Innovative dance to inspire a new generation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Parks Congress will take place in Sydney in November at Sydney Olympic Park. This year, contemporary dance is on the bill with Australian choreographer Dean Walsh creating a new work designed to help engage the next generation in conservation and sustainable development issues.

The World Parks Congress is a once in a decade landmark global forum on protected areas. This year, Sydney will be host to 4,500 attendees attending from 166 countries. The aim of the Congress is to share knowledge and innovation to set local to global directions for the next decade on the conservation of protected areas while helping to address the gaps between the conservation and sustainable development agendas.

The event brings together the general public, key environmental policy makers and leaders with politicians, scientists and other experts to discuss environmental concerns within a multinational and multicultural context.

Among many Thematic Groups to participate in the Congress is the Ecosystems and Invasive Species group, a collaboration of scientific experts from 30 countries who are providing evidence for better legislation, governance and policy initiatives to develop functioning and resilient ecosystems.

Among its interests are the impact of biodiversity on human well-being, health and food security, incorporating Indigenous and local communities. One of its high priorities is to partner with the arts community to communicate how invasive species that inhabit our gardens, our national parks, our agricultural systems and our marine and river environments negatively affect the way these ecosystems function.

Dean Walsh is a dance practitioner with 23 years professional experience. As a researcher, choreographer, performer and workshop facilitator, Dean is inspired by marine science. He has agreed to partner with the Invasive Species group to present its ideas to the Congress through the medium of dance, using the human body to express concerns and ideas.

Dance has universal resonance. It is a culturally diverse and geographically specific language that has communicated stories for millennia. The Invasive Species group hopes that through dance, it will be able to connect audiences to play, pleasure and persuasion. By engaging in the physical/natural world directly and poetically, the group wants to invoke a sense of belonging to community and nature rather than living in isolation or separated from them.

The group also wants to demonstrate how engaging with the arts can offer environmental scientists and conservation experts additional public awareness strategies. It is particularly interested in engaging with young people through using new and innovative artforms to convey ideas.

About the dancework

With the support of a two-year Australia Council Dance Fellowship, Dean has formed a new movement referencing system (akin to a type of user manual or taxonomy), called PrimeOrderly through which his choreographic processes for new dance works and general practice are streamed.

Titled INTRUSION, Dean’s dancework will convey, through intricate choreographic compositions, how species (including humans) invade ecosystems or perhaps, choreographically speaking, one another’s body or intimate relationships.

INTRUSION will explore the impacts of non-native species that are attracted to artificial structures, such as pylons and pier pilings within Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River. In particular it will explore how non-native species attach themselves to boats and invade nearby natural reefs, altering their biodiversity and reducing their viability.

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About the author
Judy Fisher is an ecologist and Theme Leader of the Ecosystems and Invasive Species group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Commission on Ecosystem Management. You can contact Judy by email: