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Imagining the new dance festival for Melbourne

In 2020 Arts House and Dancehouse, with support from Creative Victoria, appointed four independent arts practitioners to lead a community co-design, exploring the potential of a dedicated contemporary dance festival in Melbourne, after it was announced in 2020 that the long-running festival Dance Massive was no longer possible.

The four independent artists tasked with leading a co-design process to gather information about what the dance community wanted for a new dance festival were Mariaa Randall, Luke George, Tam Nguyen and Priya Srinivasan.

This Co-design Team designed a broad and deep consultation process, held across 18 months with more than 518 people, and included an online survey, focus groups and consultation meetings.

“In order to understand the current state of dance and what the term “contemporary dance” might mean in Melbourne, we have used a decolonising methodology to guide this artist-led dialogue with the sector”
The Co-design Team.

As far as we know, this collaborative process of designing a festival in consultation with the communities it serves has not been attempted before.

The Co-Design team’s findings established that the key shifts from Dance Massive for a new festival should be:

  • an expanded understanding of dance and movement practice with a focus on equity and access
  • a governance of the festival by the oversight of a curatorium of independent dance artists, including co-design and appraisal of the national EOI process
  • a collective producing model with no lead producers; any partner who signs up to the Principles and Frameworks of the festival can be a partner
  • a festival for artists and audiences, and not just a festival for the market

The results from these findings were crystallised into principles and frameworks that all of the new dance festival partners have adopted.

The new dance festival will be held biennially from March 2023 and will be created through the collaboration and collective organisation of independent dance artists and organisations to celebrate and convene audiences and communities.

You can read more about the new dance festival and its Expression of Interest call-out here.

Image Credit: Image from 2019 Battle Massive. Image by Sarah Walker. 

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The New Dance Festival

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Dance Festival Principles & Framework

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