News

NAISDA’s new studios

The opening of the new NAISDA studios in Gosford, NSW last week was an occasion to be celebrated by the whole dance community after more than 35 years in temporary accommodation. The studios were opened by the Federal Minister for the Arts, the Hon. Simon Crean MP, at a ceremony that also honoured the founder of NAISDA, Carole Johnson.

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Ausdance network meetings in Canberra

We're meeting in Canberra this week with the Ausdance National Council and network directors.

We're discussing some of the big Ausdance projects such as the Australian Dance Awards, the Australian Youth Dance Festival and Australian Dance week, as well as next year's partnership with the Australia Council, when we'll produce another National Dance Forum. Dance Board Director, Carin Mistry, will be a guest speaker tomorrow.

We're also talking about advocating for dance, dance education and research, Indigenous dance and some of the critical issues around supporting independent dance.

It's a fantastic opportunity to share ideas, achievements and the critical issues that inspire all of us to keep working with and for Australia's dance artists, companies and communities.

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Review of Private Sector Support for the Arts 2011

The Harold Mitchell Review of Private Sector Support for the Arts has just been released by the Minister for the Arts as part of the wider consultation about the new National Cultural Policy.

The Mitchell review recommends several ideas that might help attract new donors to the arts, noting that “The limited funds available to many arts organisations creates a situation where they cannot afford dedicated staff to drive a strategic approach to fund-raising”.

Mitchell also recommends the merging of the Australian Business Arts Foundation with Artsupport Australia “under the auspices of a new body with responsibility for all private sector support for the arts in Australia”.

Today is also your last opportunity to respond to the Australia Council review, another important part of the Cultural Policy consultation process.

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Building the Indigenous contemporary dance collection

Ever since we convened the 2005 Creating Pathways national Indigenous dance forum in Canberra, Lee Christofis—one of the keynote speakers, and now curator of dance at the National Library of Australia—has been keen to develop the NLA's Indigenous dance collection.

In the March 2012 edition of National Library News, Lee discusses some of the material now held in the collection and outlines the importance of its provenance.

Building the Indigenous contemporary dance collection makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the development of Australian contemporary Indigenous dance.

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ArtsPeak again lobbies the ABC

ArtsPeak representatives met again with the ABC to lobby for more cultural content in ABC news and current affairs programs. General Manager Mark Scott had previously met with the group, and this time ArtsPeak met with Don Lang, the Head of News Programming, and Alan Sunderland, the Head of News Policy,

A process was agreed on to review arts content for news and current affairs programs, and on a process for arts representatives to contact appropriate reporters. The following strategies were suggested to ArtsPeak:

  • Arts representatives should consider what the issues are and whether they are newsworthy.
  • We should develop a central arts representatives contact register.
  • We should focus on stories that utilise ABC research and archives.

We'll be working with our ArtsPeak colleagues to maximise this positive response from the ABC, and making sure dance is part of the story telling!

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Reviewing the new Australian arts curriculum

Arts curriculum writing for Foundation to Year 10 is well underway.

The draft rationale, aims and broad scope and sequence have already been reviewed by a state and territory national panel, and we joined other professional associations last week to review the drafts. We'd been invited to ask four teachers from across Australia to provide feedback, and Dr Katrina Rank, education and training manager for Ausdance Victoria, collated their feedback and led the discussion for dance.

We also represented the National Advocates for Arts Education (NAAE) in the teleconference, which was chaired by the general manager (curriculum) of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), Robert Randall.

We'll be calling for further dance commentary in the coming weeks as the drafts are developed by the writers, and ACARA will make the curriculum available for public comment in May. In the meantime, you can sign up for regular ACARA updates.

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Li Cunxin new director of the Queensland Ballet

Li Cunxin has been announced as the new Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet. He will take up his appointment in July this year, six months before the departure of the current Director, François Klaus. His appointment follows an international search by the Queensland Ballet.

Li's autiobiography and the film Mao's Last Dancer have built his international reputation, not only as a fine dancer but as an inspirational leader. We congratulate Li on another great achievement!

Read about his ideas for the company in this interview with the Brisbane Courier Mail.

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More evidence that dance benefits the elderly

There are some startling new figures that support dancing as a protective strategy in preventing dementia. A Stanford University report Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter makes the following comparisons:

... almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind. There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

  • Reading—35% reduced risk of dementia
  • Bicycling and swimming—0%
  • Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week—47%
  • Playing golf—0%
  • Dancing frequently—76%.

The same university offers other insights into the benefits of dance in Thoughts, philosophies and musings on social dance, a useful reference for community dance practitioners in Australia.

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MyDance Alliance visitor from Malaysia

When the President of MyDance Alliance, Bilqis Hiijas, visited Canberra from Malaysia this week, we took the opportunity to introduce her to several of Australia's leading cultural institutions. We also heard about the artists' residency program she helps to run at her family's compound, Rimbun Dahan in Kuala Lumpur.

Bilqis is the new editor of Asia Pacific Channels, the newsletter we produce on behalf of the World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific. It's exciting to be sharing the task with her, and her visit to Canberra gave us a chance to meet her in person for the first time.

Bilqis was very interested in our partnerships with the National Library of Australia and the National Film and Sound Archive, so we organised tours of both institutions to meet the curators and get an idea of the great range of dance materials held by both institutions. She's hoping to form similar relationships with archives in Malaysia.

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Dance people receive Australia Day Honours

Former balleriona Josephine Spaull, respected ballet teacher, Tanya Pearson, and Judith Anderson, formerly General Manager of The Queensland Ballet, have today been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Josephine was recognised for “for service to the performing arts, particularly dance, as a teacher and administrator". Tanya's citation was "for service to the performing arts, particularly ballet, as a teacher and mentor to young dancers". Judith's citation was "for service to the Queensland Ballet and to women". We congratulate Josephine, Tanya and Judith for their outstanding achievements.

The website It's an Honour has all the information you'll need to nominate more dance people for Australia's highest Honours!

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Celebrating our Australian of the Year

There have been celebrations around the country today for our new Australian of the Year, actor Geoffrey Rush.

We congratulate him on his acceptance speech that placed the arts at the centre of Australian life and culture. He acknowledged the role of the First Australians, and said he was sure "that my colleagues will see this as an endorsement of our national story of creativity".

Senior Australian of the Year is Laurie Baymarrwangga, an extraordinary elder from the island of Murrungga in East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

The Australian of the Year Awards were announced last night by the Prime Minister.

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New research with dance and the elderly

New research by the University of Western Sydney is demonstrating that folk dance has clear benefits for the health of the elderly. You may have missed this great report from the ABC’s 7.30 program on 4 January.

We’re very interested in research that proves the links between dance and health, and have been in touch with the researchers to find out more.

Want to know more?

On your toes: Is there a different approach to aging? Listen to Glen Murray from MADE (Mature Artists Dance Experience) and Beverley Giles, an expert in the care of people affected by dementia, talking about how dance provides the three elements essential to health and well-being in mature adults.

Read Glen's paper about how older people can bring great riches to art-making.

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Visit by American Dance Abroad director

Andrea Snyder is co-director of American Dance Abroad, a new initiative in the US that promotes the export of American dance. Andrea was formerly CEO of Dance USA, and is a valued colleague of Ausdance.

Andrea will be visiting Australia for the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) in February, so we’re putting her in touch with the Australia Council and dance producers in Sydney and Melbourne before she goes on to APAM. She'll see a lot of Australian dance while she's here and importantly will be establishing Australian networks for possible future exchanges.

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Dance training in Australia

One of the great advantages of working with Ausdance National is the opportunity to see performances and appreciate some of the excellent dance training we have in this country.

In Perth recently for the Ausdance directors’ meeting, I was lucky enough to catch Summerdance, the end-of-year performance by WAAPA students who premiered Balanchine’s great classic, Serenade, staged by Balanchine Trust repetiteur Eve Lawson. The work was beautifully performed, as WA’s 7.30 program reported, and the students also gave outstanding performances of works by Gabrielle Nankivell, Xiao-Xiong Zhang and Natalie Weir.

This week we’ve seen On Course in Canberra, QL2’s program of student work from a range of tertiary dance courses in Australia. Apart from exceptionally strong technique, the students’ maturity in communicating their ideas made for an entertaining and thought-provoking program.

I’d also been lucky enough to see the Paris Conservatoire student season in November in a program that included Noces by Angelin Preljocalj, and works by Hofesh Shechter and Thomas Lebrun. These students were also outstanding, but it's no surprise that it confirms Australian dance training as being up there with the world’s best!

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