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The new book by prize-winning biographer Evelyn Juers, author of The House of Exile and The Recluse, portrays the life and background of a pioneering Australian dancer who died at the age of twenty-five in a remote town in India.
A uniquely talented dancer and choreographer, Philippa Cullen grew up in Australia in the 1950s and 60s. In the 1970s, driven by the idea of dancing her own music, she was at the forefront of the new electronic music movement, working internationally with performers, avant-garde composers, engineers and mathematicians to build and experiment with theremins and movement-sensitive floors, which she called body-instruments. She had a unique sense of purpose, read widely, travelled the world, and danced at opera houses, art galleries and festivals, on streets and bridges, trains, clifftops, rooftops. She wrote, I would define dance as an outer manifestation of inner energy in an articulation more lucid than language. An embodiment of the artistic aspirations of her age, she died alone in a remote hill town in southern India in 1975.
With detailed reference to Cullen's personal papers and the recollections of those who knew her, and with her characteristic flair for drawing connections to bring in larger perspectives, Evelyn Juers' The Dancer is at once an intimate and wide-ranging biography, a portrait of the artist as a young woman.
'Dead in 1975 at 25 years old, the Australian avant-garde dancer, teacher and artist Philippa Cullen lived a tragically short life. And yet, at the time, her artistic activity cast a long shadow over the burgeoning experimental counterculture in Australia and Europe. It is the probing of this juxtaposition that seems to be the controlling purpose of Evelyn Juers's The Dancer: A Biography for Philippa Cullen (1950-1975). A sprawling work of genealogy and intellectual history, this biography positions its subject dialectically in order to illustrate both how Cullen impacted the texture of cultural history and how historical forces nonetheless imprinted themselves upon Cullen and her work.' - Jeremy George, Books+Publishing