The final curtain falls on the Supercell Dance Festival


A lack of operational funding, coupled with concerns for the well-being of staff and associates in light of such challenges, led to the shutdown of the Supercell Dance Festival.

The Queensland-based contemporary dance festival, which has supported over 650 artists and engaged over 27,000 spectators since its inception in 2017, will end at the end of 2021. Final financial audits and ATO documents will be submitted to by June 30, 2022.

Supercell will distribute the remaining funds in its accounts at the end of June 2022 to a charity or nonprofit with similar values ​​and goals, said interim president Kathy Elliott.

“Supercell has been operating on project grants for seven years… [and] were candidates for the Arts Queensland Quadrennial Operational Funding and the Gold Coast City Triennial Operational Funding, and despite excellent grades and very positive reviews, they failed both rounds. Deemed “unfunded excellence,” Elliott said in a statement.

“After reflecting on the values ​​of Supercell, including our belief that people are paramount and ‘more dance is always better, “we have come to the difficult decision that Supercell in its current form and its operational entity will not continue,” said Elliott.

PEOPLE COME FIRST

Festival director and co-founder Kate Usher told ArtsHub that the decision to end the festival reflects Supercell’s values ​​and the recognition that people must come first.

‘We had to watch very carefully [at how we were operating] and it became very evident that the structure of the festival, and what we were trying to achieve, did not stick to the current funding mechanisms. It was no longer appropriate to keep asking people, including me, to give beyond [what was reasonable and sustainable] without return, whether artistic, social, cultural and of course financial “, she declared.

Read: Over-programming puts arts workers at risk of burnout

Too often artists and arts workers are expected to balance low wages and long hours with passion for their work, a situation that Usher said was untenable.

“As a festival we wanted to be at the forefront of best practice, and over the last 18 months – which have been incredibly busy for so many people – it has become really evident that the current model we are working in is just didn’t reflect that. And ultimately, it wasn’t the type of organization we wanted to be, ”she explained.

“So while we recognize that there is a much needed desire for a dance festival, especially a dance festival in this audience oriented format, the resources weren’t there. We could have continued, but for what purpose? For what point? Who are we trying to serve? And I think being values-driven has given us space to let go lightly, ”Usher said.

WILL THE LOSS OF SUPERCELL AFFECT THE INDUSTRY?

The impact of Supercell’s liquidation on the Australian dance industry is not yet known, although Usher is concerned that his absence will place additional stress on existing presentation bodies in the years to come, particularly in the light of the work currently created by dance. artists across the country.

“Particularly in light of COVID, we need to put money in the pockets of artisans, in artistic creation, and you can see – at municipal, state and federal levels – a shift towards supporting artists so that they are doing work, which is 100% necessary. But what happens in a year or two, when these artists have products ready to present? Where are they going?

“We already know that large urban festivals have their own complexities and that it can sometimes be difficult for independents or small organizations to take a look. We also know that this then puts additional pressure on the premises to program within their limited resources. There may be one or two places in each festival or place per year for dancing. This is not enough to serve the incredible product that will come from it. [current climate]. ‘

To read: Attracting new audiences to contemporary dance

A range of other programs and platforms championing dance across the country, including the one in Sydney March dance, Fat in Canberra and STRUT dance SITU-8 program in Perth (Melbourne’s Dance Massive no longer exists, however a new dance festival is under development by two of its three original broadcast partners, Dancehouse and Arts House).

Nonetheless, Usher said there was a clear need for a Supercell-style festival in Australia.

“The niche that Supercell served had to be an art form specific presentation platform that encompassed everything from commercial dance to avant-garde dance, small, large, high and low and everything in between. “she said.

Without Supercell, Usher continued, “we’re going to find out that there is a green backlog for the dance industry.

“So I wonder about the future; on where the new dance product is going and whether there are other mechanisms or frameworks we can consider to alleviate some of these issues [pressure]. But it’s really unfortunate that for some reason right now a small to medium art form specific presentation organization isn’t high enough on the emergency list.

REFLECTION ON THE LEGACY OF SUPERCELL

As Supercell comes to a close, commemorating its legacy is just as important as mourning the passing of the festival, Usher said.

“Just as we celebrate the success of something new,… it is equally important that we recognize the passage, the turnover, the return to earth and the smooth release of institutions, people and executives who are no longer possible. It’s the life and death of a small or medium-sized presentation organization. It’s something to celebrate, ”she said.

The festival’s passing was also acknowledged by Julie Englefield, executive director of Ausdance Queensland.

“Supercell encouraged experimentation,” said Englefield, “and as a festival it has also evolved continuously. It takes courage to create something new, and courage – in the arts – is a condition prerequisite for extraordinary creation, Supercell has shown courage and relentless tenacity and left the industry better experienced, informed and advised. ‘

Read: The path to inclusiveness for First Nations dancers in Australian ballet

Looking back on Supercell’s legacy, Usher underscored his commitment to developing dance knowledge among Brisbane audiences, supporting the premieres of 32 new Australian dance works and creating a number of resources for the dance sector.

“We opened up a space where people could come together and celebrate dance and I think that’s quite remarkable. One of the stats I like to talk about is 5,000 people [in our audiences] were new to dance, had never experienced contemporary dance before in their life, and we were able to incorporate them into this art form, ”Usher told ArtsHub.

“We also spent a lot of time building knowledge, such as a First Nations Action Plan, which was funded by the Australian Council and supported by BlakDance. It is a wonderful resource. We also independently have an Access and Inclusion Plan to ensure that disability-led activism underpins everything we do. The same goes for cultural inclusion and diversity – it was really fundamental to the values ​​of the festival and this research can be found on our website and is publicly available for anyone who wants to use it as a point of reference ”, she declared.

Supercell has also generated “loads of resources to demonstrate the value of dance,” Usher continued, resources that she hopes will help similar organizations in the future.

“Without a doubt, I think it’s pretty safe to say that we have improved the understanding of what contemporary dance is, but also dance more broadly, through programming and partnerships, which I thinks, is a great legacy to leave behind, ”she concluded. .


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