Twist & Twin: dancing identities Australians at the 2015 Dance and the Child International Conference

In This Article

A report from Jeff Meiners, Dance and the Child International co-country representative for Australia.

A group of young dancers perform in the middle of a large crowd. They hold branches to their shoulders. Wagana Aboriginal Youth Dancers from the Blue Mountains, New South Wales and Steps Youth Dance Company from Perth, Western Australia performing together.

Copenhagen provided a wonderful setting for the 13th World Congress of Dance and the Child International (daCi), 5–10 July 2015. The opening ceremony was held at the famous Tivoli Gardens and the jam-packed week was hosted by Dansehallerne at the inspiring old Carlsberg factory, the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, and the Danish National School of Performing Arts.

The congress theme 'Twist & Twin: dancing identities' was embraced enthusiastically by presenters, creators and performers with evening presentations of wide-ranging dance from across the world including young participants from Denmark and nearby countries Sweden, Finland, Germany, England, Slovenia, and from farther afield, Canada, the USA, Jamaica, Taiwan, Japan and Australia!

The Australian youth participants worked hard to raise funds to get to Europe assisted, of course, by their families. Led expertly by Jo Clancy, the Wagana Aboriginal Youth Dancers from the Blue Mountains, New South Wales performed Sum of my Ancestors and Alice Lee Holland with Steps Youth Dance Company from Perth, Western Australia performed You be my mirror.

I had an incredible sense of pride as I watched both works. Each piece was performed with such commitment from the individual young dancers working together in their groups to communicate their differing and meaningful interpretations of the theme ‘identity’. These works set a high standard for choreography and performance as there was a clear sense of their ownership of the collaborative dance-making process vital to successful youth dance work. So many people spoke to me about how impressive this Australian work was and how much they’d enjoyed their dancing.

Jo and Alice taught highly successful workshops and Australian conference presenters also included Stephanie Burridge (based in Singapore), Philip Channells (NSW), Katrina Cluff (NSW), Cheryl Stock (QLD) and myself with 2014 UniSA graduates Nikki Caputo, Cassandra Giannone and Emma Warmington from SA. Nikki, Cassandra and Emma were funded by a new daCi mentoring initiative Springboard to attend the conference and with other Springboarders (from Finland, USA, Denmark, Chile, The Netherlands) they ensured that the children’s program was successful, presented ideas to the Executive and Advisory Board. They also assisted with the announcement of the winning bid by Australia to host the next daCi conference in Adelaide, July 2018! This included them making a video and unfurling the daCi Australia 2018 banner and a collaborative performance from Steps and young Wagana Aboriginal dancers from NSW to invite all the Denmark delegates to Australia.

Jo generously shared a beautiful and compelling contemporary Aboriginal work with original music and, with Alice, prepared Wagana and Steps dancing together which enthralled everyone. I had goosebumps as I watched the two groups from opposite sides of Australia dancing together. 

A collage of 4 images: 1) young dancers lift a Coolamon to a woman onstage. 2) a man and two women look closing at the Coolamon. 3) young Aboriginal dancers perform in the middle of a crowd. 3) a teenage male and female Aboriginal dancer with hands raised in above them Australia's young dancers handing a beautiful red gum Coolamon made by one of their parents to the new daCi chair Maria Speth from the Netherlands. A beautiful and memorable moment.

I received nothing but highly positive comments about all the Australian participants from the Danish conference organisers and so many of the delegates. What wonderful professional ambassadors for Australia.

daCi’s next conference will be in partnership with the World Dance Alliance Education & Training global network, endorsed at the July 2014 WDA Global Summit in France, and supported by Ausdance. The proposal draws upon success from the 2012 joint daCi/WDA Global Summit in Taiwan with the aims to maximize connections for dance educators from both organisations, to strengthen networks and to give presence and status to dance for children and young people. Plans for 2018 have begun!

A huge thank you to all the Australian participants from Kathy Vlassopoulos and myself as daCi Co-Country Representatives for Australia.

Collage of 4 images: 1) Young Aboriginal dancers holding an Australian Aboriginal flag. 2) dancers in red costumes sitting in a mirrored dressing room getting ready. 3) two dancers wearing wattle head bands. 4) young dancers dressed in white and black performing in the middle of a crowd.L—R: Wagana Aboriginal Youth Dancers. Bottom left: Wagana dancers and Steps Youth Dance Company performing together for the handover to Australia, who will host the next daCi conference in Adelaide, July 2018.