise and fall of an Australian dance company that toured the world in the 1920s and 1930s, discovering new worlds, breaking norms, falling in love – all through the world of dance. Company Elle is born in Australia in 1923 after Anna Pavlova first visits the country. Madam Lou raises and drags her company of four around the world following Pavlova’s footsteps and meeting other companies along the way – Denishawn, Florence Broadhurst, Annette Kellerman and the Bondi Beach Lifesavers. all played out to a backdrop of archival footage from the National Film and Sound Archives and Ballet Russes images from the National Gallery of Australia.
Liz Lea continues to explore her distinctive choreographic style, using gesture, expression and physicality, with contemporary movement enhanced by the Charleston, Tango and waltz. Named after the one hundred and twenty birds with which Pavlova toured to Australia in 1929, 120 Birds is not a history lesson, but a celebration of dance steeped in history and humour.
Lea plays the company ‘Madam’/Director, recounting the story of her fictional dance troupe as it travels the world in the 1920s and 30s, from rags to riches – and rags again. On top of her 20 years in dance, Lea has in the past five years begun adding speech to her choreography and performances, and 120 Birds will see narrative and speech take centre stage in a starring role. Guest artists include GOLD and a fine array of Burlesque babes.
The music is drawn from NFSA archives as well as tango, Annie Lennox, Rhapsody in Blue and modern club songs. This show is a Burlesque dream.
- International Research & Collaborations Research for the work began in 2008, when Lea was in residence at Dancebase, Edinburgh. Following this she traveled the routes taken by both the Denishawn and Anna Pavlova Companies in India in the 1920s. Currently a Fellow at Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive where she has full access to film, sound and photographic archives, Lea is pooling this research with material garnered from the Australian National Library, New York Public Library and Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival. Her thorough research will result in a montage backing film for the performance, along with music, lighting, costumes, performance style and narrative all influenced by the real life dramas of touring dance companies in the 1920s and 30s.
- In the spirit of the touring divas Lea recently spent 3 months in India creating ‘Ritu Chakra’ a work for the Darpana company inspired by Rabindranath Tagore. This piece is currently touring 4 cities in India. She herself is currently in Durban, South Africa making a work on the Flatfoot Dance Company. This work, ‘A Free Mind’ is based around the writings of Ahmed Kathrada an associate of Nelson Mandela, whom he was imprisoned alongside for 26 years. Lea also works as the Artistic Director of Canberra Dance Theatre and as an Associate Director of QL2 Centre for Youth Dance.
VENUE The Street Theatre, 15 Childers St, Canberra City West
SEASON Saturday 19th @ 7.30pm
Sunday 20th May @ 4pm
For MEDIA ENQUIRIES please contact Caroline Stacey on 6247 1519 or email