After leaving university studies in social work Garry Stewart commenced dance studies at the age of twenty. Following training at the Australian Ballet School he danced with various Australian companies until he began creating his own choreographic works in 1990.
Based in Sydney, Stewart continued making his own work until 1999 when he was appointed the Artistic Director of Australian Dance Theatre (ADT). Since then he has created many of the mainstage works for the company. These works have toured extensively around the world including Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, The Joyce Theater in New York, Sadlers Wells in London, the Barbican Theatre in London, Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg and the Sydney Opera House. Most of Stewart’s works have been co-funded and co-produced by a number of leading international theatres.
His works have been seen by audiences totaling tens of thousands the world over. His deconstruction of Swan Lake, Birdbrain – became the most numerously performed Australian contemporary dance work. His first work for ADT was Housedance with 6 dancers abseiling down the outside of the main sail of the iconic Sydney Opera House. Housedance was created for the International Millennium Broadcast and was seen by a television audience of 1 billion and was voted the best work of the broadcast by the BBC-TV.
Stewart has also created works for a number of companies other than ADT including Ballet Du Rhin (Unblack and Le Sacre du Printemps), Rambert Dance Company (UK), Birmingham Royal Ballet (UK), Royal Flanders Ballet (Belgium) and most recently for Tanz Mainz (Germany) which will premiere in June 2016.
His work for ADT, Currently Under Investigation, was performed by the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2009. The Centre and It’s Opposite, made originally for the Birmingham Royal Ballet was presented by the West Australian Ballet in 2011.
In 2013 he was commissioned to make Monument – a new creation for the Australian Ballet based on the architecture of the new Australian Parliament House for the centenary of Canberra.
In 2008 he was the artist in residence at the inaugural International Dance Festival of Birmingham. In 2009 he was commissioned by the Sydney Festival to create ‘The Sydney’, a community dance which was performed by 300,000 members of the public at a large outdoor event at the opening of the festival.
A hallmark of Stewart’s work is his collaborations with artists in other fields. In Devolution he collaborated with French Canadian roboticist Louis Philippe Demers as well as UK new media artist Gina Czarnecki. Devolution was an epic work situating 11 dancers with 30 medium and large scale robotics as well as robotic prosthetics. This work won 9 Australian dance and theatre awards.
Held was his collaboration with the world’s most well known dance photographer, New York based Lois Greenfield. Working with innovative photographic technology Held was a major achievement for live photography and dance onstage and toured to Theatre de la Ville Paris and The Joyce Theater New York as well as throughout Europe and the United Kingdom.
Other works include The Age of Unbeauty – a dark meditation on the history of man’s inhumanity to man and G – a deconstruction of the classical ballet Giselle which was co-produced by Théâtre de la Ville (Paris), Southbank (London) and The Joyce Theatre (New York).
In 2008 Stewart created Honour Bound in collaboration with English theatre director Nigel Jamieson and was produced by the Sydney Opera House. Honour Bound chronicled the detention of Australian citizen David Hicks in the infamous Guantanomo Bay detention camp. It toured to the Barbican Centre, the Vienna Festival and the Holland Festival and won Best New Theatre Production in Sydney.
In 2008 Garry Stewart also created Vocabulary with Restless Dance Company – an Australian dance company for dancers with disabilities.
In 2009 he made Worldhood with visual artist Thomas Buchanan. Worldhood explored the confluence between dance live drawing. In 2010 he created Be Your Self with décor designed by one of America’s leading avante garde architectural firms, the New York based Diller, Scofidio & Renfro.
Proximity premiered at the Adelaide Festival in 2012. This work was a collaboration with a Paris based video engineer Thomas Pachoud. Proximity employed interactive video technology to explore ideas on the neurology of perception.
Stewart has made various short films and video installation works. In 2005 he choreographed Nascent, a video installation work for one of the UK’s leading video artists, Gina Czarnecki. Nascent received numerous awards internationally including Best Dance Film in Australia in 2007.
In 2011 Stewart created a 40 minute video installation piece titled Collision Course. For this project he assembled over 100 wrestlers, martial artists, capoiera dancers, breakers, boxers, rugby players, gymnasts and dancers to create a series of mid air collisions filmed in extreme slow motion. It has been screened at the Birmingham International Dance Festival, NRW Dusseldorf, Western Australian Art Gallery, Sydney Festival, Frankston Arts Centre as well as a national tour of Australia as a national tour of Australia as a component of Experimenta Recharge 6th International Biennial of Media Art.
In 2014 Stewart and French video engineer Thomas Pachoud created Proximity Interactive – a live interactive video installation for art galleries. It was subsequently programmed in the 2016 Adelaide Biennial as well as taken into the permanent collection at the Australian Centre for Media and Image (ACMI). Stewart and the team devised another version of this technology as a rehabilitation tool for people suffering from strokes, aneurisms and other acquired neurological damage. It is being currently being trialed at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre in Adelaide by neuroscience researchers from the University of South Australia.
In 2015 Stewart was commissioned by the Adelaide Film Festival to create Mood Machine – a short film based on the choreography of human emotions.
Most recently his work has turned toward concepts connected to nature. He is creating a number of works under the rubric The Nature Series. This includes Habitus made for the 2016 Adelaide Festival of the Arts and The Beginning of Nature which premiered at WOMADelaide. The latter work involves the participation of the Zephyr String Quartet and a classical choral ensemble singing in Kaurna, the indigenous language of the Adelaide plains.
As an adjunct to The Beginning of Nature Stewart also directed a 360 degree virtual reality project using live dance filmed in various natural landscapes.
Stewart was Thinker-in-Residence at Deakin University for 2012 – 2013. As a result of this residency he created Multiverse – a innovative dance work that incorporates the use of high definition 3D graphics. In 2014 Stewart was the Artist-in-Residence at the National Institute for Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney, Australia where he wrote and directed a drama and dance work Choreography.
Stewart has written pieces for various journals and publications including for a new publication by Routledge Publishing titled Shaping the Landscape: Celebrating Australian Dance published in 2011.
Routledge Publishing included Stewart in the revised edition of Fifty Contemporary Choreographers which provides a unique guide to today’s most important contemporary dance-makers.
Throughout the 1990’s Stewart studied for a Bachelor of Communications at the University of Technology Sydney focusing on video and new media production as well as cultural theory. He is currently studying for a Research Masters in Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, focusing on video installation in confluence with theories of embodiment.
Stewart has attracted numerous awards including Best Choreography at the Australian Dance Awards for Honour Bound, The Age of Unbeauty and Birdbrain. He also received the Best Choreography award at the national Helpmann Awards for Held, The Age of Unbeauty and Devolution. Devolution also won the Helpmann award for Best New Australian Creation out of a field of dance, opera and theatre.
In 2001 Stewart was awarded a Centenary Medal from the Australian Government for his service to Australian society and dance. He has been awarded a number of fellowships and scholarships, including the biennial Sir Robert Helpmann Fellowship from the New South Wales Ministry for the Arts, which he used to kinesiology in New York and an Australia Council Fellowship to research dance and new media technologies. He was also a recipient of two fellowships from the Australian Choreographic Centre in Canberra.
In 2015 he was awarded the inaugural Australia Council Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance from the Australian Government.