Current Issue #488

Restless Dance Theatre 'devastated' after shock Australia Council funding loss

Shane Reid
Restless Dance Theatre’s Seeing Through Darkness, directed by Michelle Ryan, is slated to be performed at AGSA in October

Last Friday the Australia Council for the Arts announced the successful recipients of its 2021-2024 Four Year Funding for Organisations. But while nearly 100 organisations around the country were awarded a place in the next cycle, there have been some notable South Australian omissions.

Although local organisations including Australian Dance Theatre, Australian String Quartet, ACE Open, JamFactory and Patch Theatre were among the 95 successful national applicants, including 28 new additions, Restless Dance Theatre has failed to hold onto its current level of peer-selected funding into 2021-2024 in a surprise blow to the company.

“Restless Dance Theatre is devastated by the news that the company’s application for multi-year funding (2021-24) was unsuccessful,” Restless Dance artistic director Michelle Ryan said in a statement. “As the only dance company that provides professional career pathways for artists with disability, this decision puts Restless in a very precarious position. We strive to create bold new work that celebrates diversity on stage but our wings have now been clipped.”

Like many organisations in a similar boat, Restless Dance will be granted a one-year lifeline of transitionary funding in light of the current COVID-19 crisis. The Art Gallery of South Australia will also gain similar support, however in a statement a spokesperson said that AGSA had received an equivalent increase in funding through the Australia Council’s Visual Arts and Craft Strategy National Priorities funding 2021-2024 that.

The news of Restless’ omission is made all the more surprising by the fact Ryan was awarded the Australia Council Dance Award for her years of work in the sector in March.

Gregory Lorenzatti
Caleena Sansbury and Katina Olsen perform in Taree Sansbury’s mi:wi

Meanwhile Port Adelaide institution Vitalstatistix, which lost its funding in 2016 following the Brandis-era cuts to the Australia Council’s funding pool, has failed to regain a place at the table. In a message to its supporters, Vitalstatistix director Emma Webb said the organisation was “extremely disappointed” by the news. “This latest funding outcome for Vitals does not technically represent a loss of funding, unlike some of our colleagues such as the brilliant Restless Dance Theatre – among many others – to whom our hearts go out: we know the devastating shock of such an announcement.

“However, for Vitals and many others, this heartbreaking result does represent a loss – one of potential, of work for artists, of new Australian art and culture, of the capacity to realise our vision for progressive contemporary art and community life.”

Webb also expressed her disappointment with the “impotent” state of the Australia Council, which she said seems “in the business of palliative care at the moment”. She particularly criticised the apparent failure by the Australia Council to successfully lobby for additional, industry-specific support for the arts sector in the wake of the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis. 

While the Australia Council has unveiled a $5 million Resilience Fund of cash pulled together by cancelling select future programs, the federal government has outlined no dedicated assistance measures for the arts industry outside of more wide reaching JobKeeper programs.

Read the full statement from Michelle Ryan here

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer and editor living on Kaurna Country.

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