• Ev and Bow student Isabella Colluccio.
    Ev and Bow student Isabella Colluccio.

Australian dancers are often said to have a special quality compared with overseas counterparts. But what is it exactly? Emma Sandall investigates.

Do Australian dancers have a unique style or distinctive quality? What role does our environment play in forming our identity as Australian dancers?

Many Australians who have danced overseas are familiar with the notion of this “Australian identity”, but what it actually constitutes remains elusive. Sometimes likened to spaciousness or a generosity of movement, the style is variously described as “open”, “bold”, “athletic” or “physical”. But if this were so, what of the Russian and the American dancers? They too are generous in their movement, possibly more so.

Although I don’t believe breadth of movement or spaciousness is essentially the distinctive quality of Australian dancers, I do feel that space plays an important role in shaping an Australian dancer’s identity. It is not so much how we move, but how we present, the effect of our environment imbuing a freshness, openness and warmth. The so-called generosity is in our skin, our eyes and our expression, rather than the expansiveness of our port de bras.

Having danced around the world in all manner of spaces and places, and felt the influence of environment even in small doses, I have no doubt that growing up beneath high blue skies, in broad open spaces and enveloped in warmer air, shapes the way we develop. Certainly our training and our cultural heritage play an important role. But it is the amalgamation of these components which forms the overall character or quality – just as it is the soil, nourishment and then culture’s gentle persuasion which give a wine its distinctiveness. . .

– This is the start of Emma Sandall's intelligent analysis of what makes Australians different, published in the current (April/May) issue of Dance Australia. Buy it from your favourite retail outlet, or subscribe here or use our free app to purchase and download your copy!

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