Audiences for high quality, professional dance in Canberra have long teetered on the edge of frustration and sighed at the thought of empty pockets. With no professional dance company based in Canberra, travel interstate is the only option if one is to satisfy one's need for a healthy dance diet. Next year, however, looks slightly more promising than usual.
Sydney Dance Company and Bangarra Dance Theatre, who have both consistently defied the perception that Canberra isn't suited to visits from major companies, will once again be bringing their work to the Canberra Theatre Centre in 2016. Both companies are currently dancing with passion, and building strongly on recent successes at the Helpmann and Australian Dance Awards.
In May, Sydney Dance will bring a double bill, CounterMove, consisting of a brand new work, Lux Tenebris, by Rafael Bonachela, along with Cacti from Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman. Cacti was first performed in Australia in 2013 and is a witty dance piece made in response to Ekman's dislike of overly serious contemporary dance and criticism.
In July, Bangarra will bring a triple bill, OUR land people stories, with choreography from Stephen Page, Jasmine Shepherd, Beau Dean Riley Smith and former Canberran Daniel Riley. Storytelling is at the heart of Bangarra's creativity and this triple bill will be no exception.
Ballet is not forgotten and Queensland Ballet will arrive in November with a production of The Nutcracker as a pre-Christmas treat for young and old. This Nutcracker is choreographed by Ben Stevenson, the former artistic director of Houston Ballet, where current director of Queensland Ballet Li Cunxin got his big break after arriving in the United States from China. And Li will be in everyone's minds in June when Monkey Baa Theatre Company will present The Peasant Prince, a theatre piece designed for children. It follows the story of Li's journey from a village in rural China to the world ballet stage.
Children will also be beneficiaries in January when the Australian Ballet, which will not be visiting with a program for adults, will perform a special children's version of The Sleeping Beauty, advertised as suitable for ages three years and upwards.
Local professionals also have big plans for 2016. Among them, Liz Lea, with the help of grants from ACT funding bodies, is planning a busy year. She is working on a new one-woman show with research input from Sydney choreographers Vicki Van Hout, Brian Lucas and Martin del Amo, and also on a new work with Mount Stromlo inspired by astronomy. As well she will be mounting a dance program, Goodly Sport, in April at the National Museum of Australia to mark World Health Day. The program will feature the GOLDs in works from Lea, del Amo, and former Canberran Kate Denborough, and her business partner Gerard van Dyck, of KAGE Physical Theatre.
Meanwhile, another Canberran, James Batchelor, has not yet locked in his final plans for 2016 but his hypnotic work Island was seen in Canberra last year by the director of the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Sciences at the University of Tasmania. He invited Batchelor to accompany his research team on a two-month field trip to Heard Island and McDonald Islands. Batchelor and his collaborator, visual artist Annalise Rees, venture out into the Southern Ocean in January 2016. Batchelor is hoping that this voyage will result in a performance work, while Canberra audiences are no doubt hoping they may see something from him in Canberra in 2016.