Several months ago, Australia’s leading dance-archivist, Michelle Potter, Founding Editor of Brolga, was appointed curator of the dance division of the New York Public Library’s collection at the Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts. The announcement caused jubilation and sadness in almost equal measure.
In itself, of course, the position is one of international high honour; but only now, perhaps, can we see how vital Michelle’s contribution to dance in Australia has been. During the years in which she brought out the first twenty-five issues of Brolga some of Australia’s finest dance was produced, yet one dance company after another quietly disappeared—mostly because starved to death. Long-term development of dancers and choreographers became almost impossible when funding was reduced to “outcome-focussed” cash for one-off projects.
The philistinism of boards, committees and governments plucked the heart out of dance-makers who heard the relentless subtext of every new cutback: “Only profit-sheets matter.” As I write, funding for the Australian Choreographic Centre, Canberra, is under threat.
What Brolga did was to connect the present with a past whose priorities were altogether different. The journal reminded us—often in poignant detail—of the achievement of figures like Laurel Martyn, Gertrud Bodenweiser, Margaret Barr, Edouard Borovansky, and a host of others whose creativity and largeness of vision helped carry forward Australian dance.
And in this, contrary to advertisers’ assumptions, experimental studio work was shown to be at least as important as the glamorous big production.
The present issue of Brolga is lucky enough to publish a representative selection of some of the interests the journal has promoted: dance history, cultural theory, discussion of new works, re-investigation of past achievements.
To all our contributors, readers and sponsors, thank you for enabling this native bird to make its appearance once again.