Dancing in Fetters: The Culture of Convict Dance

This exhibition provides insights into convict dancing on ships, in prisons, and in the colony, through the unlikely lens of medical journals and police reports. Enhanced by music and video recordings, interactive dance tutorials, an education kit for primary school-aged children and geographical referencing of key convict sites around Australia, ‘Dancing in Fetters’ will burst open the history books on how and why people danced.

Commencing in Queensland and heading to convict-related sites in New South Wales, Norfolk Island, Tasmania and Western Australia, this engagingly themed exhibition draws on the curated exhibition and doctoral research of Dr Heather Blasdale Clarke. A passion for early colonial dance, coupled with a long term commitment to dance teaching and cultural history has contributed to Dr Clarke’s extensive research into convict culture (1788 – 1840). Exploring the meaning of dance to identity, Dr Clarke is taking the show on the road to present the culture and characters at the forefront of this intangible heritage that was fundamental to expression during the convict era. Most people dance because it is a happy activity while for convicts, there were deeper reasons including freedom and defiance.

More information can be found on the national tour website here.