Creating Pathways at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra (27—30 October 2005) was a reminder of the diversity, commitment and passion of Indigenous dance practitioners.
Now working the length and breadth of Australia, representatives of many Clan groups and Nations gathered to share information, inform others as to past and current practices, and devise strategies for a coordinated approach to the development of Indigenous dance.
Supported by the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board and the Dance Board, and produced by Ausdance National, Creating Pathways provided the platform for discussion topics such as industry, learning, professional issues, maintaining the network, culture, and a profession ‘swot’ analysis.
Like steps in choreography, participants arrived in batches, congregating to form what was an emotional experience.
Matilda House exercised the acknowledgement to ‘Land’ enabling the acceptance of Creating Pathways by those unseen, but ever-present residing over all of us.
We were reminded of those who came before us and are now gone, those who helped make the event possible simply by once being, and simply by dancing. Acknowledgement was given to those who couldn’t be present, and also to those who weren’t able to attend.
The reminder that anything is possible was embodied in the remaining representatives of Australia’s first Indigenous contemporary dance company (AIDT— the Company), the Artistic Director, Raymond D. Blanco, and his cofounders Dujon Nule, Gary Lang, and me, the only female. All of us have witnessed the professional paths of just about every other participant at the forum. Raymond Blanco commented, ‘In enlightening others it actually drove home the importance of what we do as contemporary Indigenous artists’.
The sense of pride in the professional accomplishments of the participants to date was voiced by Monica Stevens and was a sentiment shared by all.
The Saturday night barbeque hosted by Elizabeth Cameron-Dalman erupted into a celebration of dance in its finest forms. Informally initiated by Nicky Ashby and Danny Doyle, textured by Sharman Parsons, and then closed with the ebullience of Torres Straight Islander dance, the whole evening paid tribute in a celebration song by Djakapurra Munyarryun.
The images of that night are at the forefront of my mind. The echoes of the songs and music still ring in my ears. The reminders of how things were, how things are.
As Marcus Hughes (2005 Executive Officer, Ausdance QId) aptly recalls ‘It reinforced my sense of place and sense of purpose’.
Now, we are all in our places of work, our homelands, our ‘calling’, eagerly awaiting the outcomes of the forum and hoping that we really have ‘Created Pathways’.
(At the time of writing, Marilyn Miller was the Artistic Director of Kooemba Jdarra Indigenous Performing Arts Company.)