Landscapes: the Journal of the International Centre for Landscape and Language


This article recounts the history to date of the Dancing Between Two Worlds (DBTW) project, which was initiated by a team of artist-scholars at Deakin University in 2018. DBTW’s brief was to engage the Indian community living in the western fringes of Melbourne in a project on civic belonging, cross-cultural artistic identity, and the performance of outer-suburban Indian diaspora. Working with the creative and community energies that are activated at the intersection of the creative arts and demographically inflected place, the Deakin researchers collaborated with local artists with an Indian background on a major performance in late 2019: Dancing Between 2 Worlds. This performance came out of a series of creative exchanges in community venues and public spaces in the City of Wyndham Local Government Area (LGA), whereby the Deakin team offered contemporary ‘Western’ creative approaches and the Indian artists shared their traditional artistic practices—amidst discussions about place, belonging and identity. This process was supplemented by interviews with some of the participants. Our article contextualizes the DBTW project through a summary of two previous, similar Deakin enterprises; looks at the significant methodological issues linked to the project; describes the performance of late 2019; and uses project images and other figures to relate its story. We also take this opportunity to consider the nexus of a practice-led research project with community: that is, the relationships and liaison between institution (Deakin University), local government, participants, and place—over time. The article concludes by digging in to the discursive tension between the terms ‘project’ and ‘group’ and (provisionally) resolves this tension in favour of the ongoing use of the word ‘project’ for DBTW. In this way, we add to the ideas on the ‘rhetoric of projects’ originally expressed by Paul Carter in Material Thinking. The latter section of the article draws on interview material to give voice to the local Indian community members and artists around the developing thematic preoccupations of DBTW, comprising civic belonging, cross-cultural artistic identity, and the performance of Indian diaspora in outer suburban Melbourne. The focus of this article, however, concerns the learning curve at Deakin University that indexes the development of its approach to community in place.

Author Biography

There are 4 co-authors listed here in alphabetical order:

Anindita Banerjee, a twice uprooted Indian, is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher. Using gestural portrayals of hybrid rituals, she wonders where her place as an immigrant is on the unceded Indigenous lands of present-day Australia. Currently pursing her PhD at Deakin University, her research interests include cultural otherness, authentic identity and the sense of home. Her chapter ‘Transient Temples’: How do I pray to my old Gods on these new lands, in this new home? is set to be published as part of N. Belford & R. Lahiri-Roy’s Routledge publication Asian Women, Identity and Migration: Experiences of transnational women of Indian origin/heritage in Nov 2020.

Dr Shaun McLeod is a Senior Lecturer in Art and Performance at Deakin University, Melbourne. He began his career in dance working with dance companies in Australia and New Zealand, such as Australian Dance Theatre and Danceworks, as well as working as an independent artist. His interests are in dance improvisation, participatory performance, site-specific performance, and the ways embodiment and affect can be framed for performance. He has a long history of site-based performance with the collective About Now (with Olivia Millard, Peter Fraser and Jason Marchant) in which movement improvisation is performed in response to place.

Dr Gretel Taylor is a dancer, researcher and curator whose work is often site-responsive and socially engaged. Her practice-led PhD explored relationships between place, body and identity in Australia through performance (2009). She worked extensively in community settings as Artist/Researcher on ARC Discovery project ‘Challenging Stigma’ with Deb Warr (2014-17), based at The University of Melbourne. She is currently a Research Fellow at Deakin University, developing an Indigenous dance research project.

Dr Patrick West is an Associate Professor in Writing and Literature in Deakin University’s School of Communication and Creative Arts. Patrick’s short story ‘An Aura Nothing Out of the Ordinary’ was published in Prosopisia (XIII, 2, 2019). With Eleni Bastéa he co-edited a Special Issue of TEXT on Writing | Architecture in 2019 (No 55) available at http://www.textjournal.com.au/speciss/issue55/content.htm


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