Performing arts of Australia

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The Performing arts in Australia are an important element of the Arts in Australia and Australian culture.


Dance in Australia is diverse, ranging from The Australian Ballet to the Restless Dance Company to the many local dance studios.


Aboriginal music

Aboriginal song was and remains an integral part of Aboriginal culture since time immemorial. The most famous feature of their music is the didgeridoo. This wooden instrument, used amongst the Aboriginal clans of northern Australia, makes a distinctive droning sound and its use has been adopted by a wide variety of non-Aboriginal performers.

Aboriginal musicians have turned their hand to Western popular musical forms, often to considerable commercial success. Some notable examples include Archie Roach, the Warumpi Band, NoKTuRNL and Yothu Yindi.

Pop and rock

Australia has produced a wide variety of popular music. While many musicians and bands (some notable examples include the 1960s successes of The Easybeats and the folk-pop group The Seekers, through the heavy rock of AC/DC and the slick pop of INXS and more recently Savage Garden have had considerable international success, there remains some debate over whether Australian popular music really has a distinctive sound. Perhaps the most striking common feature of Australian music, like many other Australian art forms, is the dry, often self-deprecating humour evident in the lyrics.

Until the late 1960s, many have argued that Australian popular music was largely indistinguishable from imported music: British to begin with, then gradually more and more American in the post-war years. The sudden arrival of the 1960s underground movement into the mainstream in the early 1970s changed Australian music permanently: Skyhooks were far from the first people to write songs in Australia, by Australians, about Australia, but they were the first ones ever to make money doing it. The two best-selling Australian albums ever made (at that time) put Australian music on the map. Within a few years, the novelty had worn off and it became commonplace to hear distinctively Australian lyrics and sometimes sounds side-by-side with the imitators and the imports.

The national expansion of ABC youth radio station Triple J during the 1990s has greatly increased the visibility and availability of homegrown talent to listeners nationwide. Since the mid-1990s a string of successful alternative Australian acts have emerged – artists to achieve both underground (critical) and mainstream (commercial) success include silverchair, Grinspoon, Powderfinger and Jet.

Classical music

The first Australian musician of any sort to achieve international fame was operatic soprano Nellie Melba, in the late 19th century. Well-known soprano Joan Sutherland is also from Australia.

Australia has a considerable history of classical performance, with symphony orchestras established around the state capitals in the early 20th century, as well as opera companies and other musical ensembles. However, relatively few Australian classical compositions have achieved lasting recognition.



There are a number of major performing arts organisations engaged in the performing arts. There was an enguiry held in 1999, chaired by Helen Nugent, the report of the enquiry led to significant change, particularly in government support through the Australia Council and the then Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.[1]

Significant Australian performing arts organisations[1]

Performing art Australia ACT NSW NT Queensland SA Tasmania Victoria WA
Dance: Ballet Queensland Ballet The Australian Ballet West Australian Ballet Company
Dance: Contemporary Sydney Dance Company and Bangarra Dance Theatre Dancenorth Australian Dance Theatre
Education *Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts

The Australian School of Performing Arts

Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art National Institute of Dramatic Art,[2] Australian Youth Orchestra,[2] National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College[2] and Australian Film Television and Radio School[2] Helpmann Academy Australian National Academy of Music,[2] Australian Ballet School,[2] Flying Fruit Fly Circus School[2] and National Institute of Circus Arts[2] Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
Festivals Sydney Festival Garma Festival of Traditional Cultures Brisbane Festival Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Fringe Festival and WOMADelaide Melbourne International Arts Festival and Melbourne Fringe Festival Perth International Arts Festival
Funding Agencies Australia Council and Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts ArtsACT NSW Ministry for the Arts Department of the Arts and Museums Arts Queensland Arts SA Arts Tasmania Arts Victoria ArtsWA
Music: Choral The Australian School of Performing Arts

The Australian Girls Choir

Music: Chamber Australian Festival of Chamber Music Australian Chamber Orchestra and Musica Viva Australia Astra Chamber Music Society
Music: Orchestra Sydney Symphony and Symphony Australia The Metropolitan Orchestra Queensland Symphony Orchestra Adelaide Symphony Orchestra Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Melbourne Symphony Orchestra West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Music: Orchestra (Pit) Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra State Orchestra of Victoria
Music: Youth Orchestra Australian Youth Orchestra Sydney Youth Orchestra and SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra Melbourne String Ensemble
Opera Opera Australia Opera Queensland


State Opera Company of South Australia Victorian Opera West Australian Opera
Theatre: Physical Circus Oz
Theatre: Text Based Merrigong Theatre Company, Company B Ltd, Sydney Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre Company, and The Bell Shakespeare Company Ltd Queensland Theatre Company; La Boite Theatre Company; Tropic Sun Theatre Company ; JUTE State Theatre Company of South Australia Melbourne Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre Black Swan Theatre Company
Venues Illawarra Performing Arts Centre (Wollongong), Sydney Opera House Queensland Performing Arts Centre ; Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts : Bille Brown Studio at Queensland Theatre Company ; Metro Arts Adelaide Festival Centre Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart Victorian Arts Centre His Majesty's Theatre and The Playhouse Theatre

See also


  1. ^ a b Nugent (Chair), Helen; Michael Chaney; David Gonski; Catherine Walter (1999). Securing the Future – Inquiry into the Major Performing Arts (application/pdf Object) (PDF). Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Retrieved 3 October 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (15 September 2008). "Arts training bodies". Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2008. List of performing arts training institutions funded by the Australian Government

External links

  • RealTime – Australian contemporary arts magazine covering dance, performance, sound/music, visual arts, film and media art
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