• Rebecca Jensen in 'Slip'. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti.
    Rebecca Jensen in 'Slip'. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti.
  • 'A Certain Mumble': Janelle Tan Yung Huey (front) and Amelia O'Leary. Photo by Alliah Nival.
    'A Certain Mumble': Janelle Tan Yung Huey (front) and Amelia O'Leary. Photo by Alliah Nival.

A new biennial dance festival called FRAME has been announced. It has risen from the ashes of Dance Massive, which was born in 2009 in Melbourne and had its last run in 2019.

"This new festival is the result of extended consultation with the dance community and audiences about how we can reinvigorate the biennial festival, to reflect more of what dancers and audiences want – more collaboration," Dancehouse director Josh Wright says.

The festival, which will run throughout March, promises to be a fresh new take on dance performance. It explores dance "as an expanded field… something more than traditional works cultivated in black box studios', Wright says.

 "We are curating an environment where audiences can have a relationship with the work … a festival that is porous between the wider community, organisations and dance artists."

What this means in practice is building a "curatorium": a panel of artists, organisation representatives and technicians who will collaborate to create dance works that engage audiences interactively.

"We are including different modes of thinking into the festival," Priya Namana, who is a member of the curatorium and leader of the Centre for Projection Art. "Using the varied skills and technology we have available, we are curating interdisciplinary works that combine audiovisual and site-specific elements."

One of the works on the program, for example, is a video-based installation at the Abbotsford Convent multi-arts precinct that will use Artificial Intelligence to automate gesture and movement in humorous new ways.

"Across the projects we are cultivating emergent ways of thinking and interdisciplinary practice, using video, dance and gesture and sound and lighting," Namana says.

Dance luminary Lillian Steiner is also a member of the curatorium. "Dance will shape-shift in the FRAME festival," she says, taking the form of performances, Q&As, talks and written material. "I hope that FRAME will bring attention to the importance and power of dance not only as an artform, but also as a way of being together, communicating, and finding deep understanding of one another."

Normally, dance festivals have a hierarchical structure, with a singular artistic director making executive decisions on curation. FRAME differs, with the curatorium being a diverse and decentralised model where new ideas are welcomed and, as Wright says, "plurality is celebrated".

Indeed, the 20 members of the curatorium had extensive deliberations over which works were commissioned and will meet after the festival to review the works for further iterations. "I think that one of the biggest powers dance holds is that it makes us think about our bodies and consider the nature of our humanness. I feel that it’s the responsibility of such festivals to keep reminding us to reflect on this, and to offer prompts for consideration, conversation and action,’ Steiner says.

Steiner offers her own work as an example of this potential. "My project Dance Becomes Her is a lo-fi lecture-performance that addresses the ways that dance and embodied knowledge are shared between and archived within bodies across time. It articulates thoughts on this topic through simultaneous dancing and speaking. These two ‘languages’ collide/mix/slip past each other in ways that help to articulate and demonstrate the subject, in ways that either form operating alone cannot."

Like Dance Massive, FRAME will be held across multiple venues, such as Arts House in North Melbourne and the Substation in Newport.

It is hoped that FRAME will expand the dance community beyond the scope of previous dance festivals, inviting "first-time dance audiences", as Steiner says, showing that dance performance is relevant and exciting again.


The full program is expected to be released on Feb 3.

The FRAME curatorium panel comprises Alisdair MacIndoe, Lz Dunn, Amos Gebhardt, Ngioka Bunda-Heath, Antony Hamilton, Olivia Adams, Deanne Butterworth, Phillip Adams, Feras Shaheen, Priya Srinivasan, Jennifer Ma, Rachel Coulson, Jo Lloyd, Raina Peterson, Jonathan Homsey, Raka Maitra, Lilian Steiner, Victoria Chiu and Lucy Guerin.

For more information go here.

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