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Dancing in the street, on the beach, in refugee camps


A feature-length documentary film produced by Associate Professor Nicholas Rowe of the Dance Studies programme, Dancing7Cities, reclaims our right to dance, wherever we want.

The film was recently awarded Best Documentary Feature for the 2019 Rethink Dance Film Festival in the US, a festival dedicated to advancing human rights and social justice, and has been selected to screen at film festivals this year, in the US, Jordan, China and Palestine.

Dancing7Cities features community dance groups, from senior citizens to young refugees, exploring their hometowns through dance. It follows them dancing in alleyways, on public transport, through buildings and around public spaces in Lebanon, Fiji, Italy, Finland, Laos, Palestine and Australia.

The film was produced by Dr Rowe over nine years, initially conceived as a series of short films and a two-year project. It is also narrated by him. “Do we shape cities, or do cities shape us,” he asks in the film. “Our bodies are connected to the people, and the places that surround us. The architecture, public spaces, the cultures and histories, all prompt us to move in different ways.”

For Dancing7Cities he invited community dance groups to explore their own suburban environment through dance, to effectively “reanimate” their cities. The film captures their behind the scenes workshops, as they create and film dance, and follows them as they explore different parts of their cities to dance in. Rowe says, “They came up with a variety of ideas, and not necessarily the most beautiful locations; a train station, an alleyway, underneath the bridge. Places that were meaningful to them, where they could look at the physical possibilities of those locations, and what they could do there that they couldn’t do in a studio.”

Dr Rowe is a graduate of the Australian Ballet School, has choreographed and performed with the Finnish National Ballet, Australian Ballet, Sydney Dance Company, Royal New Zealand Ballet and more. In the last two decades he has worked as a community dance artist in a range of regions of the world, often with marginalised communities.

Filming, says Dr Rowe, removes the performance anxiety often associated a stage performance. “We did lot of workshops on using the camera, so people got used to the camera, and would disregard it. So it was about deconstructing that sense of performance.”

It was also reclaiming people’s right to dance. People have always danced, he says, but our inclination to dance has been “whittled away by modern and classical dance traditions. This is about reclaiming that legacy, encouraging people to use dance to explore and respond to their own urban environments.”


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