Helen Sharp was Artistic Director of the Body Voice Centre from its establishment in 1994. Along with exhibiting exceptional skills in demolition and studio building Helen led a wide range of workshops and research performance projects at the Centre. Other work as a director included new Australian plays at La Mama, multilingual community theatre productions, large scale street theatre events and mask/stilt work. She received the 1999 Eva Czajor memorial award for women directors. Helen was a founding member of In the Company of Others and director of the performance and research project Visceral Philosophy.
Helen taught in Performance Studies at Victoria University, VCA Drama School, Sunbury and Ballarat Tafe, Murdoch University WA and in the Women’s Circus. Helen was a qualified Middendorf breathwork practitioner and a PhD candidate at Victoria University – in 2007 she received the Vice Chancellors scholarship to undertake post graduate research in performance. Her research project encompassed perceptual breath practices and performance making in dialogue with philosophical texts. It is an continuation and elaboration of her Honours project, “Encounters with the Breath: Nine introductions” (2006). Helen’s PhD thesis, The Profane Halo: Becoming Breath, is available at the Victoria University Research Repository. She also contributed a chapter entitled “Breath as Methodology” to Live Research: methods of practice-led inquiry in performance, edited by Leah Mercer, Julie Robson, and David Fenton, published by Ladyfinger in 2012.
In September 2011 Helen was diagnosed with 4th stage cancer. Helen preferred to keep her health situation private and let only family and close friends know. As time and the demands of treatment allowed she continued with her breathwork and her PhD project, keeping alive a hope that her aggressive tumours might become quiescent.
Helen died peacefully early in the morning of Sunday 16 December 2012 with her husband and partner, John Howard, and her sister, Jenny Sharp, by her side.
Helen was a remarkable woman who is greatly missed by many - family, friends, collaborators, students, and others who came within her special field of presence.
Photo by Julie Joy Clarke
Helen’s family and friends created a special garden in her memory on the naturestrip outside the studio, and on the second anniversary of her death held a ceremony dedicating the garden and the studio to her memory. The large studio at the Body Voice Centre is known as ‘Helen’s Studio’ in her honour.