By Ann-Maree Long & BlakDance
12 April 2013
BlakDance Australia Ltd is an industry leader in the performing arts and an advocate for Indigenous contemporary dance in Australia, with the vision to contribute significantly to the artistic landscape of Australian Dance. BlakDance supports and promotes their dance artists at state, national and international level. Their BlakDance 2012 performance and professional development program demonstrates this.
It’s a story told by passionate movement, by a collaboration of inspiring cultural artists, young and old. It’s a call for home, to our ancestors, and for all to listen. It exposes identity and truth. There’s controversy, and it’s important, but most of all it is learning.
BlakDance 2012 was a touching performance narrated by a diverse group of First Nation independent dance artists, and companies and families from around the globe. The production was held in June 2012 in partnership with the Queensland Theatre Company. The vision was to profile Australian First Nation independent contemporary choreographers on an international platform. The program was designed to bring together a diverse range of work representing a diverse range of cultural artistic voices.
The lead-up to the BlakDance 2012 performance, and the performance itself, was a week that I will never forget. As I was sitting there at lunch after a dance workshop, I gazed around in admiration at all of the individuals coming together. Artists from Guam, New Zealand, Aboriginal Australia and the Torres Strait Island Australia were all chatting, laughing, creating friendships and listening to each other’s stories.
The choreographers were Ojeya Cruz Banks, Cathy Livermore, Jack Gray, Tammi Gissell, Rita Pryce and Albert David. Being surrounded by these artists and listening to tales of their past gave me a strong sense of self, cultural worth and pride. It was one of the most satisfying emotions, and I imagine that the students, adults and children around me shared this feeling.
The lights went down and it was the evening of the first performance. The feelings and thoughts that came across my mind during the performance were unlike anything I had ever experienced. I felt exposed, but in a way that I had needed to be.
Being involved in the production BlakDance 2012, and working at BlakDance Australia Ltd as an intern in my final year as a journalism student has inspired me. We all have stories to share that connect us, and every one of us has a past, a history, ancestors and traditions.
It’s often challenging being an Indigenous Australian with pale skin and blonde hair, yet sitting there in the audience, this all became so insignificant to me.
I’m a Butchulla woman of Fraser Island, and grew up in Toowoomba, Queensland. My mother is an Indigenous artist, and during my childhood I was always surrounded by her art, and passion of culture and artistic expression. When I was watching the BlakDance 2012 performance I felt the music, the song, the stories and movement as if it were in my own body. It took me home.
It’s not every day that you can sit around and be surrounded by such a diverse cultural group of people. I know the future is secure with the support of our industry, with the vision to move forward with one voice.
BlakDance is an exciting place to be working as an intern in my final year as a dance and journalism student. I look forward to being a part of the planning for BlakDance 2014 and the many other initiatives.