Merindah Donnelly_image by Dale Harding 1


Name: BlakDance

My Role: Co-CEO and Executive Producer


Artform: Contemporary Dance

Development Status: Tour Ready

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What happens if you are an un/willing recipient of a history that usurped someone else's land and life?


We have marched across Country. We have had promises made and promises broken. We have drafted our own, and we are still the only sovereign peoples without one. In SILENCE we pull it from under the rug and slam it back on the table. Let’s listen to the SILENCE and design an agreement to heal us, our land and the wound of this nation. Because the conversation about a TREATY will never be silenced.

SILENCE is an entry point to the complex political environment we find ourselves in, universally understood as it resonates with the global Black Lives Matter movement.

SILENCE is a powerful contemporary dance performance with an ensemble of seven, a minimalist set, with evocative lighting. A complex musical score punctuated by dynamic live percussion that explores past, present, alternate realities and dreamscapes. The entire stage is slowly engulfed in dirt, representing the worldwide call for the return of Indigenous lands.

Creative Team and Crew

Thomas E.S. Kelly (Choreographer/Writer/Performer); Vicki Van Hout (Choreographic Dramaturg); Taree Sansbury (Rehearsal Director/Performer); Amber Ray Nofal, Benjin Maza, Kiara Malcolm, Tiana Pinnell (Performers); Jhindu-Pedro Lawrie (Percussion Composer/Performer); Sam Pankhurst (Music/Sound Designer); Karen Norris (Lighting Designer); Selene Cochrane (Costume Designer); Alethea Beetson (Dramaturg).
Producer: BlakDance

Number of People in the Touring Party


Previous Seasons

Premiere: September 2020, Brisbane Festival, Australia

SILENCE is both an accessible and visually stunning dancework that speaks powerfully to systemic racism, nationhood and sovereignty. The Company is committed to real engagement and outreach opportunities alongside performance presentation. This work can offer engagement with local Indigenous communities, to develop audience interest and conversations with non-Indigenous audiences', building their understanding of Indigenous contemporary dance, expression and political struggles.

Karul Projects developed SILENCE across 2018 – 2020 through the BlakDance Residency Program and Performing Country, supported by Home of the Arts’ Creative Development Program, QPAC and Brisbane Festival. The work premiered at Brisbane Festival 2020, and is available to tour Nationally in 2022-2023 and Internationally 2023-2024.

Reviews and Quotes

“Thomas embodies his ancestors teachings, stories of the stars, rivers, ocean and totem animals locate the work in the artist’s traditional homelands”
Ellen van Neerven, Koori Mail

“Kelly’s movement style is grounded and fluid, rising and falling with a flurry of wild pent-up spinning and stamping”
Denise Richardson, Dance Australia

“The dancers move to the driving beat by composer and performer jhindu-pedro who has his drum kit on the stage and, boy, does he know how to use it.”
Phil Brown

Preparing Ground

Artform: Contemporary Dance

Development Status: In Development

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Preparing Ground is a groundbreaking arts project co-directed by senior choreographers Marilyn Miller (Kukuyalanji and Waanyi), Jasmin Sheppard (Tagalaka and Kurtitjar) and Katina Olsen (Wakka Wakka and Kombumerri). It is a powerful Indigenous-led response to the environmental impacts of colonisation and climate change, showcasing First Nations-led solutions through the creation of a major new dance production.

The project was initiated in 2019, planned in 2020, and began development in 2021. Continuing into 2023, the project encompasses extended periods on Country alongside creative developments in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia ahead of premiere in late 2023/early 2024.

The artists’ repeated return to their Wakka Wakka, Kukuyalanji, Tagalaka and Kombumerri homelands is integral to the work. Through these community developments, they nurture long-term cultural exchange with their community and kin, listening to and learning from Country to engage with the millennia of First Nations knowledge in land management and cultural survival that underpin the work.

Preparing Ground produced by BlakDance

Creative Team and Crew

Co-Director / Choreographers Marilyn Miller, Jasmin Sheppard and Katina Olsen.
Samuel James (Projection Artist), Samuel Pankhurst (Sound Designer), Megan Cope (Set Designer), Karen Norris (Lighting Designer), Yolande Brown (Outside Eye) and Tammi Gissell (Outside Eye).

Producer: BlakDance

Number of People in the Touring Party


Previous Seasons

N/A (in development 2021)

Preparing Ground project commenced on Country in March 2021 for a period of initial research and development, followed by a creative development at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre, Cairns. They spent time at sacred sites of resistance, devastation, rejuvenation and revival and formed the foundational concepts of the work. Their process and methodology was informed by senior members of their family and local Elders (see below). Input is maintained throughout the duration of the project, both through return visits to Country and invitations to engage in the work’s creative developments in studio, in-person or via Zoom.

In September 2021, the project undertook a month-long creative development in Meanjin Brisbane at the Brisbane Powerhouse and Judith Wright Arts Centre. This period focused on initial explorations of the choreographic and design elements of the dance production, drawing from their experience of time spent on Country. It culminated in a work-in-progress showing for a local audience.

Throughout these four weeks, the artists were supported by Aunty Raelene Baker (Yuggera, Birri, Bindal and Warranghu Clan peoples) as Elder-in-Residence. Aunty Raelene welcomed the project, joined the artists in the studio for regular yarns, provided local cultural insight and connections, and contributed material to the work-in-progress showing.

Despite COVID-19 border restrictions, co-Director Jasmin Sheppard and Projection Designer Samuel James joined the project remotely, collaborating with the artists in Brisbane throughout and participating in the showing from The Art House, Wyong.

Across 2022 and 2023 the choreographers will undertake four major community developments on Country and a series of choreographic creative intensives in collaboration with Elders, Knowledge Keepers and family in preparation for the project’s premiere season.

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Arts Front Leadership Group

A leadership group supporting the Art Front project.

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A leadership group supporting the Art Front project.

The Performing Arts Network of New Zealand (PANNZ) Arts Market is New Zealand's premiere event for artists, producers, presenters and industry leaders from across the performing arts sector.

New Zealand
Feb 28 2022 To Mar 03 2022

Unpacking the Canada Council's $85m Digital Strategy Fund. What worked and what can the arts sector in Australia learn from it? 

Whitehorse - Yukon Canada
Feb 18 2021 To Feb 18 2021

Little Lunch Online (LLOL) was a daily online meetup and creative exchange to support the Australian arts sector during the Corona Virus pandemic in 2020.

Mar 23 2020 To Sep 30 2020