Born from the passion of one person and continued with the passion of many is probably the best way that Dancenorth can be described as it celebrated its 30th anniversary as a professional dance company in 2015.
Over the years Townsville’s own professional dance company has given voice to the creativity of numerous artistic voices – many who have gone on to be leaders in the arts. In the company’s long history we are constantly coming across people whose association with Dancenorth is recalled with great affection.
It all began in 1969 when legendary Townsville dance personality, Ann Roberts, placed $100 on the table during a public meeting and the North Queensland Ballet and Dance Company was born.
Ms Roberts was tired of seeing talented dancers move south and abroad to pursue their careers and from its first moments the company was a success. From its debut performance at the Theatre Royal in April 1970, the company continued for the next 15 years as a pro-am company with local and visiting professional choreographers working with Townsville’s finest dancing talent.
In 1985 the company became a fully professional contemporary dance company under the aegis of inaugural artistic director Cheryl Stock and general manager Lorna Hempstead. Together these two extraordinary women worked tirelessly – with the help of many others in the community – to form the company that we now know as Dancenorth.
Cheryl not only instituted a policy of producing contemporary Australian works, but also struck and maintained strong community links in Townsville. During her time, Dance North (as it was then known) achieved national and international recognition, not only from the cross-section of creators who collaborated on work here, but understandably from the standard of work that was generated here which was seen extensively throughout Australia and South East Asia.
After 11 years in the helm, Cheryl was succeeded by Wendy Wallace in 1995 as acting artistic director, and the following year Graeme Watson was appointed to be succeeded in 1997 by Ann Roberts’ daughter, Jane Pirani.
As Dancenorth’s fourth artistic director in 1997, during the next seven years one of Jane’s most successful productions was a ground-breaking collaboration with the Mornington Island dancers, called Luuli – which was seen by more than 30,000 Australians.
When Gavin Webber took up the artistic directorship reins between 2005 and 2008, the company became known as Dancenorth and Webber’s works were seen throughout Australia, South East Asia and Europe. The company also won great national recognition with awards including a Green Room Award for best dance ensemble for Underground; and a Helpmann nomination for Webber as a dancer for roadkill.
New Zealander Raewyn Hill began her tenure in 2010 and during the next four years she maintained the impetus with a Helpmann nomination for Best Ballet or Dance Work for MASS in 2012 and revived the community work.
In 2015 Dancenorth began a new chapter with a bold new artistic structure aimed at developing its programs, revitalising activities and diversifying performance.
The artistic leadership of the company is now headed by Kyle Page , who began his professional life in dance with Dancenorth in 2005. Working with the company’s newly-appointed, eminent and nationally renowned artistic advisors – Prof Cheryl Stock and Bradley Chatfield (former Dancenorth rehearsal director and now Head of Dance with ACPA in Brisbane) – the artistic future of the company is extremely exciting.
NORTH QUEENSLAND BALLET COMPANY (1970 – 1984)
ASSISTANT DIRECTORS/RESIDENT CHOREOGRAPHERS (1976 – 1982)
1982: Maggi Sietsma (last director of amateur company)
1981 Anthony Shearsmoth (Assistant Artistic Director/ Choreographer)
1980 Merrilee Macourt (Assistant Artistic Director/Choreographer)
1979 Gary Hill (Assistant Director/Choreographer)
1978 Gary Hill (Associate Director/Choreographer)
1976 Gerrard Sibbritt (Associate Director/Choreographer)
DANCE NORTH (1985 – PRESENT)
2014 – Present Kyle Page
2010 – 2014 Raewyn Hill
2005 – 2008 Gavin Webber
1997 – 2005 Jane Pirani
1996 – 1997 Graeme Watson
1995 – 1996 Wendy Wallace
1985 – 1994 Cheryl Stock (first director of professional company)
2018 - Present Hillary Coyne
2016 - 2017 Deanna Smart
2012 -2015 Trevor Keeling
2011 -2012 Peter Helft
2007-2010 Jo Fisher
2005 – 2006 Trevor Keeling
2000 – 2004 Henry Laska
1997 – 1999 Joanne Keune
1996 – 1997 Leanne Gunnelson/Alex Rhodes
1985 – 1995 Lorna Hempstead (first general manager of professional company)