The Arts

Celebrating arts & culture

Pure expression – Casey Keed

Every day, we express ourselves in countless ways. We speak, we write, we paint – Casey Keed dances. Eighteen years of age and wise beyond her years, Wiradjuri woman Casey Keed has been dancing for as long as she can remember. For NAIDOC’s 2010 Young Person of the Year, dance is about more than just the physical side. “Through dance, you can express yourself in so many ways. The body can show so much,” Casey says. “For me, it’s all about speaking with your own body.” If her passion for dancing is anything to go by, then Casey Keed has a lot to say. In 2009 she officially started her own dance school, Dance Beyond Barriers (DBB). Starting out simply as a group of friends who shared a passion for dance, DBB has grown into a school for young Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to get together and learn about dance. Through dance, the students are able to confront, explore and raise awareness about important social issues that are all too often pushed to the side. “We create dances about sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying, depression, racism, suicide – issues that affect both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” she says. Working closely with young, at-risk kids in the community, Casey runs a weekly community outreach program, aiming to build self-esteem and dance skills. Each week she creates an oasis for troubled kids, giving them something to hope and aim for. “It allows them not to think about home and the problems they might be having, and it gives them somewhere to go. I won’t say we’re a solution – we’re not – but when you’re having trouble the last thing you want to be doing is wallowing.” DBB is a dance school with a difference. “I didn’t want [DBB] to be just about you paying your money, and that’s it,” Casey says. “I wanted it to be about more, and we just thought, ‘There’s all these issues happening out there, how can we make an impact?'” Last year, Casey was accepted into the prestigious National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Academy. “After four years there, you can pretty much dance anywhere,” Casey says, “but I’ve deferred it for a year to focus on DBB.” She’s some got lofty plans for the future of the school: “I want to take DBB, and one day turn it into an Aboriginal Dance Academy in Canberra,” she says. “There isn’t one at the moment, and I just want to create somewhere where kids can go and dance and create opportunities. But I want it to be about something more than money.” Throughout her dancing career, Casey admits that one of her greatest obstacles has been her determination and unwillingness to accept the way things are. “I don’t like going with the status quo,” she says. “I don’t like what dance has become, all about make-up and costumes. I don’t mean any offence to anyone, but I think that dance is so much more.” Casey’s determination and refusal to accept the way things are is the driving motivation behind her latest project, and first major production, ‘The Hidden Sorrow’. “I want to do the things that other people are scared of doing,” she says. “No one’s ever done it. That’s why I want to do it.” Characteristically, for her first production, she’s starting big: “I want to create a show that people can come and see and leave with a message. If writing and speaking can send a message, so can dance.” Choreographed and produced by Casey, in collaboration with the Street Theatre group, ‘The Hidden Sorrow’ tells the story of the Stolen Generation through dance and performance. “People don’t know [about the Stolen Generation],” Casey says. “If you don’t know, how can you change it?” A powerful and poignant way to tell a story, dance and performance provide a unique way to express the key element Casey believes is missing from the story of the Stolen Generation. “It is always talked about and written about. What happened, how it happened, what the government did… No one says how they felt about it. No one is talking about how they’re feeling. “Dance is about the feeling,” she says. “How we feel, how they felt.” One can’t help but feel that words can never adequately describe Casey Keed. There’s a raw and intense passion about her that defies the written or spoken word. It’s something that only she can express. “People talk, people write,” Casey says, simply. “I dance.” ‘The Hidden Sorrow’ will be showing in Canberra on 13 February 2012 at the Street Theatre, 15 Childers Street, Canberra City West. For tickets and information, keep an eye on the Street Theatre’s website closer to the date If you’re interested in getting involved in Dance Beyond Barriers, or having them perform at your event, check out their website

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