2019 Campbelltown Arts Centre/NAISDA Dance Project - 26.09.19

The C-A-C/NAISDA Dance Project is a longstanding collaboration between NAISDA Dance College and Campbelltown Arts Centre, which has been running for 13 consecutive years. It is the longest-running creative partnership that NAISDA has held since moving to Darkinjung land in 2007.

The project supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the Macarthur region to explore their creative voice through artistic mentorship in dance, cultural knowledge and performance skills led by community Elders, established dance artists and some of the most promising young contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dancers in Australia.

We sat down with Chief Executive Officer of NAISDA, Kim Walker, to learn more about the annual project and why it is such an important part of NAISDA’s community outreach program.

Kim Walker at the 2019 CAC/NAISDA Dance Project. Image by RollingMedia, Natalia Cartney

Tell us about the 2019 C-A-C/NAISDA Dance Project and what it involved.

The format of the project differs slightly from year to year, but it’s all about connecting students with a creative mentor, who works with them to develop their passion for culture and dance and show them their artistic opportunities. This year we brought in celebrated choreographer and NAISDA alum Jo Clancy to spearhead the project.

In the lead up to the project, NAISDA graduates ran a series of dance workshops in high schools around the Macarthur region, where they identified students who demonstrated an interest in dance to participate in the intensive.

10 students from years 9 to 12 were then invited to participate in a series of workshops and on-country visits with Jo, which included an intensive three-day residency at NAISDA Dance College. This resulted in the creation of an original dance work called burra bamal, meaning sky and earth in Dharawal. The work was premiered at Campbelltown Arts Centre as part of a special showing on 12 September.

It was a wonderful performance. A powerful response set in country, which looked at how the participants see the world being treated today due to overuse and over-exploitation of resources.

Jo Clancy at the 2019 CAC/NAISDA Dance Project. Image by RollingMedia, Natalia Cartney

What do you see as the main purpose of the project?

It’s all about empowerment. Helping students foster connection to culture, Elders and community. Importantly, it’s also about supporting the students to build their own voice.

As part of the project, Jo engaged in discussions with the students and with community Elders to learn what they want to talk about and what matters to them. These discussions helped form the theme of the dance work.

Students performing at the 2019 CAC/NAISDA Dance Project. Image by RollingMedia, Natalia Cartney

Why is this partnership so important?

This project is a great collaboration between two like-minded organisations, which is all about nurturing the next generation of First Nations creators through mentorship.

It makes me very proud of the output over the years. Not only seeing young people engage in and enjoy dance, but also giving our Developing Artists and graduates a platform to grow and experience engaging with schools and teaching.

It’s a relationship that we hope to continue for many years to come.

Watch highlights from the 2019 Project: