Shaping the Landscape

In This Article

Shaping the Landscape profiles Australian dance in 2011. It looks at Indigenous dance, choreography beyond theatre, youth and community dance, Australian dancers' versatility and risk-taking. The comprehensive essays recount immigrant influences, the legacy of the Ballets Russes and Bodenwieser companies, dance on stage and screen, education and training and the story of Ausdance.

Ausdance is proud to be part of 'Celebrating Dance in Asia and the Pacific', a series that presents the views of eminent scholars, journalists and commentators alongside the voices of a new generation of choreographers working from tradition to create new forms of expression in contemporary dance. It documents and celebrates these artistic journeys that work within the framework of rich and complex cultural heritages.

Our role was to shape a book that had as much coverage as possible of Australian dance in 2011, and then to edit it with series editor Dr Stephanie Burridge. We commissioned 14 chapter writers and 35 artists for the Artists' Voice section.

Shaping the Landscape is available for $89.95 from Routledge online (also available through Amazon and Fishpond)


  • Foreword by Robyn Archer
  • Preface by Stephanie Burridge


  1. Shaping the Landscape, Jill Sykes
  2. Forging an Identity: Transformation and Synthesis in Twentieth Century Australian Dance, Jordan Beth Vincent and Lee Christofis
  3. Connecting Through Dance and Story, Stephanie Burridge
  4. Awakening the Spirit: Telling the Stories, Stephen Page talking with Cheryl Stock
  5. Contemporary Indigenous Dance: The Story of NAISDA, Garry Lester
  6. Treading the Pathways: Independent Indigenous Dance, Marilyn Miller
  7. Different Inflections, Cheryl Stock
  8. Knowledge, Experience and a Dash of Rebellion: Dance Training in Australia, Maggi Phillips
  9. Generations Dancing, Jeff Meiners
  10. Dancers on a Precipice, Garry Stewart
  11. Together in Isolation: New Moves Across Time and Place, Amanda Card
  12. Connecting the Voices, Julie Dyson
  13. Looking for the Dance: Other Spaces, Different Times, Shirley McKechnie

Artists’ voices and biographies

Kelley Abbey; Phillip Adams; David Atkins; Stephen Baynes; Narelle Benjamin; Raymond Blanco; Elizabeth Cameron Dalman; Kate Champion; Kate Denborough; Tess de Quincey; Clare Dyson; Lucy Guerin; Antony Hamilton; Nanette Hassall; Sue Healey; Helen Herbertson; Liz Lea; Brian Lucas; David McAllister; David McMicken; Tracie Mitchell; Graeme Murphy; Gideon Obarzanek; John O’Connell; Shaun Parker; Chrissie Parrott; Sue Peacock; Dein Perry, Frances Rings; Hellen Sky; Meryl Tankard; Vicki Van Hout; Leigh Warren; Graeme Watson; Gavin Webber and Natalie Weir.

I think Australian dancers have a certain energy, attack and enthusiasm that set us apart. We are a particularly physical culture. — David Atkins

I fell in love with the idea of ballet as a young lad in the late 1960s. My first major ‘performance’ was on the septic tank at my grandfather’s 60th birthday. Accompanied by a portable record player and a stack of vinyl records, I entertained/annoyed my extended family with hours of dancing punctuated with shrieks of ‘look at me’. — David McAllister

My style of working has not changed very much over the years. I still love dance as narrative—story-telling. But you need a good palette of colourful characters to tell good stories...The whole collaborative process has always been important and exciting to me. It is wonderful to work with visual artists, filmmakers, musicians... — Graeme Murphy

The exciting thing about Australian classical dancers is the way they have assimilated this most stylistic of disciplines in a unique way. There is a distinct lack of stylistic baggage, which allows them to be very open and uninhibited in their approach ... It is evident in all the Australian dancers and I think it is for this reason that they are so sought after and so well-represented in companies throughout the world. It is a great privilege to work with them. — Stephen Baynes

My driving force to make dance comes from a feeling that from a very young age, not a lot of things about being alive made sense to me...going to the theatre and seeing works of art were the only spiritual things in life that allowed me a connection to other people whom I did not know personally. They spoke to me of my life and my dilemmas... — Kate Champion

My father tells me I choreographed my first piece when I was a 5-year-old. I remember sitting in that small tin shed, feet in the dirt, wrapped in scratchy lace curtains and escaping to a world that allowed me to see beyond my current reality. — Frances Rings

The most interesting thing about being an artist is tapping into something that cannot be thought of consciously. The shows are not about dance, but dance is the main ingredient. Dance is abstract and can say things that words cannot. All of the shows I have been involved in have a constant shift between the concrete world and abstraction. This is a beautiful journey that you can have with an audience... — Gavin Webber

Here we were learning about health and the body and anatomy and then, this quite different type of discipline of respecting culture and learning that. How do you balance a foot in both worlds and stand on both soles and enjoy both experiences? And that's what it was like.  — Stephen Page

There have been many highlights in my career, especially choreographing the 2008 Academy Awards, but for me the best part is always being in a room of great dancers who are focused and inventive and fun...there is nothing like the moment in the rehearsal room when it all gels—when the magic happens.  — John 0' Connell

Editors: Stephanie Burridge and Julie Dyson.

Stephanie lectures at Singapore Management University and is the editor of the Routledge 'Celebrating Dance in Asia and the Pacific' series. Julie Dyson was the National Director of Ausdance, the Australian Dance Council—Ausdance Inc. until December 2012. Production was supported by The Australia Council for the Arts.