NAISDA Practising Artist James Boyd on NT Dance Company Collaboration - 01.09.21

Supported by the Federal Government’s RISE Initiative, NAISDA is thrilled to have partnered for the first time with NT Dance Company during 2021.

This unique collaboration has supported NAISDA Practising Artists James Boyd, Brianna Kemmerling and Kiara Malcolm to train, learn and perform with NT Dance Company as part of a unique three-month secondment in Darwin. The program of artistic and cultural exchange was designed to develop and equip emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists with authentic company experience and strong connections into the professional dance industry.

The collaboration began in March this year when NAISDA warmly welcomed Larrakia man, NAISDA graduate and Artistic Director of NT Dance Company Gary Lang, for a three-week Artist-in-Residency at its campus on NSW Darkinjung Land.

An internationally recognised choreographer, dancer, artist and teacher, Gary was joined by two senior NT Dance Company members Millie and Triki. Together they worked with NAISDA Practising Artists to develop the creative process, share cultural learning and exchange. James, Brianna and Kiara then flew out to Darwin in June just prior to lockdown, for their ten-week secondment with the Company.

Last Wednesday, renown Choreographer Christopher Hill was generously commissioned to NT Dance Company courtesy of West Australian Ballet as part of the partnership within the RISE, Dancing Across Country project.

The residency period culminates with the premiere of Gary’s latest and newest work Forbidden. Forbidden is a cross-cultural, cross-border collaboration between NT Dance Company; NAISDA – including our Practising Artists and 2020 Graduate Chandler Connell; and traditional Yolngu artists from Miku Performing Arts, based in East Arnhem Land.

It premieres this Friday 3 and Saturday 4 September at Darwin Entertainment Centre.

We spoke to NAISDA Practising Artist James Boyd before he left for Darwin, to find out more about the experience.

Q: Tell us about the Artist in Residence program with Gary.

It was a full on three weeks! We covered a lot with Gary – connection with each other, learning solos and partnering. We also spent time on understanding the feeling of a particular moment and how to carry that feeling into our movements.

It was such an awesome opportunity to learn from someone like Gary who has a really unique style of blending partnering, ballet and contemporary with Indigenous dance.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

I learned so much from Gary but there were two things that really stuck with me.

Even in such a short time, Gary had an amazing way of conveying his firm belief in us. It showed through in how he pushed and challenged us to do better – because he believed we could achieve more. This made me realise how important it is to not be afraid to step up and be myself.

Another real ‘ah-ha’ moment for me was Gary identifying that I needed to work on the extension of my arms. Gary saw quite quickly that I was cutting myself short and worked with me on improving my extension. It sounds like a small thing, but it’s something that is now embedded in my mind. I’ll carry it with me and use it to improve every time I dance.

Q: What did you find most enjoyable and most challenging about the experience?

I really enjoyed the focus on partnering. It’s great being in that learning and creative space with other people when everyone is really having a go and giving it their all it.

Before the program I had recently fractured my ankle. Given the injury, and not being able to train for two months, I was feeling down and low on confidence. Although it was challenging to come into the program from this perspective, Gary’s belief in me really inspired, lifted and motivated me.

Q: Tell us a bit more about Forbidden.

Forbidden is a very emotional work that is about relationships and connections with people. Based very heavily on Gary’s experiences, it explores the beauty of relationships, how they can break and the resulting consequences.

NAISDA extends a big thank you to Gary, Millie, Triki and NT Dance for their generous sharing of knowledge, skills and opportunity.

For those in Darwin, don’t miss the chance to see the must-see performance of Forbidden this weekend. Details and bookings visit:

Darwin Entertainment Centre (

Images: Duane Preston & Lisa Haymes