Chrissie Parrott is one of Australia’s most prolific choreographers, and has created over 90 works nationally and internationally. She has made her mark as a dancer, choreographer, director, teacher and artist. Her works have been performed in Holland, France, Japan, East Java, Germany and Australia.
Born in Northern England in 1953, Chrissie started dancing at the age of three and became “serious” about it by age seven. A performer from the time she could walk, Chrissie studied tap, ballet and musical theatre during her childhood, and won numerous competitions as a young dancer. Chrissie and her family moved to Australia when she was ten years old and she continued to study ballet. At the age of 19, sought after for her talent and diverse dance background, Chrissie was offered a position with the WA Ballet Company. She spent seven years with the company, and created her first choreographic work, Like Hiroshima: Just Another Fallout in 1976. Two years later, her first major commissioned work, Catherine’s Wedding, was performed at the Sydney Opera House.
Chrissie left the WA Ballet in the late 1970s to join Sydney-based One Extra Dance Company. She toured with the company to Europe, where she spent a number of years living and working. Chrissie’s next move was to German company Tanz Forum, where she regularly performed for audiences of about 3,000. While working in Germany, Chrissie met her future husband, with whom she had a son, Griffeth. They moved to Stockholm, where Chrissie worked as a dancer and choreographer with Swedish company Crammeer Balletten, then back to Australia in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
The Chrissie Parrott Dance Company was born soon after their return with the aid of government funding and a period of significant creative success followed. The company was at the forefront of contemporary dance in Australia and was well known for its high impact productions. Chrissie created most of the company’s works, successfully fusing dance with theatre. The company toured internationally and won numerous honours including the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award in 1992. Chrissie also won The Sounds Australia Award for her dedication to collaborating with Australian composers and musicians. She acknowledges that much of the company’s success was due to her talented team. “Most artists who are successful are likely to be surrounded by other exceptional artists and collaborators.”
The Chrissie Parrott Dance Company folded unexpectedly in 1996 after a change of government in WA and subsequent loss of funding. Chrissie moved into the next phase of her career, joining the dance department at Edith Cowan University. She began to research teaching methodologies using high tech animation and motion tracking techniques. She was awarded a number of travel and research grants through ArtsWA and travelled to France and USA. After returning to Perth, she began to create dance works and large-scale digital artworks using new technologies, which are held in company collections across Australia. In 2001 she became a Senior Research Fellow at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), and continued to research motion capture and video and colour tracking technologies.
During her time at WAAPA, Chrissie was instrumental in setting up LINK, a graduate dance company created to help dance students make the transition from university to the professional world. In the early 2000s, she worked as an adjunct professor at the Queensland University of Technology, teaching multimedia. In 2003, she formed Jambird Multi Arts Company with Perth-based composer and musician Jonathan Mustard. The pair produced multi-screened immersive works using digital technology, sound and choreography. Their works attracted many commissions and awards, including showings at the Monaco Dance Festival in Monte Carlo.
In 2000, Chrissie won the West Australian Citizen of the Year award for Arts and Entertainment, and in 2005, she was awarded a Centenary Medal for services to Community and the Arts. In 2011, Jambird was commissioned to create a piece for the opening of the State Theatre Centre of WA, and in 2013 was commissioned to create a large-scale outdoor dance work for The University of Western Australia’s centenary celebrations. In 2014, Chrissie was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the West Australian Dance Awards.
Chrissie is a Resident Artist with the Black Swan State Theatre Company and in 2015 she will direct a stage adaption of The Red Balloon. She is a project coordinator with Community Arts Network WA in the eastern Wheatbelt of WA. Chrissie focuses on mentoring a new generation of artists, as a way of “giving back” to the community that has supported her for over four decades.
Chrissie lives in Perth with her partner.