The news that three dance ventures from Canberra are in the running for a 2017 Australian Dance Award is cause for celebration.
Liz Lea and those who collaborated with her on Great Sport! at the National Museum of Australia in April 2016, including performers from Canberra Dance Theatre, have been shortlisted for the award of outstanding achievement in community dance; Philip Piggin, creative program officer from Belconnen Arts Centre, is shortlisted for services to dance; and QL2 is on the shortlist for outstanding achievement in youth dance for their program Connected, seen in Canberra in July 2016.
Great Sport! was a site-specific production that took place in various parts of the National Museum of Australia, including outdoors in the Garden of Australian Dreams.
The production was a celebration of movement and sporting history and was performed by the GOLDs, Canberra Dance Theatre's performance group for people aged over 55, who were joined in the production by two ACT-based Dance for Parkinson's groups.
The show was devised and compered by Liz Lea. It featured the work of six different choreographers including Lea, and began with a welcome to country by Indigenous choreographer Tammi Gissell.
It was not only an entertaining spectacle seen by a wide cross-section of the community, including casual visitors to the museum, but also a program that focused on healthy living through movement, given that it premiered on World Health Day.
Great Sport! continued Lea's focus on working in unusual spaces and, in particular, on using the Canberra environment and its cultural institutions as a venue, and as a backdrop to her work. It also continued her singular collaborative aesthetic.
Philip Piggin, who was recently honoured with a life membership by the British-based group People Dancing, has been active on the Canberra dance scene since 1999 when he took on the position of dance development officer for Ausdance ACT.
He then worked in various capacities in the dance industry in Canberra and beyond, until he was appointed to a position at Belconnen Arts Centre in 2010.
Now, as creative program officer, he has been a major player in the growth of dance programs for people of mixed abilities. Most recently he began developing programs, in parallel with Tuggeranong Arts Centre, involving Dance for Parkinson's groups, and people living with Alzheimer's or multiple sclerosis.
Piggin was also strongly involved in the production of Great Sport!
With Jane Ingall, he choreographed I Used to Run Marathons involving the Dance for Parkinson's groups, and performed with them as a mark of support and encouragement.
Connected was QL2's annual main stage production for 2016.
Made in collaboration with QL2's Quantum Leap ensemble, the show was a triple bill with choreography by Sara Black, Kristina Chan, and the physical theatre company Lingua Franca. In addition to young dancers from Canberra, Connected involved performers from Perth, regional NSW and Thailand.
It investigated how we make connections through the skin and with the natural world, as well as how strength and empowerment affect connections between individuals.
Although the Australian Dance Awards carry no monetary reward, at a time when funding for the arts in Canberra is in a precarious situation it is particularly satisfying that dance in the capital has received the national recognition that comes with these shortlistings.
The Australian Dance Awards began in 1986 to celebrate International Dance Day each May.
Initially called The Dancers' Picnic, in 1997 the picnic model was expanded and the project renamed as the Australian Dance Awards.
The event has a strong national focus and aims to honour those who through their achievements have raised the standard of dance in Australia.
All nominees must work in the professional sector and there are 12 award categories. Nominations come from across the country and four nominees from each category are selected for shortlisting by a panel of peers.
This year's winners will be announced at the 2017 Australian Dance Awards in Melbourne on September 24.
Further information, including shortlisted nominees in all categories, is on the website of the Australian Dance Awards: australiandanceawards.net.au.