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March Dance has begun: 31 days of uninterrupted independent dance

Bonnie Curtis Projects' Sabrina Muszynski, Bridget McAllister, Kara Peake, Kate Garrett, Steph Wyburn, Reina Takeuchi. Photo by David Bonnell.
Bonnie Curtis Projects' Sabrina Muszynski, Bridget McAllister, Kara Peake, Kate Garrett, Steph Wyburn, Reina Takeuchi. Photo by David Bonnell.

In its fourth iteration, March Dance is shaping up to be the premier dance festival in NSW, an annual celebration of independent dance and creativity. It has gone to great lengths to give us the most immersive, educational and unique offering for 2022. It is a wonderfully exciting program, a beautiful chance to re-inspire, re-invigorate and support our fellow artists as we launch into a fresh new year of dance and life!  

Supported by the City of Sydney and the Keir Foundation, and led this year by Critical Path and DirtyFeet, 167 artists, including six companies and 12 organizations, during the entire month of March, will perform, take workshops, classes and give thought-provoking talks, culminating in 129 events over 17 venues in 31 days. The 2022 program is a dance degustation, with moments to be savoured and topics to be digested. March Dance is not simply performances and movement-based facilitation but an all-around educational ride. 

The festival’s official launch was to take place on Thursday, March 3; predictions of severe weather caused the highly anticipated launch to be cancelled. Now rescheduled as a closing event for March 31, it will feature performances by Josh Freedman, Sydney Choreographic Ensemble artists Paolo Busti and Ginger Hobbs, and Wendy Yu and Lux Externa films. Freedman’s work Sweet fleshed, loose skinned and highly perfumed is a celebration of queerness, exploring sensory pleasures and physical traits associated with fruits, a compelling blend of physical theatre and cabaret. Freedman is an internationally acclaimed dance artist, having trained and worked throughout Europe, the UK and Australia.  

During March, the festival has many options available for dancers and the broader community. Take workshops or a class, expand yourself, body, mind and soul, such as the First Rays Project, an outdoor environmental dance practice workshop at sunrise on South Maroubra beach, with dance artists Anton and Victoria Hunt. 

With the up and down nature of being an independent artist or company, we must learn how to handle our finances. As part of the festival’s Talks program, creative industry finance expert Monica Davison will offer dance professionals a not to be missed workshop titled Money is Not a Dirty Word. Dancers will walk away feeling equipped and empowered to take control of their financial literacy. In Eileen Kramer’s in conversation with Sue Healey, you can hear from the inspiring 107-year-old dance artist, an absolute icon and inspiration, on longevity and her purpose in continuing to create. 

Bringing together seven of the leading and established Australian artists with disability, Emerging Makers in Conversation will discuss the current context for dancers with disability and share their unique experiences in the professional dance landscape. The challenges are real, and the barriers are real, particularly here in Australia. Anthea Doropoulos will facilitate the virtual consultation, director and co-founder of DirtyFeet, alongside artists Sarah-Vyne Vassallo, Caroline Bowditch, Marc Brew, Dan Daw, Sarah Hoboult, Margot Politis and Matthew Shilcock.

“This component of the program presented a really exciting and unique opportunity to bring together some of the foremost leading and established international disabled voices of artists, all of which are Australian, who are leading the way in arts and cultural disability,” said Vassallo. “We don’t often all get a chance to be together in the one room, albeit virtual, and the idea behind Emerging Makers in Conversation is to check-in, exchange, share and relay experiences that are happening here and around the world in relationship to artists with disability in artistic leadership roles. To dialogue around what opportunities the sector is providing for artists with disability and access. We look forward to sharing our discussions in a summary report at the end of the program.”

Dr Laura Osweiler, dance academic, multidisciplinary, international artist and performer, will bring her practice in the form of an online workshop and two presentations. Her work comes out of her experience as an artist with the chronic condition cataplexy, a form of Narcolepsy, and her journey is fascinating. Osweiler shares, “While my experience is personal, my goal as a choreographer and teacher is to share what I’ve learned about Narcolepsy and how dance has supported my health with people with and without disability so they can apply it to their lifestyle. Dance puts my body’s knowledge and leadership in the driver’s seat and keeps me strong and flexible. Choreography offers tools to explore the characteristics of Narcolepsy and how pain and healthy feel. Performance supports my expression and connections with others.”

A truly diverse range of dance makers have performances in the festival, including Eliza Cooper, Emma Harrison, Mitchell Christie, Patricia Wood and Rakini Devi. Some of these works have come out of residencies; others are sharings, mid-creations where we can see the artists’ raw processes and internal workings, with film and finished pieces also on offer. 

Bonnie Curtis, Sydney-based choreographer and artistic director of Bonnie Curtis Projects, will be sharing her creative process in a workshop as a part of her Ausdance NSW’s Dance Artist in Residency (DAIR) project.  Participants will get the chance to extend their creative self in developing guided choreographic processes and tasking. She will also be sharing her creative development showing of a yet to be named work, so it would be well worth attending both the workshop and the showing to experience multifaceted views of the creative process. Dancers, you will love the visceral nature of Curtis’ work, her honesty, her process, her unique conceptualization. Don’t miss either of these!

Coti Cobilis is an exciting international artist joining the March Dance lineup. Her work envelops dance as a voice for advocacy. She will be presenting the workshop Cultural Dialogue – Dance and Photography, which will explore participants’ experiences with culture and turn those experiences into movement, and subsequent images. It will be a fascinating process, particularly for makers who want to move into media and part of a multidisciplinary toolbox. 

“The idea behind my sharing at March Dance is to have a place to dialogue,” said Cobilis. “To share points of view or traditions related to meaningful things. Believe it or not, the way different cultures approach simple things like how you demonstrate your love or care for someone else is so different. I was researching this during my postgraduate thesis. It was based on looking for a common language through the artist languages, to communicate between different cultures.”

Radical Transparency presented by FORM Dance Projects for Dance Bites 2022, directed by Emma Saunders for the WE ARE HERE Company. Saunders was the recipient of a bursary from Critical Path, which contributed to the development of this work as part of March Dance. The work asks questions about the sustainability of dance in the current social and political climate — a very poignant topic in this time of significant instability. We need people who are creatively seeking and exploring these avenues as this is our current reality, and Saunders’ work is sure to inspire robust dialogue and is not to be missed. 

Happy Hour #13 by ReadyMade Works, Improvisation Edition, is co-curated by Amaara Raheem and Brooke Stamp and consists of 12 dance artists as they improvise their way through joyful expression and exploration. These performances will showcase the artist’s own exceptional and unique ways of working, a beautiful snapshot of the diversity of our industry.

As we emerge from the strange time of the last two years of managing COVID restrictions, we begin to stretch our legs, explore our creativity, and be inspired and infused with fresh hope. It is an exciting time to be an independent artist in Sydney.

By Linda Badger of Dance Informa. 

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