OCTOBER 12, 2010             DanceNSW is the Ausdance NSW magazine.

‘Sevillanas’ Artist In Schools Residency – Ausdance NSW

It’s interesting doing education projects, I always find by the end I am the one who has received the ‘education’ and every time I begin my personal mantra is it has to be as creatively rich and rewarding as any other project.

Currently, I am working at a high school in Wetherill Park, which is Fairfield area of Western Sydney. Prairiewood High School has a demographic of 90% Assyrian, Samoan, Arabic, Vietnamese and Indigenous students and I am always looking for ways for young dancers to incorporate their own cultural ancestries into dance. I hope that sharing my processes and approach might open them up to new exploration, rather than just aspire to mimic the more visible dance that’s out there and my own agenda being that intercultural dance might become part of our mainstream dance landscape one day.

They’re all into ‘So you think you can dance?’ and krumping which I also love, so I used these to discuss social dance and taught a Spanish folk dance called ‘Sevillanas’. They adapted basic elements of ‘Sevi’ into contemporary dance vocabulary and worked on themes about ‘old vs new’ in society and that both have a place. There are protocols around using flamenco culture so I stick to the elements of the dance that have least potential to be misappropriated. It is totally about sharing culture not withholding it, so I am glad to have the opportunity to pass this on.

The project for this came about quite organically. I met the Dance teacher and we clicked. She has only developed a dance department in the past year or two and because it’s so new, this was a way for Dance gain status in the school community and to be taken seriously as a subject. The project has become quite large now, we possibly under-estimated the size of it, and some critical meetings with the school did not happen at the outset, so a lot of pre-planning was not done which has created some hefty challenges and a hefty learning curve for all.

The program is Creative Education Partnerships: Artist in Schools program and has partners NSW Department of Education and Training, Arts NSW, Australia Council for the Arts. It is a great idea that has come out of years of pilot programs and research and is really about the learning that happens for kids more than the artists work. Having said that I am excited to be working on it, as I have been able to build a sketch for a longer work. I will be lecturing at Macquarie University this term and will continue to work the ideas and choreography with those dancers too.

Two years ago I presented ‘Conversations in Rhythm and Dance’ a season of two new works using contemporary dance, flamenco dance, live guitar, classical Indian tabla and traditional and junk percussion. CRD was supported by Australia Council and Arts NSW. The works, ‘Isabel’ and  ‘Game on’ were presented at Riverside Theatres Parramatta and Campbelltown Arts Centre.


Game on’ has since been selected for schools touring through ConnectEd in 2011. It is a battle of wits between a contemporary dancer and a traditional musician. There is strong rapport between the artists (Miranda Wheen and Bobby Singh) and a respect for diversity and difference are at the heart of their onstage banter. It has many moments of spectacular musicianship and dancing so that no matter what these young audiences take away, hopefully, it might offer an exciting introduction to dance and live music in general.

There have been interesting changes on the Sydney dance front in the past few years. It seems like less presentation platforms for intercultural dance than ever, a label I would love to see disappear but the education sector is providing some fantastic opportunities right now so I am thrilled to be part of it.

I might just finish with a little plug for a forum I am chair of in a few weeks time?

Groundswell: Creative Thinkers Creative Solutions is an inclusive artist-driven forum that aims to find new solutions to old problems for professional artists working in multicultural arts.

We are interested to find ways to move into mainstream arts, eliminating terms of otherness and segregation like ‘multicultural’ and use this as a collective think tank on topics such as presentation, showcasing, advocacy, arts management, funding, custodianship and sustainability.

We are very keen for anyone to come along that wants to brainstorm ideas or to simply understand more about what this genre is.

More details can be found at Groundswell Blog or Facebook

Groundswell: Creative Thinkers Creative Solutions


Key speakers: Lyndon Terracini, Artistic Director, Opera Australia and Jill Morgan, Executive Officer, Multicultural Arts Victoria
Chair: Annalouise Paul
Moderators: Joanna Dinning and Paula McLaughlin

When: October 14
Time: 11- 2pm
Where: The Opera Centre, 480 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010