Lining the walls of Chunky Move’s foyer are vast placards of performances, and above the sofas, those shows are the Live Acts series from 1999. I was sitting there staring at them one day after class and noticed they serve as something of an epitaph of Melbourne’s dance scene. In eight years, the names of Melbourne’s choreographers haven’t changed. I was a student then, and since then … where are the new choreographers? And the dancers, it’s a trickle over close to a decade. Altogether, no great new explosions or earth-shattering debuts, a void of arrivistes and demi-mondes, just an absence we all pretend isn’t happening.
I was really hoping for a complete slamming of federal and state governments attitudes to supporting dance in Australia, and the title of the interview with Expressions Dance Company founder and current Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts dean of dance, Maggi Sietsma had me all gooey in expectation of the utter blasting Australia needs that everyone talks about in private but seem to come over all coy when the media is pointed in their direction.
Oh disappointment, how I adore you.
There are two things Australian dance – and generally all the arts – needs: One elegantly summarised on one sentence by John McCallum is “Any crisis the Australian theatre might be facing now is entirely a matter of money”. The other is for Australian artists to look at how a handful of Tasmanian loggers managed to hold state and federal governments in their thrall and behave accordingly.
“In theory I am supposed to come back to Expressions towards the end of the year, but having read the State’s development strategy for dance, I am not sure that I am wanted,” she says with a wry smile.
“I still have to check things out but it seems to be advising companies not to hang on to top talent for too long, which to me again demonstrates a lack of respect for quality artists.”