By Lucinda Coleman


In Australia, funding for the small-medium and independent arts sectors has decreased significantly in the past few years (Caust, 2019; Pledger, 2018, 2019). A small number of MPA (major performing arts) companies are the recipients of most federal and state government arts funding; a political decision David Pledger calls “counter-intuitive, poor business and immoral” (2018, para. 4). While Remnant Dance has not received a large number of government grants, the ripple effect of policy has nonetheless infiltrated our practice in very real ways. As Alison Croggon has observed, “independent artists (which is to say, most artists)–commonly referred to as the lifeblood of Australian arts culture–are exhausted” (2019, para. 11). There is a genuine need for a “strong arts policy (Australia doesn’t have a national arts policy at all) with diversity at its core” (Arvanitakis, 2019, para. 24). Furthermore, a frightening trend notes “mid-career and senior artists are opting out altogether with attrition rates stripping the culture of a whole generation of knowledge and practice” (Pledger, 2019, para. 26). The Australian arts sector is under pressure and struggling for survival. As practising performance artists, we understand:

Stress in the arts isn’t new: the cultural economy has always been under-resourced and over-worked. But in recent years a combination of digital disruption, economic downturn, political mismanagement and ideologically driven funding cuts have shifted struggle to crisis. 

Croggon, 2019, para. 24 

Within the context of serious crisis, we feel a quietly insistent tug to evaluate our Remnant Dance collective practice: the things we are making, and how we are making them.


Despite working within Australia’s “discriminatory funding regime” (Pledger, 2018, para. 8), Remnant Dance has been blessed with unusual levels of support, encouragement and advocacy, since inception in 2010. Our collective model has provided a unique space for experimental dance-making approaches. Many individuals have contributed, challenged, and collaborated in developing our artistic processes through participatory arts practices. Group dynamics have shaped creative outcomes. We ourselves have been refined. Our work has informed and delighted us. 

However, as we give serious thought to our artistic future, we struggle with the viability of inviting other artists to work within the collective model. The challenge to maintain the collective infrastructure has diverted our attention from the creative act of making new dance works. As Alison Croggon has commented:

Increasingly, small organisations are pushed towards project funding, supplementing their core work with novel initiatives to attract money. The labour of actually getting work made and out into the public is getting harder and harder to finance. 

2019, para. 39

Investing in the collective model has been further complicated by startling social and political shifts in the current cultural landscape. The public announcement of the closure of Australia’s dance advocacy body, Ausdance National (Ausdance, 5/8/2019), was rapidly followed by members’ vote to support “an alternative option to maintain the organisation” (Ausdance, 9/12/2019). While members were seeking ways to retain the National organisation, closer to our home, Ausdance WA announced it that it did not “have funds to maintain our core operations throughout 2020 . . . [and now] will be operating in a ‘holding pattern’” (AusdanceWA, 2019). Then most recently, the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced the federal arts department would be absorbed into a new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, as from February, 2020, a decision which, according to Esther Anatolitis, “makes this step of removing the name of the arts ministry a massive backwards step culturally for Australia” (Baker, 2019, para. 8).

The cultural shifts in the past decade have shaped our work, and ongoing cultural shifts in the present invite us to give consideration to our own next steps, moving forward.


Our challenge is to respond wisely to shifting societal changes. “Today, the ecology of the small-medium sector is collapsing” (Pledger, 2019, para. 3), which prompts us to evaluate best practices for future dance-making endeavours. The temptation (and danger) is to react negatively, impulsively, or even to give up altogether. Dancers need to dance. Singers need to sing. Artists need to make their stuff. To stop moving, singing, or making art is to damage one’s spirit, sometimes irreparably. Melodramatic? Actually, I think it’s an understatement: a motionless dancer, a mute singer, or inactive artist, can make for a repressed, angry, or bitter individual.  

We are part of an Australian culture that is suffering from a lack of wild beauty, creative wisdom, and spiritual acumen. I believe we need to give serious consideration to new avenues for intuitive arts-making: fresh ways to make new dances, sing new songs and reinvigorate the practices of emerging and established visual and performing artists. As David Pledger warns:

Until we understand that what is happening in the arts is intimately connected to what is happening in the rest of society, we will not understand the nature of our problems with inequity, entitlement, discrimination nor devise solutions to resolve them. If we continue to operate in isolation, we will continue to be isolated, absorbed, disappeared. 

2018, para. 11

Our advocacy and support, for those desperately holding to their innate calling as artists, is critical for the future of the arts industry. We need to think laterally, challenge outdated policy, and generate new networks for creating excellent artworks. Practically, “we need to build alliances with other sectors, bring our issues to tables outside the arts, prosecute the idea that what is happening within the arts is happening outside the arts. We need to build a coalition of cross-sectoral interests that includes the arts” (Pledger, 2018, para. 12). At any time, any one of us could offer advocacy, support or sponsorship for an arts-maker, writer, performer, creator.


Our Remnant Dance artistic work has grown beyond the capacity of the collective structure, so we choose to continue making and performing dance as independent artists. As David Pledger has noted, “artistic and cultural production simply does not occur the way it used to” (2018, para. 5) and our response as performing artists, at this time, is to innovate our practice. As we respond to cultural trends, we shift our focus to expanding into new territories: to support other independent artists and organisations, to extend our skills through commissioned dance works, and to embrace the opportunities of working in the dance industry as independents–together, and with others. The Remnant Dance website remains as an archive of story, image, dance, and movement as we continue creating, making, and connecting, in response to the shifting Australian zeitgeist. 

We extend our most heartfelt thanks to the extraordinary collaborators, supporters, and friends, who have enabled Remnant Dance, as a collective, to create dance, make art, and connect with people across continents and sectors, 2010-2020. We look forward to making new work, in new ways, in the years to come.


Luci 3  Luci 4 

Luci 5 

Luci 6 


Photographs of, and by, Lucinda Coleman, during her Ausdance (WA) Dance Artist in Residence (DAIR) Placement, at the YMCA HQ, Leederville, Western Australia, 2019, reprinted with permission.



Arvanitakis, J. (2019). Australia’s art institutions don’t reflect our diversity: it’s time to change that. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/australias-art-institutions-dont-reflect-our-diversity-its-time-to-change-that-122308

Ausdance. (9/12/2019). Ausdance members vote to maintain Ausdance National, Australia’s dance advocacy organisation. Retrieved from https://ausdance.org.au/news/article/Ausdance-members-vote-to-maintain-Ausdance-National

Ausdance. (5/8/2019). Ausdance National announces its closure. Retrieved from https://ausdance.org.au/news/article/ausdance-national-announces-its-closure2

AusdanceWA. (2019). Ausdance WA Update. Retrieved from https://www.ausdancewa.org.au/

Baker, N. (6/12/2019). 'Massive backwards step': Australia to no longer have a federal arts department. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/massive-backwards-step-australia-to-no-longer-have-a-federal-arts-department?mc_cid=66a84e7c92&mc_eid=a33a2d908a

Caust, J. (2019). Just 29 companies receive 59% of Australia Council funding. Artists are calling for a change. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/just-29-companies-receive-59-of-australia-council-funding-artists-are-calling-for-a-change-124873

Croggon, A. (2019). The desertification of Australian culture. Retrieved from https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2019/october/1569374077/alison-croggon/desertification-australian-culture

Pledger, D. (2019). On arts and irrigation funding. Daily Review. Retrieved from https://dailyreview.com.au/on-art-and-irrigation/85504/

Pledger, D. (2018). The arts funding divide between the haves and have nots is counter-intuitive, poor business and immoral. Daily Review. Retrieved from https://dailyreview.com.au/arts-battle-haves-nots-reaches-tipping-point/79114/