History: before we were QL2 Dance

Ed: if you want more recent history, you can download many years of Annual Reports here.


From 1980–1996, a succession of professional local dance companies were based in Canberra at Gorman Arts Centre.

QL2 Dance Inc has its origins, in part, in this line of companies: it is the same Incorporated Association through many name changes, but with very different goals, responding to changing times.

ORIGINS: 1980–1996

Founded in 1980 by Don Asker as Human Veins Dance Theatre, the organisation later established an international reputation as the Meryl Tankard Company from 1989. In 1992 Sue Healey was appointed, with the organisation becoming Vis-a-Vis Dance Canberra; producing excellent work in Canberra and elsewhere.

1996: a ‘Choreographic Centre

In 1995, the Board decided that there was insufficient financial and audience support for a permanent dance company in Canberra.The Board then conducted an exhaustive process of consultation, including both local and national dance and arts communities, to determine a way forward. This identified a need for a new approach to choreographic development. The organisation launched operations as ‘The Choreographic Centre’ in late 1996  under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Gordon, later changing name to The Australian Choreographic Centre.

This was partly a response to a more global crisis in professional contemporary dance, its audiences and funding, which accompanied the global financial recession from 1987. Choreographers and dancers faced a crisis in career pathways, with many small dance companies closing, annual employment in most existing companies being replaced by run-of-project contracts, and the number of independent projects being significantly reduced. The environments where choreographers had traditionally been nurtured and developed almost vanished, seriously threatening the growth of the next generation of dance makers. We sought to fill this niche, both for the ACT community and for the profession.

We evaluated some overseas developments, in particular a French system, where the government took on board the success of “actor centres” which solved similar problems for the theatre community a decade before. “Centres Chorégraphique National” were developed, providing infrastructure for a key choreographer while also supporting a number of emerging choreographers and assisting visiting artists in creating, presenting and touring new work.

The Choreographic Centre was established in Canberra with much of this in mind, but was designed to be a more inclusive and open structure where individuality was supported and encouraged and the artistic vision embraced a wide range of styles and traditions. It was for 11 years a leader in supporting the development of the art, craft and science of choreography — enhancing the contribution which dance makes to cultural life. Through a nationally competitive program of fellowships, residencies and commissions plus educational, advocacy and scientific research activities, it became a centre for the development of choreographers, choreographic practice, and new choreographic works; led by visionary Artistic Director Mark Gordon.

Over the life of The Australian Choreographic Centre, our major goals and strategies  proved to be important for the dance profession. We  contributed to the development of over 70 choreographers, some of who have gone on to become artists of renown. We  actively developed partnerships for three 3-year academic research projects into the nature of choreographic cognition, funded by the Australian Research Council. We nurtured the creation of over 260 dance works, ranging from 5-minute experimental sections, to complete 90-minute works. Our youth dance program — headed by Ruth Osborne — was a model of best practice for Australia. We  developed our commissions program to provide multiple entry points at different levels of skill and experience.

2007: QL2 Dance

In 2007, following changes in the funding landscape, the Board of the Centre took the decision to re-focus the organisation as QL2 Centre for Youth Dance Inc, later simplifying the name to QL2 Dance Inc. With Artistic Director Ruth Osborne at the helm, it has since developed a national and international reputation in contemporary youth dance practice; and many alumni are practicing dance artists.

A note on names: “QL2 Dance”; “Quantum Leap”

“QL2” is not an acronym or abbreviation: it does not stand for anything.

“Quantum Leap” is a program of QL2 Dance; continuing the program started as part of The Choreographic Centre as “Quantum Leap Youth Choreographic Ensemble”.

QL2 Dance’s Quantum Leap ensemble is an ensemble of dancers, aged ~13-21. It is auditioned each year, open to both dancers in our training programs and those training in physical disciplines elsewhere.