Thank you for a great weekend. The National Dance Research Forum was stimulating, energising and so well organised with great food and venues. (Dr Cheryl Stock)
Last weekend we had the pleasure of partnering with the Tertiary Dance Council of Australia to welcome 35 Australian and five international dance researchers to the first national dance research forum held for many years.
The forum provided a unique opportunity for everyone to hear some high-profile speakers, share their own research, join small discussion groups and make plans with potential collaborators.
The first day at Deakin University provided some fascinating insights into the work of the Motion.Lab team, led by Dr Kim Vincs. Kim is a choreographer whose collaborations integrate scientific and artistic approaches, and she is currently working on 'Capturing Dance: using motion capture to enhance the creation of innovative Australian dance', a three-year project which aims to identify choreographic movement signatures using motion capture. It is supported by the Australian Research Council's Discovery program.
The British artists from igloo, Ruth Gibson and Bruno Martelli, are currently artists in residence at Deakin, and were keynote speakers. Their work ‘examines figure and landscape and the relationship between natural and the artificial, transposing sites to create ambiguous topographies. They create environments, installations and performances using a wide variety of media including print, video, and computer games.’ Their presentation enlarged on these concepts, providing a fascinating insight into the use of technology in creating figure and landscape.
Others in the Deakin research team include Garry Stewart, artistic director of Australian Dance Theatre, who is ‘thinker in residence’; Aboriginal choreographer Monica Stevens, who is working on a project coding Indigenous dance at Deakin Motion.Lab in collaboration with the Yirrkala and Saibai communities; Shaun McLeod, who is focusing on improvisation, choreography and performance as research, and John McCormick, who is aiming to develop a new approach to computer-based gesture recognition that extracts behavioural parameters from complex human movement.
Carol Brown was the final speaker for the day, and is a choreographer, performer and teacher who also directs M|A|P, a performance research collaboration. She is the director of Choreographic Research Aotearoa, and a senior lecturer in Dance Studies at the University of Auckland. Carol’s practice ‘takes place at the intersections between movement, architecture and performance and includes solos, group works for theatre, performance installations and site responsive works’, and her keynote focused on recent work in Perth, Auckland and Christchurch.
Her presentation was followed by a lively panel discussion chaired by Cheryl Stock, with Garry Stewart, Kate Stevens, Kim Vincs and John McCormick.
The second day—hosted by the Victorian College of the Arts—was more informal, with each researcher speaking for three minutes about their work, followed by an open discussion. There was enormous diversity in the presentations and in the age of researchers, and topics included choreographic cognition, technology, injury prevention and management, intercultural research, audience engagement, dance education, disability, and the health benefits of dance in ageing.
It was exciting to see so many younger and early career researchers participating, and it was also a privilege to have Australia’s pioneer dance researcher, Professor Shirley McKechnie, present to provide context for much of the research landscape that exists today. Other senior researchers participating included Cheryl Stock, Kim Vincs, Kate Stevens, Helen Herbertson, Jeff Meiners and Dafna Merom, all of whom have made considerable contributions to Australian dance research.
The day ended with smaller groups formed to discuss some of the issues in more detail, allowing them to report back and suggest forum ideas for the future. The discussion groups were: lineages; audience experience; technology; performance & creativity; education.
There was unanimous support for regular dance research forums in future, and support for the three-minute presentation model where ‘everyone was equal’. We’ll be evaluating the program in coming weeks and publishing more detail of each of the presentations, along with short biographies of researchers. We are also conscious of the number of prominent dance researchers who could not be present, and hope that in future we can have a longer lead time to enable many more to participate.