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Getting down to business
Dancing the Dream
By ANDREW ETHERD
While visiting Dubbo, Warren Mun-
dine had a revealing conversation
with a young boy on the street
about not being at school or in a job.
Mr Mundine asked the boy why he
was not at school, receiving an edu-
cation to get a job.
''Why?'' said the boy, ''You come
from 'job world', I don't. No one in my
family works. How many black faces
do you see working in those shops?''
Mr Mundine says: ''Young indig-
enous people need to know there are
opportunities available to them, they
need to believe in themselves. We
need to fill the void of hopelessness
by inspiring young people, mentor-
ing them and being a role model and
celebrating positive role models for
Mr Mundine is now Chairman of
the Australian Indigenous Chamber
of Commerce, established after the
20/20 summit to promote and serve
the interests of indigenous business.
It facilitates co-operative business
activity including identifying projects
that foster employment and enter-
prise as the basis for long-term pros-
perity. Supported by the belief that
indigenous-owned businesses must
compete on an even foot with the
private sector, the Indigenous Cham-
ber will assist indigenous Australians
to face the challenges in establishing
and running businesses.
By ANDREW ETHERD
Dance is a universal language. It is
also mysterious --- a pattern of move-
ments speaking volumes, implying
significance in a way no other form
of communication can match. Aus-
tralia's indigenous culture has a rich
tradition of dance which is alive and
thriving, but in the early 1970s an
upsurge of indigenous cultural pride
led to the melding of ancient with
modern to become Contemporary
Australian Indigenous dance.
The new dance form was taken
up with enthusiasm. New dancers be-
gan to train and around them formed
the National Aboriginal and Islander
Skills Association, now known as
NAISDA Dance College, to teach both
traditional and contemporary dance.
Thirty-five years on, and NAISDA
is flourishing. ''The virtue of teaching
dance is to be connected to your cul-
ture and to something that is a part
of life in the bigger sphere.'' says Kim
Walker, NAISDA's chief executive of-
ficer. ''Dance is an integral part of all
cultures. To be able to impart that is
a wonderful thing.''
The importance of dance to indig-
enous culture creates space for the
dancer to fill with creativity. ''It gives
them a sense of themselves, a sense
of purpose,'' Mr Walker says. ''It gives
the students fabulous opportunities
to use dance as a career option to
go out and teach in the world. It's not
just dance we teach, it's indigenous
culture, which gives them a sense
of themselves. We also teach the el-
ements that go with that --- how to
apply for grants, the business side.''
Dancing is Jo Clancy's life. ''As a
small girl, I took dance classes. When
I was at school, I preferred to be
doing dance and art and drama than
maths and science. As a child I was
not exposed to my cultural dance,
and NAISDA gave me the opportu-
nity to learn indigenous dances.
''I work with contemporary
aboriginal dance, but at NAISDA, we
have cultural tutors who come down
from communities that we have part-
nerships with,'' Ms Clancy tells us.
''It will be 10 years that we will have
worked with the Elcho Island commu-
nity, off the coast of Arnhem Land.
That's the time it takes to learn the
songs and dances. The Torres Strait
community we are working with is
Saibai Island. In August this year, the
students will travel up to the com-
munities where they will have deeper
learning on 'country', then at the end
of the year the tutors are brought
back to perform with the students.
Throughout the year, every week,
they have traditional dance classes,
where they practice the dances.
''The students need skills in work-
ing in the community with all young
people, not just the dancers. They
need to understand how communi-
ties work, how to follow protocol.
''The students do 156 hours of
ballet technique, and 156 hours of
contemporary dance technique --- it is
a really physical course. We do con-
temporary Aboriginal dance through
choreography and technique. It en-
gages our people with culture, makes
it accessible. It allows people to be
able to learn and share culture in a
way that is easily accessible to other
people, without having to talk or
write about what they are doing, let-
ting them share in a physical sense.
''It's an amazing course, I think it
is probably our most well rounded,
holistic dance course in the country,
but only for Aboriginal and Torres
Strait island people!''
Travis De Vries has just graduated
from NAISDA and is just beginning a
traineeship with the Bangarra Dance
Theatre. ''I was studying a visual arts
degree, but I came to a standstill with
the ideas I was trying to express,
then I came across the idea of perfor-
mance art and movement to express
ideas.'' Dance, for Mr De Vries, ''is like
any physical art, there is spirituality
in the repetition. Then all of a sudden
you find the centre.''
The Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce facilitates co-operative business activity
including identifying projects that foster employment and enterprise as the basis for long-term
prosperity. Picture taken in the Djarragun Workshop.
Source: The Age
Bangarra Belong © Jason Capobianco
Bangarra Belong © Jason Capobianco
NAISDA Graduation 2010 Source: The Age
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