Dance in Australia

Dance in Australia includes a very broad variety of styles, from Indigenous Australian to the traditional Australian bush dance and from classical ballet, and ballroom dancing to contemporary dance and multicultural dance traditions from the 200 national backgrounds represented in Australia.

Indigenous Australian dance

Australian Aboriginal dancers in 1981.

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.[1]

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.

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.

Other varieties of dance

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.

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.[2] 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.[3] Robert Helpmann is among Australia's best known ballerinos.

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.

Major dance companies

Those dance companies funded by the Major Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council and from state arts agencies are:

Post secondary dance education




South Australia

Western Australia

List of operating dance companies




Defunct companies

See also


  1. Dance in Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Volume 1 pp. 255-7


External links

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