DMC is a vital force in the independent dance sector in NSW. It is our democratic structure, expansive network and our commitment to shared practice that sets us apart.
We are independent artists who understand first-hand that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
DMC is the only collective-led dance organisation in Australia.
DMC transforms people and communities through dance.
Our mission is to build dance communities and we do this first for the people of Western Sydney. All the work we do engages deeply with those for whom it is meant. People are transformed by dance, and it is our job to facilitate these transformational experiences.
- Evolution: we will continue to grow and transform ourselves and our community.
- Community: we seek to engage deeply with our audience in ways that are meaningful, relevant and inspiring.
- Impact: we aspire to transform people through dance, catalyse change beyond ourselves, and make a lasting positive impression.
- Honouring the Collective: we all continue to collaborate for the shared benefit of our members.
- Being the beacon: we aspire to be a beacon of leadership for the dance community, providing platforms to create sustainable careers for independent dancers.
Our objectives are:
- to produce high quality dance works that reach new audiences and speak meaningfully to them
- to facilitate opportunities for a wide range of communities, groups and people to dance to improve social, physical and mental wellbeing
- to provide a platform for dance learning and exchange, training and the development of the contemporary dance form
- to develop the next generation of dance leaders in New South Wales
DMC was born in 2012 when a group of ten independent dance makers in Sydney gathered to create new work in an environment where local opportunities to do so were slim. Over a few pizzas and some wine, its founding members pitched ideas for short works to each other, and conceived of a program called Big Dance in Small Chunks – ten artists, ten works, ten minutes each.
After that meeting, we met with our now long-time partner and friend FORM Dance Projects in Parramatta and asked them to present our work in their 2013 program, which they took on with great enthusiasm. We asked our friends Legs On The Wall, Bangarra and Sydney Dance Company if we could use their rehearsal spaces to develop the work, undertook a TRIP Residency at Tasdance, ran a crowdfunding campaign and approached a small arts charity Ars Musica Australis for some financial support. We applied for funding to (then) Arts NSW and secured enough funding to start developing the work, which came as a welcome shock to us as a brand new collective of artists, many of us in our first year of practice. We applied in two successive rounds to the Australia Council, unsuccessful both times, but we pushed on anyway and presented the program of works by rehearsing part-time to develop it, and underpaying ourselves.
When Big Dance in Small Chunks premiered in 2013 at Riverside Theatres, it was triumphant. The season was the most highly attended dance show in FORM’s program that year and was awarded Most Significant Dance Event of 2013 in Dance Australia Magazine’s annual critics’ awards. Jill Sykes wrote of the show in the Sydney Morning Herald at the time:
“The first showing by the Dance Makers Collective has imagination, thoughtfulness, individuality, performing ability and commitment. Even a sense of humour. It is a promising start by a group of independent artists in NSW, and worth catching in what will hopefully be a beginning rather than a one-off.”
And it was just the beginning.
And then we decided, we should keep at this…
Following the success of Big Dance in Small Chunks, DMC secured funding and mentorship support through the Australia Council’s (now defunct) JUMP Mentorship program. This enabled us to launch our second project WEBISODES, a series of short dance films created by each of the ten members, our first foray into dance on film which has been viewed by more than 10,000 people since being published online in 2014. In that same year, we supported three of the ten works presented in Big Dance in Small Chunks to be pushed further into longer works, curated in a Triple Bill again presented by FORM Dance Projects at Riverside Theatres, this time in 2015.
In these works, we started working more collaboratively together than we had before. Until this point, we supported each other by working for one another as performers, providing feedback to each other, but essentially each of us were individual makers with ideas for works we wanted to make, to steer alone, with some help from our peers. Our working methodology began to evolve from this relatively common way of making to a much richer, collaborative making process, which shifted even further in our next show.
The game changer
DADS, which premiered in 2016, was a turning point for us and our most ambitious project to date. In DADS, DMC co-choreographed one full-length show. The show was also our first foray into community-engaged practice, where we took up residence at Dance Integrated Australia in the Northern Rivers region of NSW and worked with a local men’s group the Dustyesky Russian Men’s Choir, interviewing them about their dance experiences and recording their rehearsal in the pub in Mullumbimby, which formed the soundtrack for our opening sequence. We collaborated with our fathers, asking them for their advice about the show. They built our set, gave us dance moves, curated the show’s music and provided interview content that threaded together the narrative arc of the work; oh, and they danced with us in the show too!
DADS was shortlisted for the Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Independent Dance in 2017.
After the success of DADS, and proven successes before that with our other three projects, DMC decided to take the next step and transition to a more independent company. Until this point, we relied heavily on our partners because DMC was an unincorporated entity, a group of individual artists with a name to work under, but no formal legal structure. We were, and still are, committed to a democratic model of working where members share not only in the creative process in the studio and on stage, but in the strategic direction of the company. To maintain autonomy over this as a group of artists, DMC formed a partnership of its now 9 members; this enabled us to apply for our own funding and manage our own projects without relying on other incorporated bodies.
Our first transition
As a partnership, DMC secured two successive rounds of strategic funding through Create NSW, a project grant through Create NSW, and a project and career development grant through the Australia Council. The strategic funding rounds we secured, Making Spaces and Emerging Organisations, enabled us to form new partnerships with local councils and Western Sydney based arts companies and local government arts centres including PYT Fairfield, Utp, Blacktown Arts and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.
With this strategic funding DMC piloted new programs that launched in 2019, these were:
- Mobilise (dancer training intensive);
- Future Makers (youth dance company);
- Thrive (schools incursions) and;
- Dance On (dance classes for seniors)
At the same time, DMC seeded a range of new short works with our Making Spaces funding, which allowed us to work in community centres across Western Sydney by giving each member in DMC residency time of 4 weeks across an 18 month period from 2018-2019. Several of these seeded works have had presentation outcomes, these include:
- Marnie and Melanie Palomares’ work The Space Between, a site-specific duet performed at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra as part of the BOLD Festival and at Articulate Project Space in Leichhardt as part of de Quincey co’s PLATFORM 2019;
- Carl Sciberras’ work with collaborator’s Todd Fuller (visual/projection artist) and Mitchell Mollison (composer) Figure Out, a live drawing, live sound, live dance performance installation for children performed at the WOW Festival at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre;
- Rosslyn Wythes’ Converge/\Diverge, a series of collaborative projects with ceramicist Holly Macdonald which have been presented in Brussels;
- And Rosslyn Wythes’ Eco 1000, a site-specific solo about the Bathurst 1000 performed as part of ArtState 2018
Making Spaces also seeded a new duet between DMC members Katina Olsen (Wakka Wakka and Kombumerri woman) and Anya McKee called Woman’s Work, to be presented in 2023.
And then we matured
Whilst piloting these programs, and developing and presenting these short works, DMC also developed The Rivoli, which was an even more ambitious community-engaged project than DADS which had a sold-out premiere season at Sydney Festival in January 2020. With funding from Create NSW, Cumberland Council, City of Parramatta, the Australia Council and Sydney Festival, this large-scale site-specific work brought together members of the local community, DMC’s new youth company Future Makers, a live swing band and 8 DMC performers at Granville Town Hall.
Given the breadth and scope of our program and projects, DMC became an incorporated association in 2019 and established a volunteer board consisting of members of the company and skilled professionals working outside DMC.
Once establishing ourselves as a company, DMC successfully secured for the first time Annual Program Funding through Create NSW. This funding enabled us to continue our programs in 2020 as resident company at PYT Fairfield. The General Manager and Engagement Officer, DMC members Carl Sciberras and Melanie Palomares, worked side-by-side with the remaining collective members to design and create opportunities for artists and the public to engage in rich dance experiences. This flat organisational structure enabled us to lead together and adapt the program based on the emergence of ideas from within the company, and in response to opportunities that arise externally that align with our values and objectives.
During the years of the COVID pandemic, despite significant disruption and adaptation, DMC became a Create NSW multi-year funded company.
In 2021, DMC premiered a new site-specific work In Situ in Sydney Festival, a promenade dance performance made by 10 exceptional freelance choreographers and performed by our youth company Future Makers, in the surrounds of Parramatta Park. In 2021, DMC raised significant government support through COVID support packages and funnelled all of it to independent artists who, during the pandemic, were experiencing the greatest financial distress. We commissioned 32 artists to create performances (Home Bodies) and recordings (Iso-somatic Sessions) to provide relief to distressed communities in lockdown, while our 7-venue national tour dwindled to a 1-night-only performance in Bathurst.
In November 2021, DMC finally found a permanent home, LOT7 on Dharug/Darug country, making us the only dance company in Sydney with its own self-managed property, a space we have and will continue to make home for the wider dance community. In 2021, DMC employed 75+ dance makers and spent more than $260,000 in paying artists, which represents more than 80% of our expenses.
In 2022, DMC will undertook a national tour of The Rivoli to regional town halls in NSW, Victoria and WA. We will also premiered Resurgence, a triple bill of works with our youth company, including 1 co-devised work by the young artists themselves, and works by Kristina Chan and Jasmin Sheppard. We commenced Rapport, our transnational exchange partnership with South East Dance in Brighton in the UK, sending Emma Harrison and Amy Flannery to Brighton to undertake a residency at The Dance Space.
DMC is an exceptionally nimble creative enterprise that provides opportunities for artists in Sydney to create work together, and for a range of other demographic groups to engage in dance in various ways. We are a leader in our area of practice and exist as a beacon for others not only in dance, but in the arts more broadly, seeking to change the status-quo and forge new and better ways of operating.