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Choreographing the Future of Djaadjawan Dancers

With $20,000 funding from Arts NSW through the Aboriginal Arts and Cultural fund, a *Quick Response grant from Regional Arts NSW and expertise of South East Arts, Yuin woman, Sharon Mason is choreographing a steady-footed future for herself and her women’s dance group, Djaadjawan Dancers.

An excited Sharon spoke to Robyne Young about her dream of practising traditional dance, her goal to inspire others and her return to her home of Narooma.

I didn’t train as a dancer but it was a dream of mine to practise traditional dance and inspired by the Doonooch Dancers from my home town of Narooma, to establish and develop a traditional women’s dance group. The Djaadjawan Dancers was formed after a women’s camp.

I’d been in Sydney for 16 years, working some of that time with the Sydney Foreshore Authority sharing Aboriginal culture about the Gadigal people and the surrounding tribes of the Sydney Harbour area, but knew the time had come for me to come home.

You recently attended the Birrang Creative Business Course at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School – one of the partners in the Birrang program. Can you tell us what you gained by attending the course?

It was great. I made some deadly contacts there. Everyone was professional and helpful and I just wanted to absorb everything I could. There’s so much to think about and organise. It’s so overwhelming – a very different ball game to just dancing, but over the four days of the course everything was made so clear. We were given advice on every aspect of running a business from legal to marketing and funding and resourcing. I felt I was being mentored through the four days from people who know the dance and theatre industry.

It’s helped me to put together my business plan, and now with the funding from Arts NSW I’ll be able to take that further with Monica Davidson from Freelance Success as my mentor. We’ll be able to make a new website. We’ve already had some professional photos taken. As well I get to go along to a creative development day at Bundanon and the Saltwater Freshwater Festival in Coffs Harbour next year.

I understand the funding will also contribute to the creation of new works…

That’s right. Jo Clancy from Wagana Dancers that operates around the Blue Mountains and Central West areas will run the workshops and we’ll take the dance we create to a number of festivals next year. It’s really exciting and already we’re starting to work on the costumes.

Getting the funding means so much and I had help from South East Arts in applying for it.

Sharon, the Djaadjawan Dancers are in high demand. Can you tell us about some of the places you’ve performed this year?

We’ve performed at most of the South Coast festivals including Four Winds, South Coast Festival of Nations, the Eurobodalla River of Art Festival and the Narooma Oyster Festival. As well we visit and perform at local schools and in June we danced in support of the Sistas Speak Fashion Parade. We’re also in demand for events during Naidoc Week and Land Council celebrations.

We’ve been travelling up to La Perouse for the First Hand Workshops and Markets and performing there on the first Sunday of the month. It’s a great opportunity for us to show people traditional dance and for people to experience other aspects of aboriginal arts and culture.

The performing gives us the chance to perform our new dances and I hope inspire others to want to learn traditional dance.

 Visit Djaadjawan Dancers on Facebook

*Funding is available from Regional Arts NSW to support applicants in attending the Birrang program. Please contact Anthony Walker, RANSW Aboriginal Arts Development Officer, on 9270 2501.

Applications for Birrang’s next business course in Lismore close 1 September. Details of upcoming Birrang programs are available here