Community dance

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    Meet me at kissing point

    Cheryl Stock, Artistic Director of Dancenorth (1984–1995) talks about a large-scale site-specific community dance project specially devised for the Townsville community in 1994. Originally published in Dancers and communities: a collection of writings about dance as a community art

    Dancers and Communities book launch speech

    This book tells us about some of the ways community dance evolves. I couldn't put it down. Like a good novel, its characters are fascinating, the stories captivating, and the twists and turns keep one interested, for it's as Shirley McKechnie says in the preface, 'a many faceted story of places, people and artists working together in partnerships concerned with discovery and celebration' (p.vii).

    And yet there is no formula for being a successful community artist; every project requires a different approach. Flexibility, sensitivity, spontaneity, enthusiasm, honour, commitment, patience, exhaustion, resilience and pride permeate these pages, as do stories of ordinary people creating magic moments for themselves and others, through the facilitation of this person called a community dancer.

    Dancers and communities: the power of dance to enter individual lives in significant ways

    Shirely McKechnie tells us why this collection of writing about community dance is so valuable: 'They speak of the human need to give expression to deeply felt connections and unique situations; but they also ask questions. Whose dances? What is their purpose? Can everyone participate? They convey the diversity of the dance experience and a reassurance of its power to enter individual lives in significant ways.'

    Slow touring: longer, slower, deeper

    Slow touring expresses a desire (from artists, communities, tour presenters and funding bodies) for audiences to experience a deeper engagement with a touring performance, often through activities such as skill sharing (e.g., workshops, residencies, exchanges and collaborations) and collaboration on creative projects (e.g., recreating the work for/with local audiences). We highlight Shiver by Danielle Micich, a 2012 West Australian dance tour that successfully managed and delivered community engagement activities.

    Medico manoeuvres

    Skye Murtagh, of SDM Communications describes how movement and music prove a potent therapy for patients in Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide

    Tracks dance company

    Co-artistic directors, David McMicken and Tim Newth give us an insight into the rich cultural context and its impact on Tracks Dance Company in Australia’s Northern Territory

    Big sticks—masters and apprentices

    Dr Katrina Rank, Manager of Education and Training for Ausdance Victoria, outlines the guidelines developed in Australia to support effective and safe dance practice in schools and communities

    The rise and rise of community dance

    Michelle Silby, independent arts consultant based in Sydney and working in the UK and Australia, sets out some of the current developments in community dance in Australia

    Choreographic treatment of personal movement vocabulary in community dance practice

    The field of community dance literature is an emergent one, with very little written about the processes and ethical issues experienced in the dance class, workshops or stage. This paper explores problems identified during the development of a new community contemporary dance work, My Body is an Etching. The work began with a creative concept, endeavouring to collaborate with participants in the creation of a dance solo that was personal and discretely individual in the performance of everyday actions, yet accessible to people from all walks of life. The processes involved the identification of deeply etched or embodied actions and the development of these actions within a choreographed score.

    This paper discusses the creative exploration of the concept (that human bodies are etched by their experiences), within the context of community dance and the issues that arise when working with such a concept amongst a community of individuals. It reveals the creative methods for the identification and retrieval of individual movement and the conceptual difficulties encountered when individual uniqueness is absorbed within a work for the masses. It asks what happens when a participant’s everyday or personal movement is reproduced for reasons outside its regular context and examines notions of ownership and the negotiation of power and control. The paper reveals ethical issues in the treatment of others’ movement, and refers to the literature of psychology and phenomenology in aligning the creative enquiry with an intellectual force that is interested in forms of memory and retrieval beyond the episodic.

    Rude thoughts on ‘polite conversation’ as demonstrated in Australian folk dance

    Folk dance is the expression of culture so it changes as culture changes over time and from place to place. Maypole dancing, I discovered, was once our only folk dance but it went out with the empire. Bush dancing arose simultaneously with the political policy we call ‘multiculturalism’ and parallel with the republican debate rejoiced in being ‘not English’. Australians may be surprised to realise just how demure our country dance is and how clearly urbanisation is expressed. Egalitarianism, gender equity, individualism and other Australian values are clearly revealed in bush dance.

    From gumboots and Greek letters

    It has been argued that African and African American contributions to the arts in the US have been so well ignored their African roots have been invisibilised. Growing out of African American fraternities, stepping seems to be facing a similar fate as its popularity increases. This paper is designed to raise awareness not only of stepping as an innovative dance form that is growing tremendously, but more importantly, to highlight its African American heritage that may be disregarded as stepping moves to the global stage. This paper will also illustrate how dancers inside and outside of black Greek organisations can combat the invisibilisation of stepping’s cultural heritage by teaching others about the legacy of stepping while sharing with them the innate excitement of the dance form.

    Contemporary dance and community practices

    This paper focuses on several issues in North American community dance; primarily its role in university education, and the influence of community dance on the art form of contemporary dance itself. Written from the personal perspective of a graduate student and community practitioner, the paper seeks to examine ways in which community arts methodologies are contributing to the evolution of innovative and trans-disciplinary curricula, while also touching upon some of the philosophical and aesthetic divisions that persist between professional concert dance and the community dance worlds.

    The paper was originally presented on 15 July 2008, in conjunction with my colleagues Mary Fitzgerald and Satu Hummasti, as part of a panel discussion at the World Dance Alliance Global Summit, entitled Issues in Community Dance. Our panel sought to present a historical context of American contemporary dance and community practices, while also investigating certain aesthetic and educational values of the art form and its practice within this context. Within this frame, I chose to present a personal account of my experiences as a student, facilitator and community dance practitioner.

    Quantum leaping

    Shona Erskine interviews Mark Gordon, director of the Australian Choreographic Centre, and Ruth Osborne, artistic director of the Quantum Leap Youth Choreographic Ensemble in Canberra. This discussion of the program, indicates how this kind of project can have a direct influence on the community and the public perception of dance.

    Performance: meanings and connections in dance experiences for young people of all ages

    In this paper Ann Kipling Brown presents an overview of the association and the place of performance at the triennial conferences. Following this discussion, three other daCi members, Kathy Vlassopoulos, Karen Bond and Jeff Meiners, whose work focuses on dance for young people, describe specific events and experiences they have created that reflect the aims of the association.

    Firstly, Kathy Vlassopoulos describes the Children’s Dance Festival, held annually in Melbourne, Australia. The festival was initiated in1996 and creates a site-specific event that provides the opportunity for children to experience dance through a collaborative process with professional artists.

    Secondly, Karen Bond gives an account of daCi’s 2nd Intergenerational Gathering, titled Out of many, we are One. Over an intensive three-day period, participants explored a progression of dancing and performing related to themes of self, community, and the future.

    And thirdly, Jeff Meiners focuses on the creation of work for young children, spanning the years from birth to eight, and explores the nature of the work being created and the responses of the young children as active audience members.

    Projects

    Australian Dance Week

    The Ausdance network celebrates and promotes dance in all its forms every year during Australian Dance Week which aims to raise awareness of professional dance and dance in the community, and to celebrate its diversity.

    Publications

    Dancers and communities: a collection of writings about dance as a community art

    The stories in this book illustrate the rich exchange that takes place between dancers and communities. Dance can be an accessible and empowering creative tool for individuals and groups to express their identity, feelings, histories and aspirations. People of all ages and from all walks of life are represented in this book, participating in ongoing dance projects, celebratory events, and performances. Locations range from work places to detention centres to natural environments. The artists represented in this collection are committed and experienced, sharing a common enthusiasm to practise their art with communities. Their words and those of the participants are inspiring, challenging and thought provoking, making this book a unique contribution to the practice of dance in Australian communities.

    News / Blog / Press Releases / Events

    Community dance conference—call for submissions

    25 – 29 November 2015
    University of Otago, New Zealand

    Call for submissions

    ‘Moving Communities’ is an exciting four-day conference that will provide an opportunity to bring together practitioners, academics and students to celebrate and discuss themes and topics within the broad field of community dance.

    The conference will be co-hosted by the Dance Studies Programme at the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences and the Caroline Plummer Fellowship Committee.

    A special feature of the conference will be the reunion of the ten recipients of the Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance. This prestigious six-month Fellowship was made possible by the family of the late Caroline Plummer and was first offered in 2005.

    The school is now inviting submissions for paper presentations, workshops, panel discussions and community performances from those who are engaged in Community Dance practice, education and research internationally.

    Conference themes

    • Culture and community dance
    • Community dance and multi-culturalism
    • Indigenous practices
    • Integrated dance
    • Inter-generational dance
    • Diverse dancing communities
    • Community dance and health (and the public health sector)
    • Community dance and social and environmental politics
    • Creating infrastructure and policy making for community dance practice
    • Leadership and best practice
    • Community dance education
    • Critical issues and ethical considerations

    Deadline for abstract proposals (300 words plus 100-word biography):  30 April 2015

    Submit your abstract.

    For more information you can contact Ali East, Chair Dance Studies, University of Otago..


     

    Communities making dance in Tasmania

    Tasmanian Regional Arts (TRA) is leading The Dance Project in partnership with Mature Artists Dance Experience (MADE), Bust a Move and Tasdance.

    This community dance project is happening in three Tasmanian regions—the North East, North West and the South—to develop and present three new contemporary dance works with, by and about communities. Evolving from the heart of each community, these works explore place, kinship and identity as experienced by the residents of these regions.

    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.

    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.