Arts House’s month of dynamic dance and motivating stories

Kaylah Joelle Baker

Warning: This article relates to performance which references suicide.

For the month of March, North Melbourne’s Arts House will be home to the inaugural FRAME: A biennial of dance, with five vivid and diverse works already on the line-up.

As a new festival, presented by art organisations, companies and independent artists in Victoria, FRAME is a chance to showcase Melbourne’s leading dance performers, artists and creatives.

“Our arts sector is critical to a vibrant and eclectic city and this festival responds directly to the needs of artists – working collaboratively with more than 17 organisations and diverse people across cultures, genders and dance forms to create a festival like no other,” the City of Melbourne’s creative portfolio lead Cr Jamal Hakim said.

Coming to Arts House first, from March 1 to 4, are performances Two, by Raghav Handa, and MOHINI, by Raina Peterson.

Two will focus on a traditional Indian Kathak and contemporary dance, and will playfully explore the intimate bromance between a dancer and a tabla musician playing Indian percussive instruments.

MOHINI is an experimental dance-theatre work which draws on a classical Indian dance form known as Mohiniyattam, which means “dance of Mohini”.

Sound and visual artist Marco Cher-Gibard has designed laser and projection visual effects, and will be performing both pre-recorded electronic music and live music on a guitar.

Described as a psychedelic feast for the senses, creator Raina, who is a transgender Hindu practitioner of Mohiniyattam, said it was hoped that the audiences would “find renewed respect for the magic and power of transgender people”.

“Transformation is a theme within the work, and MOHINI is crafted with the intention to take audiences on a transformative journey too,” Raina said.


This may sound like a tall order and slightly outrageous, but I hope audiences have a spiritual, visceral, transformative experience.


Following the closing of the first shows, The Honouring by Jackie Sheppard will then be performed at the Arts House from March 15 to 18.

As a mixed media performer, storyteller, dancer, and facilitator, Jackie focuses on work that explores taboo and complex topics relative to Blak lived experiences, with this latest solo physical theatre work focused on death, trauma and grief.

Through using movement, dialogue and puppetry, Jackie’s work explores the “visceral depth and complexity of Blak deaths”, in the hopes that broader audiences can “allow it to move [them] into action”.

“For Indigenous people, and many other oppressed demographics that exist in our cultural landscape, storytelling is a necessity that responds to our most urgent and present matters that affect our livelihood,” Jackie said.

“In a world where we are dying at the hands of the colonial system that is intent on keeping us subjugated, to tell our stories with truth is an act of defiance. It is the process of integrating, releasing and healing.”

While the creative project of The Honouring started as a “healing journey” after Jackie struggled to deal with the deaths by suicide of many Indigenous friends, it has become a personal work, from her perspective, with many layers for audiences to unpack and process.

“For my Mob, I would encourage you to attend with the knowledge that I’ll be landing on some complex, and visceral depictions of living in the colony, and the depravity that manifests through its dehumanising nature,” Jackie said.

“I’m posing some challenging questions around death, pain, and our potentials for both self-destruction, and positive transformation; I work towards safely unveiling what lies in the shadows, to be brought into the light and looked at.”

“For the broader audience, I encourage you to bear witness to this story. To allow yourselves to sincerely reckon with the visceral depth and complexity of Blak deaths. To allow the uncomfortable feelings to motivate a sense of empathy and healthy outrage!”

Following The Honouring, Restless Dance Theatre will be performing Exposed from March 22 to 25, with an ensemble of deaf and disabled artists and allies, who will, through movement, delve into topics of vulnerability, uncertainty and risk.

Somewhere at the beginning by Germaine Acogny, who is known as the “mother of contemporary African dance”, will then wrap up the festival at Arts House with an acclaimed autobiographical solo work, from March 29 to April 1.

FRAME: A biennial of dance will also have talks, films and workshops for audience members to attend throughout March. •

Like us on Facebook