Emma Stokes, Restless Dance Theatre
Live from the Dance Education in Australian Schools roundtable at the Arts Centre, Melbourne.
What do you wish you’d had when you were young at school to support your interest in dance?
I can’t really remember much in the way of creative arts at all in my early primary school, other than a bit of visual art. I think in terms of dance, I was studying dance out of school in a private school, but I had a very narrow way of looking at art form. I thought that you just put some music on, made up some moves out of a vocabulary of maybe five different steps, predominantly ballet steps, and then presented it. When I went to uni it was like a ‘kaboom’ moment in my brain because I found that there were so many other possibilities. So I think really, if I’d had someone to share the breadth of the art form with me, that would have been beneficial.
You mentioned some of the difficulties you have had with outreach, particularly in rural areas. What are the major challenges you’ve faced?
My experience with Restless and the disability arts in general is that people who are in that area know a lot about it and there are specialists in that area, but outside of that it is really hard to change people’s opinions, spread the word and extend the community. I think there’s a danger of being quite internal. I mean, Restless does have the opportunity to perform once or twice a year, which is a chance to open up to other communities, but during the other times it’s all word of mouth really about what’s happening at Restless and its workshops.
In rural areas, there have been serious challenges and I’m a bit stumped really. Our problem during our latest experience, working with students in the Riverland, was that we were only there one day a week and so there wasn’t the opportunity to do a lot of marketing, or for us to be out in the community. Perhaps if we could find a way for dance to become a part of everyone’s lives, something they actively sought out, this would be less of an issue.
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Photo: Emma Stokes of Restless Dance Theatre with Dance Informa journalist Grace Edwards at DEAS2013