RIP Spring Dance at the Sydney Opera House

Spring Dance at the Sydney Opera House has come to the end of its life.

Louise Herron, the chief executive of the Sydney Opera House announced today that the festival that began in 2009 is over.

In a media release she wrote: “Spring Dance has been the most high-profile manifestation of our commitment to contemporary dance. But even in its most successful year, it represents a major investment.

“While we have been happy to make this investment to support an art form that boasts a relatively small but passionate audience, we can no longer continue to commit the funds required to present it on its original scale”.

Spring Dance arose from the success of the Sydney Festival’s About an Hour program introduced in 2008 by the then festival director, Fergus Linehan.

About an Hour focused only on Australian dance.

In 2010, the Sydney Opera House maintained that it had “an important role to play in building audience appreciation of contemporary dance.

“It’s a role we take very seriously. The success of our inaugural Spring Dance program encouraged us to make a bigger, bolder and braver program in 2010.

“Focusing dance events over a four week period creates a context for work to be viewed in and generates an excitement that is more difficult to achieve with one off events. We see it as our role to introduce our audiences to the dance artists who are making a difference on the international landscape.

“As a presenter of contemporary dance, since 2000, the Sydney Opera House has become a player on this landscape taking the lead in presenting Australian and international work.

“The success of our Australian and international dance presentations; the audience response to and the huge surge of interest in dance driven by the massive success of dance on television – encouraged us to develop our Spring Dance celebration in 2009”.

The first curator of Spring Dance was Wendy Martin, formerly head of theatre and dance at the Sydney Opera House but who is now head of performance and dance at London’s Southbank Centre.

In 2012, Rafael Bonachela, artistic director of Sydney Dance Company, was appointed curator of Spring Dance for three years, with his first festival staged in 2012.

His first festival turned out to be his last.

In June last year, the Sydney Opera House executive producer, Jonathan Bielski, said that “Sydney Opera House is a place of dance.

“We have a rich history of artists who have come from across the world to dance on our stages which today sit beside the ancient footprints of old ceremonies that have been performed on the harbour foreshores for eons”.

In her statement today, Herron wrote:

“It goes without saying that this decision has been made for purely financial reasons.

“In no sense is it a reflection on the truly outstanding work of Rafael and our close friends at Sydney Dance Company.

“Sydney Dance Company and the Opera House will collaborate in August of this year to present the company in a new work, the details of which will be announced in due course”.

While Dance Massive continues in Melbourne, the nurturing of contemporary dance in Australia remains as fragile as ever.

So where does this leave the commitment of the Sydney Opera House to dance this year?

In June, the house is presenting Nederlands Dans Theater and recently presented a season of Sylvie Guillem’s 6000 Miles Away, a production that also formed part of the Adelaide Festival program.

Apart from regular seasons of the Australian Ballet and Bangarra Dance Theatre, there appear to be no dance events at the Sydney Opera House until at least November.

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