Australian creativity shines at the Thomas Dixon Centre

By Cassandra Houghton

Australian creativity stars at the Thomas Dixon Centre

Brisbane and interstate dance and music collaborations, towering greenery sculptures from Sydney and a carpet art installation with Indigenous influences: there’s a theme running through the redeveloped Thomas Dixon Centre and it’s distinctly Australian.

The opening of Brisbane’s new performing arts centre in late 2021 offers home company Queensland Ballet an exciting new opportunity to explore, promote, and celebrate Australian art in our West End space.

Providing a sacred space for emerging and established artists across all artforms, the art created and performed at the Thomas Dixon Centre will be diverse, born of collaboration and connection, and deeply respectful of First Nations’ culture.

Thomas Dixon Centre Head of Programming Sarah Boon says Queensland Ballet’s (QB) commitment to Australian art was front of mind.

“Supporting Australian artists and arts workers is fundamental to the present and future of the creative industries sector in Queensland and something Queensland Ballet sees as an underpinning philosophy to the organisation,” she says.

“By continuing to support the engagement of Australian artists at QB - dancers, dramaturgs, choreographers, set designers, the list goes on – we continue to support innovation and growth in the creative industries sector and development of our creative talent, while also respecting our heritage.

“It’s important to remember that we are not only supporting our Australian artists and audiences but also investing in developing a creative society.”

One commissioned art piece is by Aboriginal artist Judy Watson, whose stunning ‘story-teller’ carpets feature images of baler and pipi shells, casuarina branches and bunya leaves fused with ‘listening springs’ and seeds and local bird’s feathers, interwoven with tulle and fabricated feather from the Queensland Ballet costume department.

Another by New South Wales-based artist Jamie North is titled ‘Ensemble’, and comprises a trilogy of tall, dynamic columns gracing the forecourt of the Thomas Dixon Centre. Made from slag, a by-product of iron, the industrial looking columns then cascade with lush, native Queensland plant life.

The thread of Australian creativity weaves through to the theatre, too.

QB’s procured Australia Council for the Arts Major Performing Arts (MPA) Collaborative grant has resulted in three new short-form Australian dance works and three new Australian compositions for 2021. Greater than the sum of their parts, these three performance art pieces will be richer in content and execution for having diverse creative input. Each work reflects the unique artistic practice of its creative team and performance artists.

First Nations choreographer Daniel Riley who hails from the Wiradjuri nation of Western NSW, is a QUT graduate, choreographer, dancer, teacher and producer and current Creative Associate at ILBIJERRI Theatre Company. His creative credits include choreography for Bangarra Dance Theatre and Sydney Dance Company. His piece for QB’s 2021 Bespoke incorporates a collaboration with James Henry - a Melbourne-based composer and sound designer who writes various blends of traditional Aboriginal and contemporary genres.

Meanwhile Australasian Dance Collective (ADC) Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth (a long-standing collaborator with QB) will premiere her collaboration with QB and award-winning Australian musician Katie Noonan as a short film at the Queensland Dance Film festival as part of the Thomas Dixon Centre’s opening celebrations. Noonan will be arranging a selection of her music with performers from Brisbane’s Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts.

Complementing these works are pieces for QB’s Bespoke season by respected Australian choreographers Natalie Weir, Jack Lister, Paul Boyd, Daniel Riley and Rani Luther, whose piece From. To. Here, features a score by Australian composer Robert Davidson, performed by Camerata.

The QB Ballet Mistress and Creative Associate/Choreographer/Bespoke Facilitator says she was immediately drawn to his sounds when she was seeking music for her dance piece.

“His music took me on a journey which is exactly what I was looking for in my piece From. To. Here. It has a flowing, epic beauty with tinges of longing and hope at the same time,” Rani says.

“With his many years of experience, I found him in person to be so wise and kind and very generous with his ideas and spirit. I am so happy I chose to collaborate with him, as the score has far exceeded my expectations.”

The intention of the MPA collaborations was to bring together the energy and creativity of small to medium and independent artists. Artists have been chosen for the collective benefit of all of the people and communities of Queensland.

With the new Thomas Dixon Centre as a cultural hub, getting artists together within and across arts forms and arts sectors helps build networks and structure for creativity. This gives fire to energy and opportunity to share information and skills, and from that, magic unfolds.

Image: Queensland Ballet dancers by David Kelly


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