A tribute to Julie Dyson: leading advocate for dance for 35 years

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Julie Dyson has been the National Director of The Australian Dance Council (Ausdance) since the Australia Council for the Arts began funding the organisation in 1985. Her extraordinary contribution to dance in Australia began in 1977 when a gathering of dance professionals concerned with all aspects of dance practice gathered in Melbourne to give voice to a shared vision—an organisation that could become a coordinated collective voice to advocate the cause of dance within Australian society.

That gathering affirmed the need to address the many issues that affected its acceptance as a distinctive voice in the rich diversity of Australian culture. Its vision gave rise to the organisation now known as The Australian Dance Council (Ausdance Inc).

For its first eight years the Australian Association for Dance Education, AADE as it was then known, survived purely on the commitment and generosity of those volunteers willing to work for the cause of dance as a vital art form with much to contribute to the arts, education and community life.

Julie Dyson has been National Director of the Australian Dance Council (Ausdance Inc.) since the Australia Council for the Arts began funding the organisation in 1985.

From the beginning, Julie Dyson was at the centre of that body of volunteers, working with quiet passion and consistent commitment, helping Ausdance to achieve its present stature as a nationwide network with a national vision and a voice in international affairs of concern to Australian dance artists, scholars and educators.

Julie has led Ausdance through many stages of its development. Her experience includes overseeing organisational change, development of Ausdance policy for dance in Australia, advice to funding bodies, government departments, companies and individual artists, writing and editing Ausdance publications, and strategic planning for large-scale projects.

She has also initiated innovative partnerships to promote and support contemporary dance and professional dancers, both with the Australia Council and with organisations outside the dance community; she has represented Ausdance at national and international conferences for over thirty years.

The qualities that Julie has brought to Ausdance, and through it to the Australian dance community, are first and foremost those of an exceptional communicator, one who is highly articulate and widely informed. Dance artists, company directors, arts bureaucrats, administrators, academics, educators, private teachers and students are among those who look to Ausdance for information, for advocacy, and for representation.

She has initiated and ensured ongoing access to advice and expert knowledge through the Ausdance network in every state and territory. Its model of networking, advocacy and information is both admired and emulated by dance organisations in other countries.

New initiatives within the national dance community are the result of Julie’s skilled advocacy and the generous giving of personal time. Some of these initiatives include an active Ausdance publishing program, the biennial Australian Youth Dance Festival, the 2001 national Dance Summits, the 2011 and 2013 National Dance Forums, the Dance Education in Australian Schools roundtables and the National Dance Research forums. Ausdance has become a supportive industry partner with institutions such as the National Library of Australia, the Australian

Institute of Sport, the Victorian College of the Arts/University of Melbourne and the MARCS Auditory Laboratories at the University of Western Sydney. As a member of the inaugural board of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) she was able to ensure the place of dance among other respected disciplines.

Julie has also been a board member of The Australian Ballet School, chaired the National Dance Qualifications project and been an adviser to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) in the writing of the new Australian Curriculum: The Arts, which has included advocacy for dance as one of the five art forms in the curriculum.

Julie has received several awards, including the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award, the Ausdance 21 Award for outstanding service to the organisation, the Australian Dance Award for Services to Dance and the Australian Dance Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2007 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

Julie's reputation in the world of Australian dance is built on the scope of her vision and the personal skills and integrity she has brought to her chosen vocation. She is rightly regarded with affection and respect by the members and staff of Ausdance who have worked closely with her, and by the wider dance community for whom she is often the first point of call when help, advice or guidance is needed.

Julie would be the first to acknowledge that the stature of Ausdance today is the result of the work of many people. There is no question, however, that it is in large measure due to Julie’s exceptional skills as a facilitator and to her dedication, over 35 years, to the original vision of its founders, among whom were Dame Peggy van Praagh, the founding artistic director of The Australian Ballet, and Shirley McKechnie, the founder of Australia’s first degree course in dance and the author of this tribute.