Lessons in Survival: The De-funding of Restless Dance Theatre


In March 2020, Michelle Ryan, Artistic Director of Restless Dance Theatre, an Australian dance company that includes both disabled and non-disabled dancers, was awarded Australia’s highest dance honour by the Australia Council, the federal arts funding body, for her transformative leadership of the company. Almost simultaneously, the very same Australia Council removed funding support for Restless, threatening the company’s survival. This essay examines Restless’s response to the fundamental incoherence of the Australia Council’s decision and situates it within the broader context of the company’s own evolving practice in disability art, which in effect saw it attempt to create policy in the field. I outline the government policy contexts that underpin both the funding cuts and Restless’s pivot to an alternate source of funding: the ideologically driven ‘culture wars’ underpinning the Coalition government’s hostility to the arts sector, and the establishment of a National Disability Insurance Scheme that enables individual ‘clients’ to access money for arts training. Finally, the essay examines the implications of a dance company receiving funding from a disability service provider rather than from a mainstream arts funding body, questioning whether this is a further ‘ghettoization’ of disability art.


2022 (2)
Artists' Narratives in Cultural Policy and Management Research

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