The winners of the prestigious Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards were announced late February, and Dancenorth has won the Group Award, worth $90,000. Here, Dance Informa speaks with Dancenorth Artistic Director Kyle Page on the exciting honour and what’s in store for the company.
It’s the beginning of 2018, and already three major achievements for Dancenorth: a new Executive Director/Co CEO; the premiere of SURGE at Festival 2018, the Arts and Cultural program of the Gold Coast 2018 Olympic Games; and, just a few days ago, the prestigious 2017 Sidney Myer Group Award!
“Yeah, I have to say it’s the biggest, most wildly ambitious year that we’ve had yet. It’s super exciting, and we feel as though we’ve thrown lots of balls in the air and they’re all staying up, so we’re juggling lots of things, but managing to keep them afloat and having an amazing time doing it, which is awesome!”
The prestigious Sidney Myer Award is a significant recognition and contribution to your work. Was this award a goal you actively pursued or a bonus?
“Actually, a bit of both. A company of our size and scale, particularly considering the ambitious nature of the programming, we’re constantly assessing opportunities for increasing revenue to allow us to continue rolling out projects of scale.
Particularly based in this region where sponsorship dollars are a little harder to attract and where travel costs are greater, we have these extra expenses that put more pressure on our budget.
So yes, the award was on the horizon, but it was such a long shot, being a national award across all art forms in the performing arts so it’s mind-blowingly amazing to be successful in receiving the award.”
Can you share a little the challenges of dance admin? You obviously want to be creating, but you also need to focus on the administration of the company. Was this partly behind the recent appointment of Hillary Coyne, to give you a deeper admin base?
“Yes, weirdly enough, I find the administrative side of the company a very inspiring, quite exciting branch of my own role. We did have an amazing General Manager, Deanna Smart, but she recently moved back to Melbourne. So we expanded the position, shifted the title to Executive Director and were incredibly fortunate to receive an application from Hillary Coyne, who is an incredible contributor to the arts, has been with Chunky Move for a number of years, is immensely networked and connected with a range of different practitioners from independent artists right through to major art organisations across the country and festivals around the globe.
So, it’s an incredible coup for us to have lured Hillary to the North, and I guess it speaks of the potential of Dancenorth as a company and the excitement it’s generating around the essence of what we’re doing.
I see the company operating with two main functions. One, to generate compelling and inspiring main-stage work to tour locally and across the globe; and the other is to facilitate deeply sincere and authentic community projects. So, we’ve got the Enrichment Project with the people of Poruma Island, which is that branch of our work.
To facilitate both of those, you need incredibly rigorous and robust administration and also incredibly rigorous and robust creatives. Without one, the other can’t exist. So we’ve got this beautiful synergistic relationship between the office and the studio, and, absolutely, Hillary’s employment will allow us to continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in that space, and in turn that allows us to increase our creative capacity and the artistic output of the company. So it’s a very exciting time for me, and for the company.”
Where are you wanting to take the company at this point?
“We’re at this nexus at the moment where there’s an extraordinary appetite for the work at Dancenorth touring nationally and internationally. We’re aiming to service all those relationships, but it’s incredibly important to maintain the connection to Townsville and North Queensland so that we maintain the really rich and generous dialogue with the community.
One way we’re looking at doing this is to have a second cast for certain projects. The company is at the incredible point where we can employ a second ensemble for certain projects at various points in the year. For the project we’re developing and premiering later this year, we’ll actually be working with two casts.
One will be performing Attractor overseas, and the other cast will be performing a new project here in Australia. We’re just testing the edges as to what that model could look like and how it will allow us to maintain a real and rich connection to where we live and where we work, being Townsville, while also being able to tour for three, four, five months of the year, depending on demand.”
What do you see happening currently in the arts in regional Queensland?
“Innovation is really happening in the region because of the environment. I think the fact is that we connect to light and the elements differently. I love what Frankie and Maddie are doing, setting up a company in Alice Springs, and they coined the term ‘the regional arts’ revolution’.
We’re not stuck in the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a different energy and a different potentiality, and it feels as though the opportunities and the space that living somewhere like Townsville creates, is incredibly generous – even in the studio – and it allows us to unlock new and different ways of seeing and feeling the world from what you have access to in the city.
We’re just really fortunate to live in this place, the spaciousness and light and time, and we also get to tour. So we spend time in capital cities across the globe. We get that kind of intense collision of amazing, bizarre, wonderful humanity. But we also get to go home and digest and process it in a way that feels as though there’s enough room and space for us to dive into the kind of nuance of what these relationships can offer.”
With the upcoming European tour, what do you think Dancenorth offers international audiences?
“I feel like there is something incredibly beautiful and powerful in the Danceorth model being so collaborative. For me, the idea of Dancenorth is being enablers for various artists, various organisations, various individuals to come together and create something that is bigger than what they could have created on their own. Maybe not bigger in the sense of scale, but bigger in the sense of the integrity behind the work, the generosity behind the work, and just the amazing kind of compounding of creative minds.
And I feel like the conversation, the dialogue that we’re having as a company and the role that we’re playing more broadly in Australia, hopefully the trend plays elsewhere. It’s just that this is an amazing way to work, and also, in my most idyllic times, I kind of imagine that Dancenorth operates as a little microcosm, an example of how communities, more broadly in society and maybe around the globe, can exist with this generous sharing of resources and just giving.
I think generosity is the key. I think collaboration of the arts is a beautiful way to maybe reflect a more ideal way to exist within our communities.”
By Elizabeth Ashley of Dance Informa.