Dance is for everyone – let’s get moving!

Frances Rings, Big Dance 2018 Co-choreographer. Photo: by James. Image courtesy Ausdance NSW.

Big Dance is the largest dance celebration in the world and it’s hitting Australia on International Dance Day, 29 April 2018 – where thousands of people will dance together in some of the most iconic places in the world.

Encouraging people to be active through dance, Big Dance is a free large-scale participatory celebration open to everyone of all ages, all abilities and all experiences.

In the months leading up to Big Dance, Ausdance New South Wales and Ausdance Victoria will motivate aspiring dancers and community groups to learn the Big Dance 2018 routine in a series of fun free dance workshops.

Created by acclaimed choreographer Frances Rings and New Zealand born Craig Bary, the Big Dance 2018 choreography is a five-minute contemporary routine inspired by Indigenous and non-Indigenous movements that anyone can learn. The dance is set to new music by Huey Benjamin.

Create NSW chats with Frances to find out more about this year’s event and what participants can expect from the celebration of all things dance.

Can you tell us where your mob is from?

I was born in Adelaide and my mob are Kokatha from the west coast of South Australia.

Can you tell us about your career path and how you came to be a choreographer?

I have had a long history in contemporary Indigenous dance. I dance with Bangarra Dance Theatre for 12 years and then transitioned to choreography where I choreographed over 7 works for the company. The most recent being Sheoak as part of the Lore program. Recently my work Terrain has been selected on the 2019 – 2021 NSW Higher School Certificate Dance Syllabus.

Can you tell us about your choreographic process in developing this routine?

I created this piece with esteemed New Zealand Dancer and Choreographer, Craig Bary. We both worked with the wonderful young developing artists from NAISDA Dance College to create the piece. My process involved working with motifs and symbolic shapes to embody a connection to our ancient land and to the Unseen realm where our ancestors reside. An important part of my practice that we continue to acknowledge our past and present to affirm connection to Country and reinforce our identity.

How did you and co-choreographer Craig Bary decide on the themes for the event?

We are both passionate about dance as a means of communication to bring understanding to our diversity and differences and to celebrate them. The dance industry in Australia today is vibrant with a diverse range of practitioners from varied cultural background, intergenerational leaders, and gender representations. The message we want to say is that we proudly come together on Aboriginal land to celebrate our vast communities and what it means to be Australian. Using contemporary Indigenous and non-Indigenous movement language, our aim is to create a dance that can be learnt, shared and performed by anyone and everyone in a global creative dialogue that acknowledges dance as a refuge free from racial division and judgement.

This is the first time Big Dance has been led by Australia. How does it feel to be part of this event, given Australia is in the lead, and how is Ausdance involved?

I’m not sure what to expect but from what I’ve seen of the United Kingdom’s Big Dance events, it looks quite powerful. Ausdance is presenting Big Dance Australia 2018 and have been amazing at supporting our creative vision.  It’s pretty special to be given the opportunity to come together as a community and to transform urban spaces into meaningful sites of creative gathering. In doing so, we reawaken the energy of Country and what has existed here for thousands of years and still resides beneath the concrete.

Big Dance is open to dancers and non-dancers of all ages and who will have varying degrees of experience. Thinking about these factors, how did you ensure your routine caters to such diverse participants?

It’s a complicated process and by no means simple but it has been really rewarding to expand and open your creativity to be understood by all levels and capabilities. For me it is not so much being trained but that you love what dance brings to your life and its impact on others around you.

One of the aims of this event is to deliver a dance program that contributes to social interaction and cohesion – allowing people to feel a sense of community.

How do you think dance as an art form can achieve this objective?

When we come together, we confirm what it means to be a part of a wider community. Our collective voices speak of the importance of art and creative expression to all levels of society and our right to access this. Big Dance Australia give us the opportunity as a community to celebrate Indigenous and non-Indigenous people coming together as one voice.

What do you hope participants will gain from this event?

Our art is a means for communication. It tells our stories of the past and present. Big Dance allows us one of those rare opportunities where for a moment we set aside differences and stand as a community to say, our art is powerful, our identity is strong and we acknowledge our ancient country and its original custodians. To grow and heal as a nation, these steps affirm our commitment to a culturally rich and diverse society for future generations.

April 2018:  Fun free dance workshops and online dance tutorial available. For further details on workshop locations click here.
Sunday, 29 April 2018: Big Dance on International Dance Day.

Ausdance New South Wales is supported by the New South Wales Government through Create NSW.

Published: 5 April 2018