In 1988 Graeme Murphy was commissioned by the Australian Bicentennial Authority to create Vast, the National Bicentennial Dance Event. Involving seventy dancers from four dance companies - Australian Dance Theatre, West Australian Ballet, the Queensland Ballet and Sydney Dance Company - the production premiered at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne, on 4 March before touring nationally to Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney.
Murphy brought together a creative team that included composer Barry Conyngham, set designer Andrew Carter, costume designer Jennifer Irwin, lighting designer Kenneth Rayner, and music director John Hopkins. The production took the viewer across the vast expanse of the Australian continent from the oceans, to the deserts, to the cities and the sky. Murphy's concept began with the seas and coastal regions surrounding Australia, with act one being broken down into two sections 'The Sea' and 'The Coast'. The second act, 'The Centre', focused on the Australian desert, while act three looked at Australian urban environments.
Murphy stated in the program that his guiding inspiration for the work came from Conyngham's music, which was described by Jill Sykes, dance critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, in a review of the production:
'Barry Conyngham's score ... begins under the sea, makes its way on to land via coral reefs and surf beaches to climb optimistically over rainforest mountains into the desert country of the centre. Eventually it reaches the claustrophobic cities, but allows a chink of hope that human nature will survive them'.
Produced and presented by the Australian Bicentennial Authority, Vast was accompanied by two other events: Free by Four, the Dance in Parks program, which featured a work from the repertoire of each participating company; and The Exhibition, a collection of photographs, posters, and designs chronicling the development of the four companies from the 1970s.
'A New Scale for Dance' in Trust News (Queensland), Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan-Feb, 1988), p. 1.
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