Australian danceDance is a very dynamic part of Australian performing arts culture. It can provide a rich performance experience, merging the imagination and skill of choreographers, dancers, designers, composers and musicians.
Rachelle Roberts, Red Hot & New (Natalie Decorte and Matthew Lawrence), 2004. Image courtesy of The Australian Ballet.
Classical and contemporary dance performances are enjoyed across Australia. An array of independent, company and project dance initiatives can:
... give audiences anything from unadorned movement process to high-end technology and real-time linkups across the globe, from glossy, fluid dance to hip hop, from fusions of Aboriginal and new forms to dance on film.
Baxter, V and Gallasch, K, In repertoire: A guide to Australian contemporary dance, Australia Council, p 31
Major arts festivals provide the chance for international and Australian dance companies to entertain, challenge and delight new audiences. In turn, Australian dance ventures such as Chunky Move, Buzz Dance Theatre and Australian Dance Theatre are bringing their work to the world through international tours.
A brief history of dance in Australia
Australian dance draws on many influences including the traditions and history of dance as an art form, as well as the different cultures and trends in society.
A strong Indigenous tradition
Dance is an important part of Indigenous Australians' cultural traditions. It is reflected and reinterpreted in the work and creativity of various Aboriginal and Islander dance companies which formed from the early 1960s onward.
Dance is increasing the prominence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as it is transferred from communities to public theatres and transformed from ceremony to spectacle.
Different forms of dance came to Australia with the first European settlers. Dancers visited colonial Australia from other countries, and danced as part of pantomime, opera and other theatre performances.
Jeff Busby, Swan Lake (Damien Welch and Kirsty Martin), 2004. Image courtesy of The Australian Ballet.
Ballet and other forms of theatre became very popular during the Australian gold rushes. The appeal of Romantic Ballet in particular brought many European and American dancers to perform in Australia.
Russian ballet was also very influential. Anna Pavlova's Australian tours in 1926 and 1929, and tours by the Ballet Russes in the 1930s attracted a lot of interest and stimulated the development of Australia's own ballet culture.
Developing Australian dance
A number of professional Australian ballet companies were founded during the 1940s and 1950s. These included the Kirsova Ballet, The Borovansky Ballet, Laurel Martyn's Ballet Guild, The West Australian Ballet and the short-lived Australian Theatre Ballet.
The Australian Ballet School was established in 1964 and a range of contemporary dance companies flourished over the next three decades, including Expressions, Bangarra Dance Theatre and The Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre
Er Brisky Anderson
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