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

In This Article

I have long believed that this country is developing, as it must, an awareness of the richness of its many ancestral traditions and the values on which those traditions are based, no matter how long they have been in the making or whence they have come. The title of this collection of writings highlights the nature of the shared experience on which all the writers reflect. In essence it is a many faceted story of places, people and artists, working together in partnerships concerned with discovery and with celebration.

A particular quality emerges powerfully, for many of these individual stories and statements share a genuine concern with the notion of inclusiveness, as opposed to that of the exclusivity we often associate with the world of high art. These distinctions have always been with us but it is only in recent times that funding bodies have accepted the idea that the art of particular communities deserves both recognition and support, although, as we all know, the support is never enough for the vision projected, or the passion with which these visions are conceived.

The 'Community Arts', of which dancers and communities are an integral part, are now acknowledged for the real power they wield. None of the high arts has the capacity to reach into every corner of individual lives, down every last bush track and across the breadth of this huge country, as do these arts of communities, and the huge diversity of people and places which they represent.

These writings speak of special places made memorable by the experiences associated with them. 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. Dance has always been at the core of many rituals in which human beings give form to their feelings of awe and wonder, of achievement and joy or of sorrowing and loss. As I read these accounts of many journeys through dance I sense again the ability of the art form to focus these universal patterns of experience in a way which makes their wisdom available to thought and feeling and action—to a facilitation of the things we value most, and which in the end, lie at the heart of our humanity.

Related articles

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.

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