Paper Presentations # 4 – Session 4A

NZ – 1.30pm | VIC/NSW/TAS – 11.30am | SA – 11am | QLD – 10.30am | NT – 10am
WA – 8.30am

Chaired by David Shirley

Links to join all conference sessions can be accessed via the program page of the ADSA conference website

Decentring the Training Curriculum
Quite apart from the structures of institutions and programs, the skills curriculums of training programs consciously and unconsciously embed dominant values in their approaches, outcomes, and philosophies. What we teach, and how we teach it, has just an active role to play in decentring and decolonising training as the interrogation of the institutional settings in which that training takes place. Across three separate domains of training — voice, circus, and dance — panellists will offer case studies of decentring practice that have informed their own teaching and research. This panel has been convened to celebrate the publication of the Special Issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training on Performer Training in Australia (12.3), and one of the editors will chair the session.

Amy Hume – Crushing the ‘cultural cringe’: Recognising listening bias in Australian voice training

The Australian accent is a contentious subject often evoking the ‘cultural cringe’. At times, our own voices and accents have been pushed aside in favour of acquiring a more cultivated, English sound – particularly in broadcast voices, and voices heard on stage and screen. Research of linguists such as Cox and Fletcher (2017) recognises the vast variety of Australian accents, yet there is still evidence that actor-training in Australia teaches a standardised accent. I propose an interactive presentation whereby participants are invited to recognise their own listening bias through a practical exercise. The session will also identify language and assessment criteria that may be reinforcing standardised accent training. Amy Ginther (2015) identifies that teaching methodologies and traditions of practice can be structures of dysconscious racism within UK drama schools. Daron Oram (2019) examines the negative impact these structures have on a diverse student body, with particular attention paid to the ‘culturally embedded speech standards’ that are taught in drama schools. This research from UK drama schools provides a lens through which voice practice in Australian actor training can be interrogated and examined. Drawing on my experience teaching at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), I will look to what extent a decentred and culturally-informed practice of the voice practitioner can be reinforced or limited by the structures of a drama school.

Amy Hume is a Lecturer in Theatre (Voice) at Victorian College of the Arts and a voice and dialect coach for theatre and television. Amy was previously voice teacher to BFA and MFA students at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). Her research interests include decentring practices in actor-voice training, specifically in an Australian context, and teaching voice in a virtual studio. Recent voice and dialect coaching credits include New Gold Mountain (SBS), Six the Musical (Louise Withers and Associates), Cyrano (Melbourne Theatre Co), White Pearl (Sydney Theatre Co) and Fangirls (Queensland Theatre/Belvoir). Amy is one of only a handful of Designated Linklater Teachers in Australia and currently serves on the Board of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA), the international organisation for voice practitioners.

Jon Burtt – Decolonising Circus Training

Cirqiniq is a social circus program working with young Inuit people in Nunavik in the Arctic, in far North Canada. The paper examines the gradual process of decolonisation of the program that has taken place over the nearly 30 years of its existence. This process has not only changed pedagogical approaches but also the power and administerial structures of the program. The success of this process of decolonisation can be seen in the fact that some of the young Inuit participants have become Cirqiniq Junior and Senior Instructors. Some of these Instructors have now gone on to form their own performance company called TUPIQ ACT which has recently received Canada Council of the Arts funding to research and develop a new show. TUPIQ ACT has begun performing at festivals and touring across Nunavik and throughout northern Canada giving workshops to other Indigenous youth. The changes that have taken place in the program over the period are situated within a wider discussion of approaches to the decolonisation of teaching and performance-making. The paper draws widely on Indigenous and non-white academic research in order to begin to consciously decolonise academic research, and also broaden the range of voices most often heard within academic discourse.

Jon Burtt is a Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University in the creative industries. He is co-author of Contemporary Circus (Routledge 2019) which has a Chinese language edition forthcoming in 2022 (Bookman Books, Taipei). He is currently researching his new co-authored book Circus for Social Change: Social Circus in Action (forthcoming Routledge 2023).

Carol Brown – Contact Zones & Cross-Rhythms: Decentring Dance Training

Moving in new global orders without touching, masked dancers working with COVID Safe Operating Procedures shift between planes: the plane of the studio stage and the plane of screen. Displaced and distanced from their customary habitat, COVID has ruptured their continuity of movement from studio to stage. In this break, historically privileged pedagogies of dance training have been questioned for their exclusions and for literally holding centre. Decentring dance involves ‘making space’ (Royona Mitra) for peoples, pedagogies and practices that have been historically ignored. At the same time, the technologizing of dance opens up access to voices and bodies previously out of reach. Actively decentring dance training through curriculum design and an expanded repertoire re-centres practices previously made invisible within the academy. A reinvigorated curriculum for BFA dance students at the Victorian College of Arts coincided with students shifting to online learning environments, opening new ‘contact zones’ (Donna Haraway) for bodies, spaces and movement cultures. Thinking through these changes, in this paper I will speak to the generative cross-rhythms opened as a result of curriculum development and the redrawing of the studio as a multi-dimensional site, both physical and virtual.

Carol Brown is a New Zealand born dancer, choreographer, artist-scholar and Head of Dance at VCA, University of Melbourne. She completed one of the first practice-led PhDs in Dance (University of Surrey) and was formerly Choreographer in Residence at the Place Theatre London where she founded Carol Brown Dances. Carol Brown Dances have toured internationally with the British Council and presented at festivals, including Roma Europa, Dance Umbrella, Brighton Festival and Ars Electronica. She writes regularly for peer-reviewed journals on performance, technology and space and has contributed chapters to key texts on dance, technology, feminism, collaboration, site dance and choreography.

Bernadette Meenach – Training as a Tool of Colonisation: Voice and Speech trainers shifting history

Voice and Speech are tools of colonialism. Historically, outlawing languages and silencing dialects has been written into law and enforced through threat and violence. Needless to say, Voice and Speech training for performers is plagued with political and ethical concerns. Within the past century trainers including Elsie Fogerty, Gwynneth Thurburn, Cicely Berry, Kristin Linklater and Patsy Rodenburg have navigated the training landscape, shifting us from the assumption that Voice and Speech must be correct and aesthetically pleasing through to the acknowledgment that our every utterance is a political act. In Australia, the Voice and Speech trainers at respected institutions including NIDA, VCA, QUT and USQ have prepared a path for another shift away from the field’s colonial proclivities. This paper emerges from an ongoing longitudinal study into actor training in Australia. Drawing on interviews with Australian Voice and Speech trainers as well as my personal experience as an actor and trainer, it posits that Voice and Speech training can move beyond the institution, to a space whereby the individual performer can share their unique sound-story and be heard.

Bernadette Meenach is a graduate of NIDA, QUT, and USQ. She has been a proud member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance since her first professional acting gig in 1990. Over her thirty-year career she has been an actor, a founding member of an artist run initiative, the chair of a regional youth theatre, a director, and a voice coach. She has dedicated many years to mentoring young actors through her work in training programs at NIDA Open, QTC Youth and Education, QUT, JCU and USQ. Bernadette’s research interests include languaging, actor training, and auto/biographical performance.