Critical Dialogues #6 Intercultural April 2016

Truly proud to be Commissioning Editor for Critical Path’s latest edition of ‘Critical Dialogues’ Issue #6. Highlighting ‘Speak Local’ at Critical Path last November and intercultural practice by established artists, academics and curators. Edition #6 was launched in early April and focuses on intercultural dance practice with contributions by nine artists, academics and curators. The introduction frames my immediate purpose for asking each one of these writers to give an overview (but not definitive) of the current scene and of our past. Each most importantly to offers a framework for where might sit in the global scene and a context politically, in Australia and internationally and using Critical Path’s Speak Local 2015 event as the spring board for a shared discussion.

Contributors are (in print order): Dr Cheryl Stock, Paschal Berry, Yeewhan Yeo, Annalouise Paul, David D’Silva, Alan Schacher and WeiZen Ho, Sumathi Krishnan, Dr Laura Osweiler and Peter Kennard with Claire Hicks, Director, Critical Path kindly adding some of her views. A very special thanks to Margie Medlin for this wonderful opportunity and to Zsuzsi Soboslay for brilliant editing support.

I have included my intro in full below and a link to the complete edition. Download or read for FREE here:

Critical Dialogues #6   Introduction By Annalouise Paul

Why intercultural? Well, much like cross-cultural, transcultural or multicultural it’s really just another label, which is useful in this context as it underpins this Critical Dialogues edition with nine articles that include reflections on practice, academic theories and curatorial provocations.

Biodiversity is my preferred descriptive for the intersection of multilayered cultures within one larger arts eco-system. Intercultural practice speaks across, between and inside cultures through artistic collaboration, hybrid practice, immersion and connection into country, ancestral roots and Diasporas.

I believe our unique cultural bio-diversity can pioneer artistic innovation. Newly arrived artists and artists from second and third generations of immigrant families are versatile and inventive because they’ve had to be. Creative processes are highly adaptive by virtue of not having easy access to homelands, cultural elders, financial resources or support to specialise in a particular form. The tyranny of distance we all have as Australians is their opportunity for innovation and to better understand where they live. And this work challenges us to see ourselves as part of a collective Australian identity. The result is authentic, confident and culturally rich contemporary practice that is inspired by its local surroundings and a collective history.

Intercultural is also that in-between place where cultures and art forms almost meet. The world is a messy place, things are unknown and there are tensions but that’s an exciting space to think about and to explore in creatively, because the possibilities are endless. And it’s an honest reflection of our world right now.

The residue of Australia’s Multiculturalism, assimilation policies and cultural stereotyping is subsiding for many artists from the non-dominant cultures in Australia. Cultural dance has generally meant folkloric, community and heritage forms. These have not been regularly included in funding project excellence or in curated arts programs but more often relegated to community cultural development activity. Here again dance artists operating in both cultural and western forms find themselves in the liminal space creatively, but also liminal within the wider dance sector that operates from Western-European modes of dance exploration. The works face challenges of cultural navigation and creation that must be produced and critiqued on its own terms, aesthetics, values and frameworks rather than through a European lens or sensibility.

Multicultural NSW proposes that by 2020 New South Wales will be the most culturally diverse place in the world. The latest Census showed that forty-seven percent of Australians were either born overseas or have overseas-born parents, and that Australians identify with over 300 ancestries and languages. The Scanlon Foundation’s latest report showed it’s the 18-34 year olds that most embrace cultural diversity and ‘smashing cultural stereotypes’ was a key priority.

The pioneers of modern dance – Isadora Duncan, Doris Humphrey, Ruth St. Denis and Martha Graham, Ted Shawn, Agnes De Mille, infused Oriental movement into their ballet languages. Australia has a much shorter dance history of contemporary-cultural dance exploration by comparison but imagine fifty years from now who we’ll be and works that will emerge as our national identity evolves.


As co-curator for the inaugural Speak Local with former Critical Path Director, Margie Medlin, part of the vision was to showcase the widest diversity of practices as possible of artists who share that in-between space of non-western and western forms and concepts and processes. This proposition for a curation did not begin from a place marginalisation or disadvantage but from a shared understanding of the liminal spaces that we inhabit; the hybridism of cultural practices and the transmission of ancestral lineages.

Claire Hicks, Critical Path’s new director wrote the following in response to Speak Local:

What do we mean? Critical Path. When we talk about intercultural dance…

The interrelation of different cultures through dance

The interrelation of people from different cultures who engage in dance

The interrelation of dances from different cultural backgrounds

So intercultural dance doesn’t fall into that rather disturbing hole of colonialisation and racism. Or does it? I’m still a little worried about all of this. We don’t live in a world where people have hermetically sealed cultures anymore, but we do want to be respectful of people’s different cultures.

Photo: Heidrun Lohr


Critical Dialogues edition 6 highlights reflections of the presentations at Speak Local and Interchange Festival as a springboard into wider considerations on process, practice, festival curation and labels. Alan Schacher and WeiZen Ho discuss the ‘unknown’ of hybridity and how they feel about the label of intercultural in their collaborative work. David D’Silva suggests the liminal space is supra cultural and that collaboration allows him to deepen his intercultural understanding.

Cheryl Stock presents a comprehensive overview of the history and intersections between Australian-born Asian artists since 1985, Dance in Malaysia and Indonesia and our current artists followed by Paschal Berry’s unfettered diary entries as a poetic reflection of his literary and performance work in Australia and the Philippines. Yeehwan Yeoh and Sumathi Krishnan observe the curation of major and grassroots Australian festivals; OZAsia, Parramasala, Interchange and Sydwahney which specifically support and present imported and local contemporary cultural explorations by Asian and Australian artists.

Laura Osweiler shares her Middle Eastern and contemporary dance practice in relation to Edward Soja’s Thirdspace and Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomatic theories. I have included thoughts on my new solo work FORGE currently in progress and a trip to Spain and musician-composer Peter Kennard, suggests that we are at the tipping point of intercultural practice in Australia and it’s time to close the gap between artistic collaboration and its disjuncture in the market place.

This collection of articles may serve as an archive and resource, but hopefully, also provides a much-needed contribution to Dance writing on intercultural practice in Australia. It aims to contextualise some of the work being made at this time and perhaps place a cement footprint in our Dance landscape, something I feel has been missing for a long time. Collective artistic genetics must be anchored, lest we forget our own pioneers and their legacies. This art is not necessarily on the current national agenda of excellence, derivative neither of western canon nor of cultural placement, but something wonderfully unique in between.