It helps to
have the Parrot on side if you’re a high-achieving but cash-strapped
performing arts company. The Sydney Dance Company, which has been
chronically underfunded for years, has Alan Jones to thank for getting
a nice, albeit one-off, boost to its coffers in last night’s Budget. As
you will see here on the website of Arts Minister Rod Kemp,
the SDC has received a $600,000 grant to stabilise its budget.

Despite continued (if perhaps not consistent) critical acclaim and loyal
audience support Graeme Murphy’s company has been struggling financially since
the turn of the century after it was saddled with a dud funding model based on
the flawed recommendations of the Nugent Inquiry into the Performing Arts in
1999. Things had been looking decidedly grim in recent times, with SDC insiders
privately expressing fears that the 37-year-old outfit was in danger of folding.

However, once the Parrot started squawking loudly about the SDC’s woes,
it’s believed the Sydney-based Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, was
suddenly desperate to lend a hand. But, and this is the strange bit, Coonan was
constrained because The Australia Council – which funds the dance company –
wasn’t recommending that it get any more money despite receiving a special
report that recommended exactly that.

Relations between the SDC and the performing arts board of the Australia
Council haven’t been that great. Anyway, this one-off payment is a way round the
usual bureaucratic channels, but because it is only a one-off, it’s debatable
whether it will have any long term benefit.

Meanwhile, in a night of surprising largesse directed at the usually
demonised elites, Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre got $1.5 million for its
renovations in Surry Hills; the National Institute of Circus Arts got $2.3
million to fit out its training and performance centre in Melbourne; The
Australian Youth Orchestra got an extra $1.9 million over four years; and there
was a $440,000 grant to support the presentation of indigenous contemporary
artwork commissioned for the Musee du Quai Branly, the new museum in Paris
devoted to showing indigenous art from around the world.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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