Unstoppable Force In Australia’s Arts Landscape
Force Majeure Defunded by Newly Shrunk Australia Council
“Is this really contemporary dance? Is it really theatre?
Does it matter? It’s Force Majeure and it’s brilliant”
– Stage Noise
Australia’s leading dance theatre company, Force Majeure, has had its federal funding completely cut in the latest round of Australia Council for the Arts’ four year funding for organisations.
This announcement comes at the height of the company’s productivity since its inception 14 years ago, and after the recent increase of support by Arts NSW for the company’s renewed triennial funding, delivering Force Majeure the highest grant in its art form. Dedicated to the creation of new, devised work that reflects on contemporary Australian life, the organisation has continually delivered extraordinary returns on investment. Senior arts leader Michael Lynch CBE AM says “This is an outrageous decision to defund Force Majeure. The Australia Council is in an invidious situation that lies directly at the Government’s door. Malcolm Turnbull has seriously let down the arts community. I am incredibly disappointed.”
News of this complete funding cut comes as the company moves into its busiest period. Never Did Me Any Harm, its co-production with Sydney Theatre Company, will embark on a national tour to 10 regional venues across four states; Jump First, Ask Later will tour to Arts Centre Melbourne and Sydney Opera House; and Off The Record will have its world premiere at Carriageworks in August, where Force Majeure is a resident company. Carriageworks’ Director Lisa Havilah says: “Force Majeure consistently makes extraordinary Australian dance theatre.”
Force Majeure is just one of many small-to-medium companies that have been defunded by the newly shrunk Australia Council. These companies are the life-blood of the country’s cultural sector. Sydney Festival Artistic Director Wesley Enoch says: “The decision not to fund Force Majeure is a blow for the company and also Festivals like ours. These cuts run the risk of restricting the national flow of high quality, adventurous and future-focussed work in the arts ecology.”
Funding cuts to companies like KAGE and Legs On The Wall also means that the future of the dance theatre artform in Australia is in jeopardy. In 2015, 63 artists were employed by Force Majeure for a total of 191 weeks, an incredible feat for a company of its size. Without companies like Force Majeure, reliable employment for Australia’s leading artists will disappear.
“By any criteria, Force Majeure has been an incredibly successful company. We have been in constant demand from audiences and presenters across Australia and the world for our unique capacity to reflect on our humanity in ways that are both profound and accessible. The Artists, Management and Board of Force Majeure have spent 14 years building an artistically ambitious yet fiscally responsible institution. It is devastating that overnight this has all been put at risk as a result of incoherent policies from a Government that seemingly neither understands nor cares about our sector”, said Chair of the Board of Directors, Jo Dyer.
Force Majeure has collaborated with some of Australia’s leading artists and organisations including Sydney Festival, Australian Theatre for Young People, Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir, Performance Space and Accessible Arts. The company has also continued its commitment to nurturing and championing the next generation of dance theatre makers and leaders in the country including independent artists Byron Perry, Kristina Chan, Timothy Ohl and Ghenoa Gela, recent recipient of the 2016 Keir Choreographic Award. Since its inception the company has supported the development of more than 350 Australian artists. Australian Director Neil Armfield AO says “Force Majeure is one of Australia’s crucial laboratory companies – the health of our creative ecology depends on the work done there. It seeds our future.”
In 2015 alone Force Majeure world premiered two new Australian works — the sell-out Nothing to Lose at Carriageworks for Sydney Festival and Malthouse Theatre for Dance Massive; and Jump First, Ask Later, a co-production with Powerhouse Youth Theatre in Western Sydney. In 2016, the company has two new works in development including Off The Record, a collaboration with Carriageworks and Dance Integrated Australia that sees artists with and without disability working to create a unique, fully accessible dance theatre production as part of the Carriageworks New Normal Disability Program.
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