Arts / Dancers gather to sit down and talk

Dancer-choreographer Stephanie Burridge… keynote speaker at the dance summit.

DANCER-choreographer and scholar Stephanie Burridge is anxiously awaiting the proofs for her tenth book, but she’ll find time to fly into Canberra for a big dance summit.

“BOLD” is the brainchild of Canberra choreographer and dancer Liz Lea, who has assembled the might of Australian dance for a serious talk this month about the legacy of dance. Present in the long line-up of luminaries will be Meryl Tankard, David McAllister, Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, Sue Healey and, of course, Burridge, who will give the keynote address on the opening morning.

It will be held in national institutions including the NLA, the NPG, the NFSA and the NGA, where there will be two tours of the Ballet Russes collection and a talk called “Chateau of spectacle: the performing arts and Versailles”, with workshops at QL2 Dance.

Burridge is best known in Canberra for her direction of the Canberra Dance Theatre where, for many years, she treated patrons to a feast of human stories, cultural tradition and sheer beauty. Those were the days – “amazing performers dancing about deep personal issues – extraordinary,” she says.

As well as choreographing musicals such as “Anything Goes” on the side, Burridge took her place in a burgeoning arts scene while completing a BA at the ANU then a doctorate at the University of Kent.

These days Burridge lives and works in Singapore where, after she headed there in 2001 to lecture at Lasalle College of the Arts, she met and married theatrical entrepreneur and former director of the Singapore Festival, Robert Liew. Plunging into the exciting world of Asian dance, she has made herself the expert on the terpsichorean arts of south-east Asia.

Burridge is the series editor for the Routledge’s “Celebrating Dance in Asia and the Pacific”, seven books featuring chapters by scholars and also local artists who talk about their creativity and philosophy. Now she’s into her second series for Routledge, “Dance, Access and Inclusion: Perspectives on Dance, Young People and Change”, with a focus on access to dance for people with special needs.

Serendipitously, we learn from Liz Lea, a group of seven senior Bollywood dancers are coming to the summit from the Singapore company “The Golden Gals”, as well as dancers and their carers from the Singapore Down Syndrome Association.

Burridge’s keynote address at “BOLD” is to be called “Cross-Threads and Pathways – Evolving Asian Contemporary Dance” and will focus on how people work with traditions across the region. But she is also reworking up a three-minute solo called “Fragile” that she also expects to perform at the “M1 Contact” dance festival when she gets back.

In her view, there are two major themes around the world of dance, mature-age dance and integrated dance, where “we see what bodies can do in time, agent space – it’s something I feel quite strongly about – to bring that here”.

“BOLD,” in Canberra, March 8-12”, bookings and all program details at theboldfestival.com

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Helen Musa
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