QL2 Centre for Youth Dance is part of a line of outstanding dance practice in Canberra.
From 1980–1996, Canberra supported a succession of professional local dance companies. QL2 Centre for Youth Dance has its origins, in part, in this line of companies. Founded in 1980 by Don Asker as Human Veins Dance Theatre, the organisation 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. In 1995, the Board decided that there was insufficient financial and audience support for a permanent dance company in Canberra.
BUILDING A NEW MODEL
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.
THE AUSTRALIAN CHOREOGRAPHIC CENTRE
Over the life of The Australian Choreographic Centre, our major goals and strategies have proven to be important for the dance profession. We have contributed to the development of over 70 choreographers, some of who have gone on to become artists of renown. We have also actively developed partnerships for three 3-year academic research projects into the nature of choreographic cognition, funded by the Australian Research Council. We have nurtured the creation of over 260 dance works, ranging from 5-minute experimental sections, to complete 90-minute works. Our youth dance program is a model of best practice for Australia. We have developed our commissions program to provide multiple entry points at different levels of skill and experience.
A CHANGE OF DIRECTION
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.