Performing Country; Self determined First People’s community development and reciprocal exchange of knowledge and collaboration with performing arts presenters.

Indigenous storytelling occurs in Australia within the continuum of a 60,000 year old, highly sophisticated system of Indigenous Knowledge, law and governance and in the context of modern historical atrocities resulting from colonisation. This manifests in exciting, adapted, diverse and responsive storytelling contemporary practices that reflects society now.

Through the process of colonisation and the development of townships and cities, Indigenous peoples have been dispossed from land, massacred, prevented from practising culture and forcibiliy removed from families. Racist laws and policies meant that in many regional centres, Indigenous peoples were not allowed to enter or walk on public municipal property, including most performing arts venues still in operation today.

This project looks at redress through the arts, by developing Indigenous led pathways to repatriating and revitalising cultural leadership in communties and rebuilding relationships with civic centres.

Performing arts centres can and should play a powerful strategic role in presenting Indigenous works within their annual performance program, and in connecting them with their current audiences, local Indigenous communities and local Indigenous artists through a sustained program of engagement and dialogue. 

There are more than 130 professionally-run performing arts centres in Australia, located in metropolitan, regional and remote cities and towns.  Several performing arts centres have, over many years, built strong, dynamic and consistent relationships with their local Indigenous communities and Indigenous artists.  While at the other end of the spectrum, there are some who have not yet undertaken the most fundamental of Indigenous protocols – the welcome to, or acknowledgement of, country.

The process of changing the values, behaviours and cultures of performing arts centres is challenging and takes time – not everyone is confident in how to start the process, who to connect with, how to make change internally with teams (boards, crew, front-of-house, administration, catering); how to sustain and continue to imbed change; how to evaluate impact and community benefit – even the most experienced performing arts centres grapple with some of these challenges.


Performing Country is a four-year project that will focus on five key areas:

1)    transformation of behaviours within performing arts venues

2)    local leadership and community cultural development

3)    collaborative presentation outcomes

4)    audience development

5)    re-envisioned cultural policy


Performing Country is a partnership between BlakDance, Blackfulla Performing Arts Alliance (BPAA), Performing Lines and Performing Arts Connections Australia (PAC).


Performing Country will be led and developed with the advice and guidance of Indigenous communities, elders and performing arts experts.


These BlakDance Goals inform all our projects:


Seeding emerging and mid-career 

Flourishing by advocating and promoting activities in our communities 

Gathering through forums and showcasing events

Hosting and bringing local and international artists and communities to participate in cultural exchange

Touring and supporting contemporary dance to reach the world stage

Connecting communities, artists and buyers


We incorporate these goals in the planning of our yearly programming. Our 5-point planning circle enables us to work with our communities to identify why Blakdance exists with what priority at what time:


Perform: Blakdance exists first of all to lay the tracks for our mob to perform

Produce: Blakdance exists to produce small and large works and events

Catch: Blakdance exists to catch live dance, interviews and yearns ready to share back to our community

Keep: Blakdance exists to keep the catch of our sector and archive, communicate and showcase it in digital, print and web form

Grow: Blakdance exists to grow the sector; to reflect on our actions, remain respectful to our principles, connect with markets and help others do the same



Over the next four years BlakDance’s programs will feature two focus areas including: 

▪       Strengthening our dance communities – through capacity building programs and networking. 

▪       Enhancing the visibility and mobility of our dance communities – through connecting our communities with the buyers.  

Our program 2017-2020 will be informed by the National Action Plan for Indigenous Dance in Australia developed during the National Indigenous Dance Forum 5-7 May 2017

1.     Producer Development 

2.     International First Nations Exchange 

3.     National Indigenous Dance Forum

4.     Capacity building and skill development 

5.    Performing Country

6.    Digital Platform

7.    First Nations Dance Showcase Series: APAM 2018

8.    Cultural Dance Succession Planning