‘I was never in the studio’: How the Australian Dance Festival went from a dance event to a film festival
When it was first announced that Dance Australia would be returning to the Australian Theatre in 2016, many wondered if the festival would ever go on.
“What do you mean we’re not going to go to the cinema anymore?” one commentator asked.
“I’m so sorry.”
But, after months of debate, Dance Australia decided to go ahead.
“It was a very emotional time for the festival,” says festival co-founder and CEO Michael Jackson.
“A lot of us felt we were losing control, that we were not able to take it forward, that it was just too big.”
The decision was not an easy one.
“We had to be in a position where we were saying, ‘We’ve got to get it right,'” says Jackson.
That meant not only bringing back the festivals biggest and best festival, but also creating new opportunities for young Australian talent to showcase their talents.
“The problem is that we have to be careful about what we are actually doing in Australia, in terms of the talent pool and the community that we’re serving, and that is a big challenge,” says Jackson, who has also been involved in a number of other festivals including the New York City Jazz and Roots Festival and the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.
“You have to think about what the culture is that you’re trying to represent, what are the things that are exciting about it.”
One of the first steps to this was making a new identity for the Festival.
Jackson says the festival is a bit like a new music venue.
“Our identity is something that has to evolve over time,” he says.
In the years since, Dance Australian has become more and more of a community event, with its events taking place at venues across the country, and Jackson says there is “a really strong community of people that love it.” “
And then the festival, in a way, is just that, a venue.”
In the years since, Dance Australian has become more and more of a community event, with its events taking place at venues across the country, and Jackson says there is “a really strong community of people that love it.”
“We have had some really successful partnerships in our festival with festivals like the LA Dance Festival, and also the New Orleans Jazz Festival,” he explains.
“There’s a really positive sense of community around the festival.”
Jackson’s first major international festival was the New World Jazz Festival in 2001, which he describes as the “gold standard of the festival”.
“It’s been a really long journey for the organisation,” he recalls.
“When it started, we had a very small group of people and a very tight group of staff that really knew how to run a festival, and they knew how we ran festivals.
“People were coming to us with ideas for the festivals that they thought would be fantastic and some of the festivals had a lot of problems. “
“But the truth is, it was actually our ability to keep the festival going and keep bringing people to our events that really helped us out in that time. “
“If we hadn’t had the infrastructure in place, we might have had problems with the festival. “
“So I think we did a very good job, we did it well and we did the festivals well. “
“In the end, we got our festival back and we were able to put on a really good experience, because it was a really small, tight group, and we had the ability to create a really successful experience.” “
While Jackson is confident that Dance is not going anywhere, there are some things that he is hopeful will come back. “
In the end, we got our festival back and we were able to put on a really good experience, because it was a really small, tight group, and we had the ability to create a really successful experience.”
While Jackson is confident that Dance is not going anywhere, there are some things that he is hopeful will come back.
“Australia is a great country and a really interesting place, and it’s really exciting for us to see how people want to experience it, so I think that’s the challenge we have with this year,” he continues.
“With this year being the 50th anniversary, it’s exciting for everyone, and I think in the future, we are going to see people coming back.
But there are still a lot more festivals that we need to take forward and develop, like the New Zealand Festival and even the Sydney Jazz Festival, that will hopefully be more accessible to more people.”
“I think we’re going to have a great year in 2020 and 2020 is going to be a big year,” Jackson says.