After leaving university studies in social work, Garry Stewart commenced dance studies at the age of 20. 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 work until 1999 when he was appointed the Artistic Director of Australian Dance Theatre (ADT).
Since then he has created a significant repertoire of works for ADT which have become renowned for their ambitious artistic collaborations, rigorous research and a compelling movement vocabulary. These productions have toured extensively to some of the most prestigious theatres in 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.
His first work for ADT, Housedance, featured six dancers abseiling down the outside of the main sail of the iconic Sydney Opera House. Created for the International Millennium Broadcast, Housedance was seen by a television audience of 1 billion and was voted the best work of the broadcast by the BBC-TV.
More recently his work has turned toward concepts connected to nature, created under the rubric, The Nature Series. This includes Habitus, presented at the 2016 Adelaide Festival, The Beginning of Nature which premiered in 2017 at Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Colombia and South, which was one part of the double-bill, North/South created with Norwegian choreographer Ina Christel Johannessen.
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 Work. In 2019, The Beginning of Nature received the Helpmann Award for Best Dance Production.
In 2001 Stewart was awarded a Centenary Medal from the Australian Government for his service to Australian society and dance. In 2015 he was awarded the inaugural Australia Council Award for Outstanding Achievement in 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, an Australia Council Fellowship and the prestigious Winston Churchill Fellowship which allowed him to study the function and structure of some of the world’s leading choreographic centres.
Outside of ADT, Stewart has created works for a number of companies including Ballet Du Rhin (Unblack and Le Sacre du Printemps), Sydney Dance Company, Rambert Dance Company (UK), Birmingham Royal Ballet (UK), Royal Flanders Ballet (Belgium), tanz mainz (Germany), Royal New Zealand Ballet, The Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Australian Ballet among others.
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 project which was performed by 300,000 members of the public at the opening of the festival.
A hallmark of Stewart’s work is his collaborations with artists in other fields. Devolution saw a collaboration with French Canadian roboticist Louis Philippe Demers as well as UK new media artist Gina Czarnecki. It featured 11 dancers with 30 medium and large-scale robotics and robotic prosthetics.
Held was his collaboration with the world’s most well-known dance photographer, New York based Lois Greenfield. Utilising innovative photographic technology, Held toured to Théâtre de la Ville in Paris and the Joyce Theater in 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 which chronicled the detention of Australian citizen David Hicks in the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Produced by the Sydney Opera House, it toured to the Barbican Centre, the Vienna Festival and the Holland Festival and won Best New Theatre Production in Sydney.
In 2009 he made Worldhood with visual artist Thomas Buchanan, which explored the confluence between dance and live drawing. In 2010 he created Be Your Self which featured a set design by one of America’s leading avant-garde architectural firms, New York based, Diller, Scofidio & Renfro.
In 2012 he created Proximity which premiered at the Adelaide Festival. This work was a collaboration with a Paris-based video engineer Thomas Pachoud, employing interactive video technology as an investigation into the body’s interactive participation in seeing the world with reference to neurological body maps.
Stewart has made various short films and video installation works.
Across 2012-2013, Stewart was Thinker-in-Residence at Deakin University, where he created Multiverse –a work which 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 theatre and dance work, Choreography.
Stewart has made a number of works for screen. In 2005 he choreographed Nascent, a video installation work for one of the UK’s leading video artists, Gina Czarnecki. Nascent received numerous awards including Best Dance Film in the 2007 Australian Dance Awards. In 2011 he conceived and directed a 40-minute video installation piece titled Collision Course involving 110 sportspeople and dancers. The film 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 worked alongside Thomas Pachoud again to create Proximity Interactive – a live interactive video installation for art galleries. It was programmed in the 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art and featured as a permanent collection at the Australian Centre for Media and Image (ACMI) until 2019. 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 was trialled 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 that is a study on the gestures of human emotions. As an adjunct to the stage production The Beginning of Nature, Stewart directed a 360-degree virtual reality project using dance filmed in various natural landscapes, The Beginning of Nature in VR.
In 2018/19 he conceived and directed a short film The Circadian Cycle filmed in diverse natural topographies across South Australia.