Parrott finds new nest in Maylands
Chrissie Parott and artist Natasha Lea

There can be no mistaking the change that has come over the former automotive repair workshop now that dance architect Chrissie Parrott has taken up residence.

From across the street, not far from the Meltham train station in Maylands, a 3.5m baroque picture frame stares through the open garage doors, distinguishing this converted panel-beater's from its light industrial neighbours.

This grand, theatrical entry statement marks out Chrissie Parrott Arts, a gallery, shop, artist studios and eventual performance space for alternative theatre, music and dance only a few ambitious arabesques from the new Maylands WA Ballet Centre on the other side of the tracks.

The proximity is pure coincidence but Parrott is happy to encourage thoughts of a new dance precinct, considering a flamenco dance studio also has opened up nearby.

"It is kind of serendipitous," says Parrott of the five-year lease she and partner, composer Jonathan Mustard, have taken on the 400sqm space after looking at sites around the metro area. The venture has had great support from the City of Bayswater, which is keen to see more cultural enterprises in the area after its multi-million- dollar investments in the ballet centre and Eighth Avenue redevelopment.

"It is an opportunity for artists in this area to experiment and play, really," Parrott says.

Linking visual art and performance is the heart of the new venture from Parrott, the acclaimed choreographer of Metadance, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and dozens of other productions under her own name and commissions for the WA Ballet, Australian Dance Theatre, and several overseas companies.

Her first exhibition, for instance, highlights leading Australian stage photographers Jeff Busby and Ashley de Prazer.

For her second show, Parrott is promoting an emerging talent in young Fremantle artist Natasha Lea. Opening this weekend, Lea's show Laced will include paintings, illustrations, vintage-inspired jewellery, lace costumes and some puppets.

"It is about passing it on and giving something back," Parrott says. "I am at that point where it is really nice to discover and work with young people who are really talented but don't know where to start."

Lea is thrilled to have been taken under Parrott's wing to showcase works she describes as dark and pretty. "It is a perfect space for someone like me working in different mediums," Lea says. "It is a fabulous idea."

Parrott's gallery also offers the prospect of a new life for sets, costumes and other stage designs usually seen only for a short theatrical run and then lost to the public eye.

"All the sets that normally a theatre company can't afford to pay for storage, they destroy," she says.

"They don't really have the opportunity to recycle them. It is easier to go through the process of production and then on to the next production if it is not touring."

Parrott managed to salvage elements of Alicia Clements' set from Black Swan State Theatre Company's production of Arcadia, to give a Georgian- era flourish to her decor.

"With Arcadia, I just rang in the right week and asked if they had any scenery. Otherwise, the following week it was going for disposal."

Last year, Parrott ran a small theatrical-arts gallery and shop in Fremantle, where she met Lea. From her own extensive connections she was aware of the artists, photographers, designers, directors and others associated with the performing arts whose work also would shine away from the stage.

"Somewhere in each exhibition there will be a relationship with the theatre in one way or another, whether it is a designer who wants to make a film or a dancer who wants to write a book, or a writer who wants to do a piece of choreography. As long as there is some relationship with the theatre, we are happy to have people in here."

As to their own stage work, Parrott and Mustard have been working for the past two years with writer Reg Cribb and visual artist Patrick Doherty on the dance-theatre piece, Kings and Queens, which is where the gaudy picture frame comes in. It is a scale model of an intended full-size proscenium through which Doherty's absurd animalia will leap from the canvas and into theatrical life.

The West Australian

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