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Maggi Sietsma AM (born 1951) is the founding artistic director of the multiple-award winning Brisbane contemporary dance company, Expressions Dance Company, and regarded as one of Australia's leading choreographers. Maggi Sietsma has choreographed multiple international dance works during her career and has contributed extensively to dance and dance education in Australia.
Career and Personal History
As a child, Maggi Sietsma was inspired to dance after seeing Dame Margot Fonteyn on stage (whom she later performed with). At the age of 14, Maggi Sietsma ran her own dance studio with 200 students, who were put through Royal Academy of Dance examinations. Her studio held annual concerts and had three staff members. At the age of 16, Sietsma was granted an international dance scholarship, and later graduated from The Australian Ballet school receiving an offer to join the company. Maggi Sietsma danced as soloist for international ballet companies – the Avignon Opera Ballet (France) and the London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet), before beginning her career in contemporary dance.
While working as a classical dancer in 1972, Maggi attended a performance by the Dutch Nederlands Dans Theater, inspiring her to undertake a new career path into contemporary dance. Maggi joined the Theatre du Chene Noir, a French collaborative company of musicians, actors and Sietsma as the solo dancer. Sietsma redefined her relationship to the artform during her time in the Theatre du Chene Noir, as she was suddenly alone as a dancer; a "strong contrast to the hierarchical structures characteristic of classical ballet companies". Sietsma furthered her contemporary dance choreography, establishing the French multi-media company Muance with her partner Abel Valls.
In the early 1980s, Sietsma and Valls returned to Australia, where Sietsma took a position as resident choreographer at North Queensland Ballet and Dance Society where she transitioned the amateur group to professional status as North Queensland Ballet Company, now Dancenorth. Sietsma then moved to Brisbane to teach modern dance at the Brisbane College of Advanced Education (now the Queensland University of Technology), where she developed the first bachelor's degree in Dance. While working as a full-time lecturer, Sietsma and Valls set up their Brisbane based contemporary dance company, Expressions Dance Company, to create opportunities for dancers including a salary and decent work conditions. Sietsma herself was not paid a salary for the first three years, despite the dancers always receiving paid work from the company. To ensure the success of the company Sietsma and Valls:
mortgaged [their] house for the first season of Expressions...gave up everything to work in Expressions and gladly...because that's where my heart was, still in the profession. (Maggi Sietsma)
Expressions is now an established contemporary dance company with an international profile, employing 17 full-time staff. Under the direction of Sietsma and Valls the company has toured internationally, including the USA, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Macau, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Mexico, Israel and New Caledonia. The company has also performed in festivals including the Ludwigsburg (Stuttgart) International Festival, the Linz (Austria) Dance Festival, The Washington Shakespeare festival, the Taipei International Festival, The Beijing Modern Dance Festival, Tokyo’s Next Wave Festival and The Guangdong Modern Dance Festival (China).
Sietsma has produced a range of educational programs and forums both in Queensland and internationally, including ensuring the secondary school curriculum offers dance as a subject. Institutions Sietsma has developed programs for include: Queensland Arts Council, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland Performing Arts Trust (now QPAC), Queensland Education department, HKAPA. Sietsma has also established an extensive education program for Expressions Dance Company providing workshops and masterclasses.
In 1995, Sietsma was awarded a Master of Arts in Research by the Queensland University of Technology. In 1997, under Sietsma's direction, Expressions Dance Company was awarded a Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award, Australia's most prestigious performing arts award. In 2002, Sietsma was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to dance and dance education.
In 2005, Sietsma was appointed Dean of Dance at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) where she was involved in developing the Academy's first Master of Fine Arts in Dance program, realigned and led the school through the new validation process of the Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours program and saw through the School of Dance co-hosting of the The Hong Kong International Dance Festival (2006).
Achievements and Awards
- Founding Artistic Director of Expressions Dance Company
- Choreographer and solo dancer in the Theatre du Chene Noir (France), Senior Artist in the Avignon Opera Ballet (France), Guest Artist in the Queensland Ballet, Danced in The Australian Ballet, Soloist with the London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet),
- Performed alongside Margot Fonteyn, Sir Robert Helpmann, Rudolf Nureyev
- Founded the European contemporary multi-media ensemble Muance
- Transitioned amateur North Queensland Ballet and Dance Society to professional status as North Queensland Ballet Company, now Dancenorth
- Developed the first bachelor's degree in Dance in Queensland at the Brisbane College of Advanced Education (now the Queensland University of Technology)
- Expressions Dance Company, under Sietsma's Artistic Direction, was awarded a prestigious Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award (see Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards)
- Appointed a Member of the Order of Australia AM
- Awarded a Centenary Medal from the Australian Government for contribution to the Arts and Society
- Awarded a Churchill Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust
- Awarded 3 ASEA (Australian Society for Education in the Arts) Awards for choreography
- Dean of Dance at the HKAPA - Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts
Dance Company Affiliations
Maggi Sietsma has choreographed works for opera companies, theatre companies and various dance companies and institutions internationally:
- Avignon Opera Company, France
- Avignon Ballet Company
- Dancers Company The Australian Ballet
- North Queensland Ballet Company (now Dancenorth)
- Ballet Theatre of Queensland
- City Contemporary Dance Company, Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts
- Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, India
- Beijing Dance Academy, China
- PACT Dance Company (State Theatre Dance Company), South Africa
- Raun Raun Theatre Company Papua New Guinea
- Queensland Performing Arts Trust (now Queensland Performing Arts Centre/QPAC), Australia
- Royal Queensland Theatre Company, (now Queensland Theatre Company), Australia
- Vision Dance, Australia
- Victorian College of the Arts - School of Dance, Australia
- Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Academy of Dance, Australia
- James Cook University
- Momentum Dance Company, Australia
- Theatre du Chene Noir, France
- Muance, France
- HKAPA, Hong Kong
Major Choreographic Works
- 2008 - On Thin Ice
- 2005 - Score!
- 2004 - The 5th Door
- 2003 - Flight!
- 2002 - Rites of Spring
- 2001 - Behind the Wall
- 2000 - Virtually Richard3
- 1999 - Vanities Crossing
- 1995 - Decadances (performed in New York City in 1999)
- 1995 - Alone Together
- 1994 - Direct Heat
- 1993 - Dream Hunters
- Cranston, Neil, C. Elrich, Lisa Catherine, What is this thing called leadership? Prominent Australians tell their stories, Australian Academic Press, 2000
- "Sietsma, Maggi—Member of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Retrieved 25 September 2008.
- Founding Artistic Director - Official Website of Expressions Dance Company
- Anderson, Jack (12 July 1999). "DANCE REVIEW; No Escape From Solitude Despite Close Encounters". New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 4 October 2008.