Dancing from Poruma Island to Paris

Emma Clark Gratton

A regional dance company enjoys more creative freedom than its metropolitan peers.
Dancing from Poruma Island to Paris

Image: Black & Peach by Amber Haines

Not all major dance companies are based in major cities. In fact, some of the most innovative and cutting-edge dance is coming out of regional areas. There is something special about the ambition and agility that regional companies have that allows them to create adventurous and courageous new work.

Dancenorth is an international contemporary dance company based in tropical Townsville in North Queensland. Far from being a backwaters dance troupe, Dancenorth balances a dynamic regional presence with a commitment to creating bold, adventurous and critically acclaimed contemporary dance that tours the globe.

“There is no greater space for increasing creative capacity and fuelling imagination than being surrounded by nature. Townsville is wedged between natural wonders in every direction, from the reef to the rainforest and the outback, we are quite literally surrounded by inspiration.’ said Kyle Page, Dancenorth’s Artistic Director. ‘Being regionally based gives us extraordinary scope to genuinely engage with a broad range of audiences, from remote outback towns to Sydney and Melbourne; from communities in the Torres Strait to Paris and New York.’ ‘

The company’s current works include Rainbow Vomit, an immersive contemporary dance show created for young audiences, and Tectonic, a bold collaboration with the Urab Dancers from Poruma Island in the Torres Strait.

Dancenorth’s international, national and local productions are anchored by a strong cultural engagement program, the Enrichment Projects, which bring the creative, cognitive and physical benefits of dance to the wider community. Dance Unlimited is a dynamic program providing opportunities for young people with disability move, create, and dance. Similar programs working with Indigenous Australians, young people, refugees and asylum seekers help to create positive social change by empowering lives through art.

The company also supports independent dance practitioners through its Artist Residency in the Tropics (A.R.T.) Program, which offers the opportunity to live and work in the pristine environs of Tropical North Queensland – a landscape thoroughly conducive to creativity.

The company began in 1969 when legendary Townsville dance personality, Ann Roberts, placed $100 on the table during a public meeting and the North Queensland Ballet and Dance Company was born. Roberts was tired of seeing talented dancers move south and overseas to pursue their careers. From its first moments, the company was a success. 

Deanna Smart moved to Townsville recently to join Dancenorth as General Manager. She said that regional companies often experience more freedom than bigger metropolitan dance companies. ‘I know that for Dancenorth, there’s definitely a freedom in having less clutter, less busyness, than being in a larger city. We can be more focussed and outward looking.’

Being the only professional dance company in Townsville means that Dancenorth is free to find its own artistic expression. ‘It’s a small industry but quite a vibrant one. It gives us a sense of pride to be ambassadors for Townsville in the world,’ said Smart.

‘Being regional is not second class to metropolitan companies. We have just as much, if not more capability to deliver provocative, risk-taking work. There is a freedom to take more risks.’

About the author

Emma Clark Gratton is an ArtsHub staff writer.