Paula Baird-Colt of The Australian Ballet’s Out There
Live from the Dance Education in Australian Schools roundtable at the Arts Centre, Melbourne.
What has been the most effective thing that the Australian Ballet’s Out There program has achieved?
The most effective thing that I think in particular Out There has achieved is allowing many more children to have a direct ‘doing’ experience of dance, and perhaps their idea of what dance is more closely related to the possibilities that dance offers, rather than simply thinking about it as a performance on stage. I think that’s very exciting.
What is the biggest challenge the team has had in terms of getting dance into schools?
If I think back to the model that Helen Cameron has designed with Out There, it’s probably getting the dancers to be more effective in their communication. That’s certainly a set of skills that dancers need to work on; to be good communicators in a school environment. They have to develop the appropriate skills and understand the developmental stages of children so that they can be more holistic in their approach.
How do you deal with dancers of such varying levels as you’ve come across?
I really like that question, because I think that everyone can dance. My role as a producer with Out There is to come in and look at the assets that a dancer has in front of them and help him or her to draw those assets out. So although you may have dancers of varying skill levels, there is always a capacity with the art form to look at dance as a language and harness that. I think the real beauty of the dance language is that sometimes simple things are very sophisticated and that it offers a form of communication in and of itself. In that way, I see the teachers as providing a toolkit from which the young dancers can extract the elements they want to create their message. There is potential in anybody that stands in front of you if you don’t see the actual dancer skill set as a limitation but perhaps an exciting opportunity to explore other ways to create a dance message.
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Photo: Paula Baird-Colt of The Australian Ballet with Dance Informa journalist Grace Edwards at DEAS 2013.