2012 marks Ausdance's 35th birthday and my final year as National Director. It has been a year for celebration, reflection, achievement—and finally—farewell.
It was very special to be able to mark this significant milestone with the award of the first Ausdance Peggy van Praagh Choreographic Fellowship (to Stephanie Lake). As one of our founders, we know Peggy would have been proud to see us reach our 35th birthday by celebrating new Australian choreographers with her bequest, and fitting that her two favourite organisations reached major milestones in the same year with The Australian Ballet turning 50.
We participated in the World Dance Alliance’s Global Summit, Dance Young People & Change, in July. We had helped to plan this international celebration of young people’s achievements in dance, and we’re now preparing to publish the papers in March, which will be another publishing milestone for us.
We initiated a national dance research forum which saw 40 dance researchers from all over the country come together in Melbourne. The three-minute thesis format introduced researchers to one another, enabling them to share research and even initiate some new projects. Brolga went online for the first time with two stellar editions, along with two editions of Asia Pacific Channels.
It was also a year that saw significant progress as the new national dance curriculum was finalised through consultation and early trials. We organised for the National Advocates for Arts Education to meet with potential partners to assist teachers through the implementation phases, and thank our NAAE colleagues for their continued commitment to all five art forms in the curriculum. Dance has been a major beneficiary of this collegiate approach, as it has been through our work with ArtsPeak.
We continued to advocate for a career development program similar to SCOPE in the new National Cultural Policy, and to make the case for the artistic, cultural and economic benefits of the program. We enjoyed meeting with dance company managers to share our advocacy campaigns and to commit to working with them to build wider audiences in regional touring.
We loved working with Ausdance WA to present the first Australian Dance Awards in Perth, and to celebrate the fine achievements of Australian dance through the nominations, shortlisting and awards process. It was wonderful also to see so many new sponsors coming on board and to welcome back others such as Aon who have committed to us over many years.
So … now to the farewell and thanks! Not many people have the good fortune to work for an organisation that encourages creative leadership and the freedom to implement new ideas that promote and value Australian dance, and to be so well acknowledged for work that has been such a shared success.
I’ve been so fortunate to have worked with a succession of national presidents—Shirley McKechnie, Cheryl Stock, Ralph Buck, Shane Colquhoun, Sue Street and Brian Lucas—who have brought wisdom, trust, experience and guidance to their work with me and our brilliant team at Ausdance National.
The wider national executive has included many dance luminaries over the years too—Lee Christofis, Paul Summers, Annie Greig, Valda Craig, Keith Bain, Lynn Fisher, Claudia Alessi and Marilyn Miller to name a few. I’ve also been very fortunate to have worked with two co-executive officers in Hilary Trotter and Sandra Macarthur-Onslow, and the wonderful current team of Rachael Jennings, Leanne Craig and Tamara McKee. I’ve learnt so much from each of them, and couldn’t have stayed for so long in one organisation without their vision and inspiration.
Our work in dance education has been widely acknowledged, but it couldn’t have been such a success without two particularly inspirational partners in our campaigns—Ralph Buck and Jeff Meiners. They have led, guided and educated me about the intricacies of the curriculum, and are always available for advice from their local, national and international perspectives.
And the dance education journey wouldn’t have started for me without Shirley McKechnie and the late Robert Osmotherly. Lesley Graham, Katrina Rank and our great Tertiary Dance Council colleagues Nanette Hassall, Kim Vincs, Cheryl Stock, Maggi Phillips and Jenny Kinder have also been great dance educators and partners in our successes.
The Ausdance network has been absolutely vital in the success of this organisation. Over the years we have shared in their successes, helped manage them through crises and partnered with them to deliver major national initiatives that have required their cooperation and support. Their commitment and dedication shines through as they work with few resources and little pay to support their local dance communities. This is a national network to be extremely proud of, and it’s always a joy to come together with them twice a year to share plans, achievements and challenges.
I also want to thank three standout partners—the Australia Council, the National Library of Australia (NLA) and Aon. A succession of Dance Board directors–Kathryn Lowe, Catherine Beall (Baldwin), Madeline Martin, Rosalind Richards, Jen McLachlan and Carin Mistry—have all supported and encouraged our work through creative partnerships, dialogue and funding.
Dance has also benefited enormously from our work with the NLA, and deputy director Margy Burn in particular has been an inspiration, as have the two curators of dance since the 1990s, Michelle Potter and Lee Christofis. And the Aon team has been with us since 1992, a record partnership for them and for us that has served the Australian dance community so well.
Finally, a huge thank you to all those who came to Melbourne and Canberra for farewells and brought presents, made speeches and helped me to celebrate so many years in dance.
I’ll be writing individually to you all, but this is a public acknowlegement of your wonderful support, generosity, humour and deep knowledge of, and commitment to dance.
I’ll continue working in our sector as a volunteer through the World Dance Alliance, the NAAE, the National Dance Forum and the Australian Dance Awards, and look forward to continuing my friendship with all our members.
In the meantime, Roslyn Dundas will take the reins on 14 January, and I wish her and our team every success in the coming years.