For over a decade, BlakDance has consistently delivered generative and transformative sector events and advocates for the development of the small to medium Indigenous dance sector.

BlakDance prioritises independent artists and emerging small to medium companies.

BlakDance works nationally and has a dedicated multiyear program.

We provide managing and producing artist and presenter services and sector advocacy. We design, produce and deliver; Dana Waranara, National Indigenous Dance Forum, BlakDance Presenter Series, Producer Development Program, First Nations Dialogues New York, Global First Nations Exchange and BlakDance Residency Program.

Our Creation Story

Led by our founder Marilyn Miller, the ground-breaking pre-cursor to BlakDance was the Creating Pathways National Indigenous Dance Forum, from 27-30 October 2005 at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. Over 40 dance artists from across the country and several generations created a landmark event and the foundations of a strategic plan for Indigenous dance for the next decade. The forum targeted mid-career independent Indigenous contemporary dance artists, including dancers, choreographers and teachers.

In 2006 and 2007 Treading the Pathways was the implementation strategy from Creating Pathways recommendations including employment of a national Indigenous Dance coordinator and the development of a Dancers Directory. It was auspiced by Ausdance National. The Treading the Pathways Steering Committee held annual meetings since 2007 to assist, advise and support the National Indigenous Dance Coordinator on identified issues and concerns regarding the sustainability of mid-career Indigenous dancers. Creating Pathways had three main aims to: Reconnect; Re-energise; Identify; what there is by profiling people through case studies and discussion. Some of the main issues which emerged, had three essential elements or themes: Culture; Skills Development; Professional Networking.

Read more about Creating Pathways National Indigenous Dance Forum here.

Read the Creating Pathways report here.

During the 12-month pilot period February 2007-February 2008, Treading the Pathways was hosted by Ausdance Queensland at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brisbane. Treading the Pathways was then successful with its application to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts for two more years of funding, from February 2008-February 2010.

In July 2009 Treading the Pathways was invited by the Council to apply for Key Organisation funding and was notified of its success in November 2009. Treading the Pathways then transitioned from strategic initiative to Key Organisation status in September 2010. In 2011 Marilyn Miller resigned and Tiina Alinen commenced.

BlakDance Board meeting, Brisbane 2008  Photo: Julie Dyson (Ausdance National Director)  Pictured: Dujon Nuie, Marilyn Miller, Hartely Williams, Monica Stevens, Bronwyn Liddle, Deon Hastie, Danny Doyle

BlakDance Board meeting, Brisbane 2008

Photo: Julie Dyson (Ausdance National Director)

Pictured: Dujon Nuie, Marilyn Miller, Hartely Williams, Monica Stevens, Bronwyn Liddle, Deon Hastie, Danny Doyle

Early Program Highlights

Treading the Pathways assisted mid-career contemporary independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance artists by developing national infrastructure for Indigenous dance. It focused on building national networks, professional development and career opportunities. It created a dedicated position that commenced in February 2007. Setting up the position entailed the formulation of a steering committee to ‘bring an external sensibility to the project’, and the formulation of a strategic plan.

In this initial development phase, one of the highlight programs was the support provided for seven independent contemporary choreographers through a three-year development program; the Indigenous Choreographers Project:

Gary Lang, NT                 Gail Mabo, QLD                    Deon Hastie, SA           Jason Pitt, NSW

Rita Pryce, QLD               Vicki Van Hout, NSW          Nikki Ashby, VIC

Another feature from BlakDance’s early days was the first ever publication of Torres Strait Islander Play Dances developed as a school’s resource kit for distribution through the Ausdance network and State and Territory education departments. It required appropriate teacher in-servicing and/or delivery by Indigenous dance artists. An aspiration to develop a Dancers Directory was undertaken with a collaboration with Blackfella Films in 2008. Company placements of up to four one-week blocks were pursued in 2008 and 2009 with:

  • The Australian Ballet, Melbourne – Gary Lang, NT

  • Chunky Move, Melbourne – Vicki Van Hout, NSW

  • Expressions Dance Company, Brisbane – Rita Pryce, QLD

In 2008 the Indigenous Choreographers Project participants were provided unprecedented networking opportunities with international presenters, establishing a legacy for support lasting for over a decade. BlakDance Australia Ltd became a company limited by guarantee on 1 September 2010. BlakDance facilitates regular opportunities for artists to share their stories about protocol and practice with presenters at key sector events like APAM, PAC/PAX, Long Paddock, the Australian Dance Forum, CINARS, ISPA, APAP, Dana Waranara, the BlakLines New Work Development Platform and YIRRAMBOI to name but a few.

In 2013 BlakDance attained DGR status. In March 2014 BlakDance undertook a review of its governance and operation capacity with Cameron Costello; CEO of the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC).  The recommendations assisted BlakDance and key stakeholders on developing strong governance.

In 2014 Merindah Donnelly commenced and continues to this day, along with Jane Fuller as General Manager, joining since late 2017 Administration Manager, Shannon King and 3 training producers; Hannah Scanlon, Emily Wells and Joella Warkill. Ann McLean joins in 2019 as General Manager, from 2018 outgoing General Manager Jane Fuller.

Over 2015, the Board continued to evolve, and a working group was transitioned from the Board to develop a Cultural Advisory Council. They were charged with the purpose of developing:

  • Terms of Cultural Advisory Council members

  • Recommending cultural elders for appointment and the process for appointment to the Cultural Advisory Council

  • Functions and roles of the Cultural Advisory Council to be set out in a charter or terms of reference.

As a result, in 2015, BlakDance established an Elders and Peers group to provide relevant, expert and cultural advice to the Board of BlakDance.

In 2016, BlakDance worked collaboratively with the Board Directors, Terri Janke and the Elders and Peers of BlakDance to discuss cultural governance; A Cultural Governance Workshop was held in Sydney in October 2017 (with the Directors of the BlakDance Board, members of the BlakDance Elders group and the BlakDance Peers group in Redfern NSW). For this BlakDance meeting Terri Janke and her company was invited to assist the company with discussion about cultural governance. The BlakDance Board, Elders, Peers and Management affirmed that BlakDance wants cultural governance to be a strong foundation for the organisation and its business and that Indigenous culture and practice i.e. lore/law is demonstrably embedded in the foundations of the governance of the organisation.

The Cultural Governance Workshop discussion considered a range of issues that strong cultural governance can address:

  • Roles of BlakDance

  • The bi-annual National Indigenous Dance Forum priorities

  • Honouring senior people

  • Appointment of Board Directors.

The meeting delivered guidance to BlakDance about the role and responsibilities of the BlakDance Elders. This group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people inform the cultural governance of the organisation. The group includes leaders who are experienced, wise critical thinkers and providers of knowledge, wisdom and advice. To reflect its value the group were addressed as the Cultural Council going into 2018.

We wish to honour the members of our dance communities who worked to build up our organisation, our Elders, senior dance practitioners, peers and leaders who’ve provided us with pathways and cultural governance. We wish to acknowledge the voluntary commitment of our past and present Board Directors who have kept us moving ahead and compliant with western laws and business models.


Please contact us if we have missed anyone or any part of this story on:

We invite First Nations people everywhere to join our pathways and share the journey.

BlakDance Respectful and Relational Process

GROW the sector; to reflect on our actions, remain respectful to our principles, connect with markets and help others do the same

CONNECT with our communities to lay the tracks for them to connect with the market and perform

ENGAGE with our communities to produce events that enables our mob to engage with sector

EXPLORE and help others explore the edges and beyond programming and critical best practice locally and globally

CATCH live dance, interviews and yarns ready to share back to our community

KEEP the catch of our sector and archive, communicate and showcase it in digital, print and web form