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Dancenorth is a contemporary dance company based in Townsville, North Queensland, Australia. It began as the North Queensland Ballet Company in 1969 and receives Australia Council triennial funding (from 2006) as one of "Australia's outstanding arts organisations"[citation needed]. Dancenorth perform for regional, national and international audiences. Since 2002, they have toured to a multitude of regional centres and internationally, including to London's Barbican Theatre in 2007.[citation needed] It is one of only a handful of regional dance companies in Australia.

The company[edit]

Dancenorth has 13 full-time staff, it is a not-for-profit organisation and is managed by a board of directors. The company's home is the historically significant School of Arts building located in the Townsville City Centre which is Dancenorth's own dedicated rehearsal space and 190 seat theatre with full production facilities.

Dancenorth provides an important cultural and dance presence in Townsville whilst contributing to dance on an international level through the company's involvement in the 8th Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM), ImPulsTanz Vienna International Dance Festival and more.

Dancenorth is a somewhat unlikely presence in Townsville, a city better known for its rugby league team, the North Queensland Cowboys, than its dancers. Yet it attracts brilliant artists and hosts adventurous productions of contemporary dance...[1]

In 2009, Dancenorth launched their 'embrace the extraordinary' program which is aimed at making dance more accessible and relevant to all levels of the community whilst enhancing the company's image across Australia.


Artistic Directors and General Managers[edit]

Artistic Directors General Managers
  • 2015-Present: Kyle Page
  • 2010–2014: Raewyn Hill[2]
  • 2005–2009: Gavin Webber[3]
  • 1997–2005: Jane Pirani
  • 1996–1997: Graeme Watson
  • 1995: Wendy Wallace
  • 1985–1994: Cheryl Stock (first director of professional company)

Assistant Directors/Resident Choreographers (1976–1982)

  • 1982: Maggi Sietsma (First Director of Pro/Am Company)
  • 1981: Anthony Shearsmoth (Assistant Artistic Director/Choreographer)
  • 1980: Merrilee Macourt (Assistant Artistic Director/Choreographer)
  • 1979: Gary Hill (Assistant Director/Choreographer)
  • 1978: Gary Hill (Associate Director/Choreographer)
  • 1976: Gerrard Sibbritt (Associate Director/Choreographer)

North Queensland Ballet Company

  • 1970–1984: Ann Roberts[4]

Dancenorth General Managers:[5]

  • 2007 – present: Joanne Fisher (acting)
  • 2005–2007: Trevor Keeling
  • 2000–2004: Henry Laska
  • 1997–1999: Joanne Keune
  • 1996: Leanne Gunnelson/Alex Rhodes
  • 1985–1995: Lorna Hempstead (first general manager of professional company)

Artistic Director[edit]

New Zealander Raewyn Hill graduated from the New Zealand School of Dance in 1992. In 2001 she established Soapbox Productions, developing several full-length and shorter works including Vespers, which premiered during the 37th Hong Kong Arts Festival. Following a successful tour of her solo show We are gathered here today she developed Soapbox Productions into Raewyn Hill and Dancers where she was CEO, Artistic Director and choreographer. The company premiered a full-length work Finders Keepers at the Festival of Colour, Wanaka, which was subsequently presented at the Christchurch Arts Festival 2009.[2]

Raewyn Hill has appeared as a guest teacher and choreographer for a number of institutions including Royal New Zealand Ballet, Beijing Dance Academy and The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts where she was Artist in Residence, School of Dance until July 2009.[2]

Rehearsal Director[edit]

Michelle Ryan hails from Townsville and studied dance locally before completing her dance studies at what is now QUT in Brisbane in 1989.[3]

In 1990 she danced with Expressions Dance Company and Australia Folkloric Dance Company before joining The Meryl Tankard Company in Canberra in 1992. She moved with Meryl Tankard to Adelaide and remained with the Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre for 7 years, during which time she was involved in the creation and performance of 13 works.[3]

Not only did Michelle tour extensively with the company but she also taught company repertoire to new members and conducted workshops throughout Australia and USA. She still continues her association with Meryl Tankard and over the past few years has worked with her to remount productions all over the world as well as assisting her in London with the choreography of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical 'The Beautiful Game (1999).[3]


Current[6] Former[3]
D’Arcy Andrews
Thomas Gundry Greenfield
Luke Hanna
Jessica Jefferies
Nicola Leahey
Lauren Carr (Dancer in Training)

Former dancers include:

Hsin-Ju Chiu
Kate Harman
Alice Hinde
Kyle Page
Josh Thomson
Matt Cornell
Charmene Yap


North Queensland Ballet Company[edit]

Ann Roberts, Principle of the Ann Roberts School of Dancing and parents in Townsville were concerned by the lack of opportunities for young ballet dancers in North Queensland, organised a public meeting to assess public interest in forming a North Queensland ballet company.[7]

The North Queensland Ballet and Dance Company was established 17 July 1969. From the first audition 41 students were accepted including one from Ayr, five from Cairns and one from Mount Isa.[7]

Between 1970 and 1982, the North Queensland Ballet Company presented:[7]

  • 24 original ballets created especially for the company
  • 3 productions with excerpts from full-length ballets
  • 3 full-length ballets re-created for the company
  • 2 historical ballets created especially for the company
  • 10 one-act ballets created or re-created for the company.

From 1983 to 1984, 16 new works were created for the new profession/amateur company.[8]

Dance North[edit]

In 1985 the Company became fully professional and changed its name to Dance North becoming a contemporary dance institute with "a policy of all new Australian works"[9] which primarily trains and performs in Townsville region but tours extensively both nationally and internationally.[9]

1998 saw the première of Luuli, a unique and rich collaboration between Dancenorth and Woomera Aboriginal Corporation which fused traditional Aboriginal dance with contemporary western dance and was seen by over 30,000 people nationally and internationally over several years.[9]


Dance North became dancenorth-australia in 2006 and has become a vital part of North Queensland's artistic and theatric culture. In 2007, dancenorth took to the streets in between productions to raise awareness of dance through their participation in local Townsville community events. On 15 February 2007, Her Excellency the then Governor of Queensland, Quentin Bryce AC kindly accepted dancenorth's invitation to become the company's patron for the duration of her appointment as Governor, further solidifying dancenorth as an integral part of Queensland's arts culture.


In 2008, Dancenorth-Australia changed its name to Dancenorth in preparation for becoming a Major Performing Arts group of the Australia Council for the Arts. This change in approach has also served to refresh and consolidate their image to accurately reflect the company's revitalised perspective whilst creatively reflecting their ambitions, artistic direction and philosophy. In 2008, Her Excellency Penelope Wensley AO kindly accepted the invitation to continue Dancenorth's patronage as the Governor of Queensland.

Also in 2008, the company completed their first national tour with thanks to Mobile States and Playing Australia. Dancenorth will complete a further three national tours in 2009.



The company started 2009 with two national tours of the acclaimed Dancenorth & Brisbane Powerhouse co-productions roadkill and lawn. These works were performed at the inaugural Dance Massive Festival during 3–15 March 2009 at Arts House and Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne respectively.

Nowhere Fast was Dancenorth's new production for 2009, choreographed by Helpmann Award winner Ross McCormack, former dancer with Les Ballets C dela B:

In an environment that indicates to the everywhere but reveals nowhere specific, we are confronted with a group of individuals that appear new and alien in their own world. Quick to claim this common ground we watch as they watch others deal with isolation and emptiness. Struggling to communicate but desperate they attempt to come together even if it is only doomed to form a brief sense of artificial harmony. In this undefinable zone and its bleak appearance we watch as they layer this indoor/outdoor world with a collision of interactions that fail and succeed leaving the behind the stains of their existence.

In Townsville, as part of the company's embrace the extraordinary approach to develop new audiences, Dancenorth also launched public dance and fitness classes to be held in their studio under the brand Sweatshops and also Art for Art Sake events which are designed to connect audiences to art through social events.

Dancenorth's first short dance film was created in August: Re-elDance, International Dance on Screen.


2008 added another significant production to Dancenorth's repertoire: Remember Me which was choreographed by Gavin Webber and combines live music, theatre and dance to create a work of great nostalgia and tenderness. Remember Me made its world premiere on 8 July as part of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, this production will likely tour in the future.

Dancenorth undertook an extensive national tour of Underground, spanning over 14,000 km across five Australian states, from September — late November.


Underground was the first production of 2007 and opened in Townsville on 11 April 2007. Choreographed by Gavin Webber and the Dancenorth dancers, it explores a world full of the paranoias and fear of people who utilise public transport. Underground was remounted from the 2006 show Gravity Feed.

Co-produced by Dancenorth and Brisbane Powerhouse, choreographed by Splintergroup and toured by Performing Lines, roadkill premiered in July and explores misconceptions about the heart of Australia.

Dancenorth's guest choreographic season for 2007 involved a double bill, Outros and dis-integration, created by guest choreographers Jo Stone and Paulo Castro and a piece by Dancenorth's Kate Harman and Alice Hinde. Outros was a further reworking of the 2006 crowd pleaser This You Made of Me, of which the Townsville Bulletin commented:

...the dancers... have an enviable range of motion, control, grace and agility... a piece of dance theatre magic.

The final production for 2007 was nightcafe 07, which was brought back by popular demand. A new set of characters brought audiences with fresh entertainment and intrigue, nightcafe 07 created anarchic evenings of dance and live music. Choreographed by Webber and the Dancenorth dancers, the event rocked the Bombay Rock nightclub in September 2007. Doch Gypsy Orchestra, accompanied by Townsville's 1RAR Band, provided the fuel for the many evenings of mayhem as the music's rawness, passion and lyricism got feet moving.


Underneath was a cross cultural production combining contemporary Australian and Japanese dance. Originally devised for the Australia-Japan Dance Exchange 2006.[10]

Gravity Feed premiered in what was the start of the work which is now known as Underground. The production was the first full-length piece created by Gavin Webber and the dancers at Dancenorth.[citation needed]

nightcafe 06 was the final production for 2006, a lively dance party which focused on live music and audience participation with a "rock band jazz feel".[11]

Seulle was a production in partnership with the Australian Festival of Chamber Music choreographed by world-renowned Meryl Tankard. Using rear projection lighting together with transparent screens on stage, allowed for combined real and silhouetted dance expressions to commissioned harp music.[12] Peter Garrett was quoted as saying Dancenorth's Seulle "was the best dance performance I have ever seen".[11]

Accolades & Nominations[edit]

In a period of high growth for the company, the last three years have heralded a significant increase in accolades, press coverage and subsequently award nominations.

In 2009, Dancenorth have thus far been nominated for Australian Dance Awards and four Green Room Awards associated with the production and touring of Underground.


  1. ^ Sorensen, Rosemary (16 September 2006). "spirit of the dance". QWeekend Magazine (Brisbane): p. 24. 
  2. ^ a b c "Raewyn Hill new Dancenorth Artistic Director". The Big Idea. 4 June 2009. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "The creators". dancenorth-australia official website. 15 November 2007. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-24. . Includes biographies.
  4. ^ "Artistic directors". dancenorth-australia official website (archived). 15 November 2007. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  5. ^ "General managers". dancenorth-australia official website (archived). 15 November 2007. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  6. ^ "Company". Dancenorth official website. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  7. ^ a b c "The early years". dancenorth-australia official website. 15 November 2007. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  8. ^ "The pro-am years". dancenorth-australia official website. 15 November 2007. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  9. ^ a b c "The professional years". dancenorth-australia official website. 15 November 2007. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  10. ^ Symes, Isis (8 September 2006). "Funky and fresh Dancenorth's new production is a striking collaboration between two cultures". Townsville Bulletin (Townsville). p. 28. 
  11. ^ a b "Dancenorth reworks winning recipe". Townsville Bulletin The Guide (Townsville). 20 October 2006. p. 34. 
  12. ^ "A very rare opportunity". Cairns Sun (Cairns). 19 July 2006. p. 20. 

External links[edit]