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Australia Council International Residencies Program: The experiences of a successful applicant

Disabled dance and movement artist Matthew Shilcock  received an Australia Council International Residency in Finland in 2017. He has shared his experiences about his residency below.

My name is Matt Shilcock and I’m an Adelaide based dance and movement artist. Living with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or brittle bones; my practice focuses on finding way to dance with injury, or using dance to rehabilitate from injury.

In May 2017 I was fortunate enough to be awarded an International Residency from the Australia Council for the Arts. The Australia Council has 9 different residencies available in London, Rome, Paris, New York, Helsinki, Berlin and Nashville. These residencies provide a unique opportunity for artists to immerse themselves in their practice a new context, market, community and culture. The experience enables the artist to articulate their practice within a global context and build knowledge, networks and partnerships that support future international arts activity.

For my residency, I spent 3 months in Helsinki, Finland. I was hosted by the Helsinki International Artist Programme (HIAP) to research and develop my choreographic process for the ‘The Likes of Me’, and subsequent works in my ‘Eujeanix’ triptych, and to further develop my new choreographic system, ‘Alchemia Exteriores’. Research process included collaborations with Kaaos and Willman dance companies in Helsinki, to design choreographic material for use in future work. The funding I was awarded also allowed me to have artistic support and creative enabler join me on this residency.


During my residency, I made strong connections with the following organisations that supported my projects in a big way: Dance Ability Finland/Kaaos Company – Connecting with Sally Davidson, in 2016, when I initially wrote the application for this residency, we discussed Kaaos Company (the performative branch of DanceAbility Finland) being involvled in the further development of a new work. Zodiak Centre for New Dance – provided me with a wealth of information and discounts in hiring rehearsal space. Willman Dance Company (Marjaterttu Willman) – Marjaterttu played a major role in my residency. She was a mentor to me, guiding me in the development process for Invalid:Dated.

Through Marjaterttu, I met Kasperi and Nina, who together form MAMIA Company, a a husband/wife team that tour Europe and make theatre works.

Vantaan Tassiopisto hosted my in-kind during the creative development of ‘Invalid:Dated’, providing us with studio space and and access to any networks and resources that we could possibly need during our creative development period.

In the 3 months I spent in Helsinki; I achieved more artistically than in my entire decade long career!


At the beginning of my residency, Alchemia Exteriores was a new concept/practice. It was still in the in the transitioning stage from being a personal interest and research project into finding practical application to translate my research into dance. The practice explores applying philosophies and concepts of Alchemy in medieval Europe to a process in creating dance and theatre works.

I developed a short film, also titled “Alchemia Exteriores” displaying my process in action – working with Leonardo Di Vinci’s (a well known artist and practitioner in Alchemy) Virtruvian Man as a map/choreographic reference. The video was made to accompany a live presentation explaining the choreographic process.


In the month prior to arriving in Helsinki, I worked with a collaborating and support artist in developing material for my work with Kaaos Company. When I arrived to Helsinki, I had a total of 30 hours of development and rehearsal time with the members of Kaaos Company, in which we explored the material I was working with and began adapting the material and devising new material for a presentation in the X Dance Festival, at Zodiak Centre for New Dance, Kaapelitehdas (just down stairs from my accommodation). My work with Kaaos Company was my first time implementing this system to create a choreographic work.

The resulting work “Alkemik Konnections” – premiered in the X Dance Festival, 12 June 2018, this full scale production with 6 dancers – is my biggest project to date. was a huge success with a lot of great feed back from audiences. The duration of the show was just under 40 mins, with music I sourced from online artistic forums with permission from the composers.

“Invalid:Dated” – a first stage creative development of the second instalment in my Eujeanix triptych; was created in collaboration with Marjaterttu Willman, exploring the philosophies and applications of eugenics as a topic to inspire and generate movement and themes for the work. For our rehearsal/creative development period we were hosted in kind by Vantaan Tanssiopisto and had access to their professional dance studio, in-kind, for 4 weeks, as arranged by Marjaterttu.

Through Marjaterttu, I met Kasperi Nordman and Nina Mamia from MAMIA theatre company. They assisted us with set, lighting and filming a high quality documentation of Invalid:Dated, attached to this acquital.

The work had a presentation/showing at the HIAP Gallery space during exhibition SABBAT : 00 on 29 July 2018.

The showing was also live streamed to Facebook, and can be viewed here:


Lessons I Learned

1.Plan. Prepare. Practice.
I think I could have planned better and been more prepared every time I walked in the studio. Perhaps if I make a practice of setting myself an hour in the morning, before my travel/commuting time to go over my notes from the previous day and to plan what I wish to explore/revisit that day in the studio.

2. Back up, then Back up the Back ups.
Life is unpredictable. one day I left my my note book on the train. I got it back the next day, but it was scary to think that I had lost all record and notes for Invalid:Dated. One strategy for this, suggested by Mel is to take photos of my notes at the end of each day and upload them to the cloud. This could also be a job that I delegate to my PA, since it takes me some time to pack up at the end of the day.

3. Build Habits
By now my art practice should be coming naturally to me. I want to be at a place where I don’t need to force myself to be creative, or to exercise, that should be part of my lifestyle. I talk a lot about building habits through ritual in my workshops, and ritual/habitual exercise helps me to build my strength and decrease injuries. It’s super important.

4. Have options
Although it’s a large part of my practice to adapt choreography to injury and using mobility aids, during this process, it became apparent that I need to devise and rehearse several options for the choreography I devise for myself, so that when injury strikes last minute, I already have something to work from. This is something I need to be more mindful of in future productions, but I also meet to test the process, because of course this will make the devising stage 3 times longer.

5. Be clear and concise with people’s roles when collaborating
I imagine that I am not the first person to complete a project and think ‘I really wish I had communicated, or even known, exactly what my expectations of that person were before I began collaborating with them”. I think it will be helpful for me in the future to write a MOU of what I need from a support person/what they need from me, and establishing those expectations well before commencing on a project like this. 3 months is a long time, a lot can change and without something solid to refer back to, a lot of miscommunications can happen.

6. Finnish Sauna is absolutely awesome!
In all, I had an amazing time, met some incredible people, really developed my artistic practice and made some friends I will cherish for life. I recommend all artists to apply for Australia Council’s International Artist Residencies. The programs will vastly develop your practice and provided you have a clear idea for the projection of your career, the application is is a very straight forward process – you aren’t even asked to submit a budget!

Find out more about Matt at his website,

Playwriting Australia Program Opportunity: The Erin Thomas Playwright Fund

In memory of playwright Erin Thomas, the Erin Thomas Playwright Fund has been created to support emerging playwrights from regional or remote areas to attend opportunities or events that would help them develop their careers.

To be eligible for the fund, playwrights need to:

• Reside in a regional, remote or rural area of Australia; and

• Be at an early stage of their career and have had no more than two professional productions Funded travel costs can include airfares, accommodation, per diems or other relevant expenses.

• Be an Australian citizen or permanent resident over the age of 18

Submissions are open year-round. Please click here for more information and to apply.