News & Insights

Dance Sector Co-Design

Arts House and Dancehouse are happy to share some news about the Dance Sector Co-Design, imagining a new dance festival for Melbourne.


In a time of great disruption for our community, we have been honoured and inspired by the passion and commitment of artists, producers, presenters and audiences who contributed to the Co-Design process.

Led by a team of four arts leaders — Mariaa Randall, Luke George, Priya Srinivasan and Tam Nguyen — the Co-Design involved over 373 people between September and December 2020 using a careful intersectional methodology to unearth a broad range of complex, overlapping challenges and opportunities for our dance community – and the arts sector at large. Each report is the reflection of that individual, through the prism of their experience, knowledge and practice.

Read Mariaa Randall’s reflections

Read Luke George’s reflections

Read Priya Srinivasan’s reflections

As Arts House and Dancehouse, we recognise that First Nations self-determination is at the core of the work we must do from here, and the conversations amongst First Nations dance communities to determine their course within the festival must be ongoing. Arts House and Dancehouse are committed to holding space for these conversations, in a paid capacity, at the instruction of First Nations dance practitioners in our city.


This first stage of Co-Design highlights many opportunities.

  • It is evidence of the maturity and resilience of the Melbourne dance community, to be able to engage in deep reflection.
  • It is testament to the enduring love of dance by Melbourne’s audiences.
  • It affirms the critical importance of a presentation context dedicated to the broad and ever-changing artform of “dance.”
  • And it presents us with timely, important questions about transparency, shared responsibility and a broader policy for dance sector development.

Our Consultant’s reflections do not contain a panacea. This is unsurprising to us.

There is not a magic formula for a dance festival in Melbourne that leverages existing resources, creates a healthy cycle of production for new work, achieves audience development for the artform, acts as a market development site for local, national and international producers and presenters, stimulates and inspires a community and, develops the artform. From 2009-19, Dance Massive did do all those things, and it was not sustainable within current funding policies, and models of presenting organisations.

But it is also clear that the desire for a dance festival(s) remains.

As Arts House and Dancehouse, we are committed to collaboration, to artist-led decision-making models and a cross-sector dialogue that can enable a festival that enacts its values, meeting expectations for shared power and plurality. Any new dance festival will be part of an important fabric and complementary with many currently existing and emergent festivals and programs.


There’s more work to do.

Arts House and Dancehouse are initiating a series of workshops to create business models for a dance festival to be held in Melbourne in the first six months of 2023. The original Co-Design team have been invited to continue their presence in this next stage independently.


Are you a local Melbourne organisation with resources and interest in presenting the works of Australian independent dance artists in a festival conext?

We invite you to run a workshop with your dance community, large or small, to come up with business models for a dance festival that could work for your context. If you choose to participate you will be required to pay a standardised fee of $150 (per ½ day) to all artists involved.

Organisations with a national remit are encouraged to engage artists nationally.


These workshops — of duration and scale to be determined by organisations who choose to participate — must be completed by July 31, 2021. The Co-Design Artist Reflections form the backbone and context for discussions.


Representatives from these organisations alongside a paid participating independent artist, are invited to come together for a day-long meeting in late August in Melbourne. At this meeting, an independent facilitator will work with participants to identify potential models for a future festival.


Should this process reveal sufficient resources, capacity and enthusiasm to progress conversations towards a festival in 2023, we will look towards an agreement between organisations that begins planning for a festival for dance in Melbourne.

If you would like to seek more information or to register your organisation’s interest, please contact Arts House via artshouse@melbourne.vic.gov.au.

Bryony Jackson (2018)


The Dance Sector Co-Design was supported by Creative Victoria.

Related News & Insights:


The story so far

Imagining the new dance festival for Melbourne

The New Dance Festival

A new dance festival for artists and audiences in Melbourne.

Dance Festival Principles & Framework

A renewed dance festival for Melbourne, developed by Arts House & Dancehouse.