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Indigenous Dance Workshops with Mr. Baden Hitchcock Inspire TAS Dancers

Indigenous Dance Workshops with Mr. Baden Hitchcock Inspire TAS Dancers

By Fish Tung, Assistant Communications Officer

In a captivating and culturally enriching experience, Middle School dance students had the opportunity to learn from Mr. Baden Hitchcock, a distinguished Indigenous dancer and choreographer who worked with Bangarra Dance Theatre for six years. Mr. Hitchcock's family is from the Top Western region of the Torres Strait Islands, Saibai Island, as well as from Mabaduan and Hanuabada villages in the Western and Central provinces of Papua New Guinea. 

The school community is grateful for the opportunity, made possible by the generous support of the PTA Grant. This grant facilitates visits by artists with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, like Mr. Hitchcock, to inspire and deepen students’ understanding of our global cultural heritage. 

During his visit, Mr. Hitchcock shared his talent and knowledge, emphasizing how movements in Indigenous dance draw inspiration from nature. His workshops showcased the profound connection between traditional dance forms, the surrounding environment, and their transformation into modern dance expressions. 

The workshops extended beyond the physical aspects of dance, helping students form a deeper appreciation for the cultural significance embedded in each movement. Students were introduced to the Motu language group, spoken by the traditional landowner and Indigenous people from the southern villages of Central Province Papua New Guinea, as they learned the names of animals in Motu.

Ms. Dethy and Ms. Prophet, the Middle School dance teachers, expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to expose their students to such a unique experience. 

“Having Mr. Baden Hitchcock work with our Middle School students was a truly special occasion,” shared Ms. Dethy. “His expertise and passion for Indigenous dance added a new layer to our students' understanding of the art form. It's not just about the movements but understanding the cultural context behind them.” 

Ms. Prophet echoed this feedback, highlighting the importance of embracing diversity in the dance curriculum. The workshops opened a dialogue about the interconnectedness of dance, imagination, culture, language, nature, and humanity. 

“Our students not only learned new expressions in dance but also had the chance to explore how our bodies can be a vehicle for building profound connections with natural elements, transforming that into a different expression of art,” added Ms. Prophet.

The workshops provided a platform for students to embrace diversity, inclusivity, and respect for different cultural expressions. The transformative experience left a lasting impression on the students, who reflected on the workshop's impact on their understanding of arts and culture. 

“I learned about how dances can be inspired by animals, the earth, the land, and the winds. It made me realize how much depth and context there is in every dance step we take, and how imagination can make our dance tell a bigger story,” shared one of the Grade 7 students. 

One dancer from Grade 8 expressed gratitude, saying, “Thank you, Mr. Hitchcock, for opening us up to a different perspective of how dance can impact the world!” 

Another Grade 8 student mentioned, “The workshop allowed us to experience a style of dance that we weren't familiar with. It created a whole new area of growth, and I would like to let others know how the workshop helped with my understanding of Indigenous culture.” 

As the workshop concluded, the Middle School community extended heartfelt thanks to Mr. Baden Hitchcock for graciously working with the students, providing insights into contemporary dance forms and Indigenous cultural heritage. 

This workshop is one beautiful example of how our educators and students work to become globally-minded contributors, who understand and respect diverse cultures, customs, and beliefs. The initiative within the dance program has absolutely helped to nurture a more culturally aware and appreciative approach to learning.