Traditional Indigenous Australian dance was closely associated with song and was understood and experienced as making present the reality of the Dreamtime. In some instances, they would imitate the actions of a particular animal in the process of telling a story. For the people in their own country it defined to roles, responsibilities and the place itself. These ritual performances gave them an understanding of themselves in the interplay of social, geographical and environmental forces. The performances were associated with specific places and dance grounds were often sacred places. The Body decoration and specific gestures related to kin and other relationships (such as to Dream time beings with which individuals and groups). Some Indigenous Australian groups held their dances secret or sacred. Gender was an important factor in some ceremonies with men and women having separate ceremonial traditions.Like the Crane Dance.
Dreamtime is a term devised by early anthropologists to refer to a religio-cultural worldview attributed to Australian Aboriginal beliefs. It was originally used by Francis Gillen, quickly adopted by his colleague Baldwin Spencer and thereafter popularised by A. P. Elkin, who, however, later revised his views. The Dreaming is used to represent Aboriginal concepts of "time out of time" or "everywhen", during which the land was inhabited by ancestral figures, often of heroic proportions or with supernatural abilities. These figures were often distinct from "gods" as they did not control the material world and were not worshipped, but only revered. The concept of the dreamtime has subsequently become widely adopted beyond its original Australian context and is now part of global popular culture.
The term corroboree is commonly used in general Australian culture to refer to Australian Aboriginal dances, however this term has its origins among the people of the Sydney region. In some places, Australian Aboriginal people perform "corroborees" for tourists.
A corroboree is an event where Australian Aboriginals interact with the Dreamtime through dance, music and costume. "Their bodies painted in different ways, and they wore various adornments, which were not used every day." The word corroboree was coined by the European settlers of Australia in imitation of an east coast local Aboriginal Australian word caribberie.
In the latter part of the 20th century the influence of Indigenous Australian dance traditions has been seen with the development of concert dance, particularly in contemporary dance with the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association and the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA) providing training to Indigenous Australians in dance and the Bangarra Dance Theatre.
Bangarra Dance Theatre is an Indigenous Australian contemporary dance company. It was founded in 1989 by South African woman Cheryl Stone and Carole Johnson, an African-American and founding director of National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA). Bangarra is the Wiradjuri word meaning "to make fire".
Bush dance has developed in Australia as a form of traditional dance, it draws on traditions from English, Irish, Scottish and other European dance. Favourite dances in the community include dances of European descent, such as the Irish Céilidh "Pride of Erin" and the quadrille "The Lancers". Locally originated dances include the "Waves of Bondi", the Melbourne Shuffle and New Vogue.
Bush dance is a style of dance from Australia, particularly where the music is provided by a bush band. The dances are mainly based on the traditional folk dances of the UK, Ireland and central Europe.
The quadrille is a dance that was fashionable in late 18th- and 19th-century Europe and its colonies. Performed by four couples in a rectangular formation, it is related to American square dancing. The Lancers, a variant of the quadrille, became popular in the late 19th century and was still danced in the 20th century in folk-dance clubs. A derivative found in the Francophone Lesser Antilles is known as kwadril, and the dance is also still found in Madagascar and is within old Jamaican / Caribbean culture.
Les Lanciers or The Lancers is a square dance, a variant of the Quadrille, a set dance performed by four couples, particularly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is a composite dance made up of five figures or tours, each performed four times so that each couple dances the lead part. It exists in many variants in several countries.
Many immigrant communities continue their own dance traditions on a professional or amateur basis. Traditional dances from a large number of ethnic backgrounds are danced in Australia, helped by the presence of enthusiastic immigrants and their Australian-born families. It is quite common to see dances from the Baltic region, as well as Scottish, Irish, Indian, Indonesian or African dance being taught at community centres and dance schools in Australia.
Still more dance groups in Australia employ dances from a variety of backgrounds, including reconstructed European Court dances and Medieval Dance, as well as fusions of traditional steps with modern music and style.
The Australian Ballet is the foremost classical ballet company in Australia. Its inaugural artistic director was the English-born dancer, teacher and repetiteur Dame Peggy van Praagh in 1962 and is today recognised as one of the world's major international ballet companies.It is based in Melbourne and performs works from the classical repertoire as well as contemporary works by major Australian and international choreographers. As of 2010, it was presenting approximately 200 performances in cities and regional areas around Australia each year as well as international tours. Regular venues include: the Melbourne Arts Centre, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre and Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Robert Helpmann is among Australia's best known ballerinos.
The Australian Ballet is the largest classical ballet company in Australia. It was founded by J. C. Williamson Theatres Ltd. and the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in 1962, with the English-born dancer, teacher, repetiteur and director Dame Peggy van Praagh as founding artistic director. Today, it is recognised as one of the world's major international ballet companies.
Classical ballet is any of the traditional, formal styles of ballet that exclusively employ classical ballet technique. It is known for its aesthetics and rigorous technique, its flowing, precise movements, and its ethereal qualities.
Dame Margaret "Peggy" van Praagh, DBE was a British ballet dancer, choreographer, teacher, repetiteur, producer, advocate and director, who spent much of her later career in Australia.
Baz Luhrmann's popular 1992 film Strictly Ballroom , starring Paul Mercurio contributed to an increased interest in dance competition in Australia, and popular dance shows including So You Think You Can Dance have featured on television in recent years.
Baz Luhrmann is an Australian writer, director, and producer with projects spanning film, television, opera, theatre, music, and recording industries. He is regarded by many as a contemporary example of an auteur for his distinctly recognizable style and deep involvement in the writing, directing, design, and musical components of all his work. He is the most commercially successful Australian director, with four of his films in the top ten highest worldwide grossing Australian films of all time.
Strictly Ballroom is a 1992 Australian romantic comedy film directed and co-written by Baz Luhrmann. The film, Luhrmann's feature directorial début, is the first in his The Red Curtain Trilogy of theatre-motif-related films; it was followed by Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!.
Paul Joseph Mercurio is an Australian actor, dancer, and TV presenter. Mercurio is best known for his lead role in Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom (1992). His father was the character actor Gus Mercurio.
Those dance companies funded by the Major Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council and from state arts agencies are:
Sir Robert Helpmann CBE was an Australian dancer, actor, theatre director and choreographer. He was known for his work as an accomplished ballet dancer, as well as his film roles as Ivan Boleslawsky in The Red Shoes and the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The Queensland Performing Arts Centre is part of the Queensland Cultural Centre and is located on the corner of Melbourne Street and Grey Street in Brisbane's South Bank precinct.
Stephen George Page is the Artistic Director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre. He is descended from the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh tribe from southeast Queensland. In 2015 his directorial debut film Spear was shown at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
Frances Rings is an Indigenous Australian dancer, choreographer and television presenter. She was born in Adelaide, South Australia and is a descendant of the Kokatha people. She is a member of the Dance Board of the Australia Council
Mark Hedley Howett is an Australian director, designer and lighting designer of theatre, film and opera.
The Arts in Australia refers to the art produced in the area of, on the subject of, or by the people of the Commonwealth of Australia and its preceding Indigenous and colonial societies. Indigenous Australian art, music and story telling attaches to a 40–60,000-year heritage and continues to affect the broader arts and culture of Australia. During its early western history, Australia was a collection of British colonies, therefore, its literary, visual and theatrical traditions began with strong links to the broader traditions of English and Irish literature, British art and English and Celtic music. However, the works of Australian artists – including Indigenous as well as Anglo-Celtic and multicultural migrant Australians – has, since 1788, introduced the character of a new continent to the global arts scene – exploring such themes as Aboriginality, Australian landscape, migrant and national identity, distance from other Western nations and proximity to Asia, the complexities of urban living and the "beauty and the terror" of life in the Australian bush.
Theatre of Australia refers to the history of the performing arts in Australia, or produced by Australians. There are theatrical and dramatic aspects to a number of Indigenous Australian ceremonies such as the corroboree. During its colonial period, Australian theatrical arts were generally linked to the broader traditions of English literature and to British and Irish theatre. Australian literature and theatrical artists have over the last two centuries introduced the culture of Australia and the character of a new continent to the world stage.
Performing arts education in Australia occurs formally and informally. It occurs at all levels of education.
Kate Champion is a director and choreographer with over thirty years' experience across multiple art forms. She was the founding Artistic Director of Force Majeure (2002-2015), a dance theatre company based in Sydney, Australia. Her initial training was in Sydney with Karen Kerkhoven with subsequent formative years spent in Munich with the Iwanson Dance Company and continued with Kai Tai Chan's One Extra Company in Sydney. She was a founding member of Dance North in Townsville and was a dancer with Australian Dance Theatre from 1988 to 1989.
The National Black Theatre was a theatre company run by a small group of Aboriginal people based in the Sydney suburb of Redfern and which operated from 1972 to 1977. The original concept for the theatre grew out of political struggles, especially the land rights demonstrations which at the time were being organised by the Black Moratorium Committee. The centre held workshops in modern dancing, tribal dancing, writing for theatre, karate and photography, and provided a venue for new Aboriginal drama. It also ran drama classes under Brian Syron who conducted the first of a planned series of six-week full-time workshops for his students who included Jack Davis, Freddie Reynolds, Maureen Watson, Lillian Crombie, and Hyllus Maris. These people went on to become known in the Aboriginal community for their work in the Australian theatre and film industries.
Garth de Burgh Welch is an Australian dancer and choreographer.
Garry Stewart has been the artistic director of the Australian Dance Theatre since 1999, following Meryl Tankard.
Contemporary dance in Australia is diverse with dance companies performing a broad range of what elsewhere may be termed contemporary and modern dance styles.
Gideon Obarzanek is an Australian choreographer, director and performing arts curator. He was Artistic Associate with the Melbourne Festival (2015-2017), co-curator and director of ‘XO State’ at the inaugural Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts (2015-2017). Obarzanek was appointed Chair of the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2015 and Strategic Cultural Engagement Manager at Chancellery at the University of Melbourne in 2018.
Maggi Sietsma AM is the founding artistic director of the multiple-award winning Brisbane contemporary dance company, Expressions Dance Company, and regarded as one of Australia's leading choreographers. Maggi Sietsma has choreographed multiple international dance works during her career and has contributed extensively to dance and dance education in Australia.
Corroboree is a ballet written by Australian composer John Antill in the early 1940s. The first full version of the score was completed in 1944 and it was first performed as a concert suite in 1946. On 3 July 1950 it was performed as a ballet, at the Empire Theatre in Sydney, choreographed by Rex Reid, with dancers of the Melbourne-based National Theatre Ballet.
The Sunshine Club is an Australian musical with book and lyrics by Wesley Enoch and music by John Rodgers.
Roy David Page was an Australian composer who was the music director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre. He was descended from the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh tribe from southeast Queensland.
Guypunura "Janet" Munyarryun is an Aboriginal dancer, choreographer and tutor. She was a founding member of the Bangarra Dance Theatre.