Dance mastery

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One of Newcastle’s traditional narratives has been brutally to the point: in order to make it you have to leave. The city has been a place to go from, rather than come to. If you were an artist of any kind that imperative was non-negotiable.

One of the most striking transformations we’re currently undergoing is not just a blossoming cultural renaissance, but how this revitalisation is transforming Newcastle’s story on a deeper level. What if the city had a focus on keeping its artists here, and – heaven forbid – even attracting world class creative people to make a new home in the Hunter?

In 2014 Cadi McCarthy founded Catapult dance a ‘not for profit’ contemporary dance organisation for professional and emerging artists. And she’s based it in Newcastle, in the West End no less. Its mission is ‘to create professional dance theatre productions, through narratives that incorporate dance, dialogue, humour and are based in real life situations that are relevant and accessible to the general public.’

At Catapult HQ on Hunter Street there are two dance studios, a dressing space and thanks to their generous sponsors, Harlequin Floors, two premium sprung floors. It’s a nice environment for dancers: high-ceilings, spacious and because it has a strict contemporary dance focus there is a merciful absence of mirrors.

Cadi has a dazzlingly impressive CV. Since 1996 she has been a professional dancer, choreographer, educator and director. Winning a Churchill Fellowship saw her working overseas with dance companies in Denmark, UK, Germany, USA and Canada. In the same year Cadi was awarded a residency at the edgy Brooklyn performance hub Chez Bushwick. Two years later she was in Taiwan as the Australian delegate of the World Dance Alliance, International Youth Choreographic Project. Back in Australia she became the Artistic Director of Buzz Dance Theatre in Perth, Australia’s premier dance theatre company for children and young people.

Landing in Newcastle a couple of years ago Cadi saw a gap in the local dance scene. There was no place for professional, contemporary dancers to work with choreographers and so bring forth new work. Her mission became the creation of such a hub, one which created new artistic works. There is no dance without choreography, so a key focus of Catapult dance is as a choreographic and multi-arts centre, including the provision of residencies to choreographers.

Catapult has a number of tiers to its busy organisation: ‘Propel’ which handles choreographic and interdisciplinary residencies; ‘Flipside Project’ an intensive youth dance program; ‘Catapult’ classes and holiday programs at junior and master class levels, including teacher training and ‘Catapult community’ a program of drop-in dance classes for fitness, movement and expression through dance.

Put a whole lot of dance professionals together and what do you get? A = mentoring, artistic inspiration, a place for dancers to develop their practice and create multi-disciplinary collaborations that’s what – the kind which can be career changing, or even life changing. You don’t have to wait long to be challenged. Kristina Chan, twice recipient of an Australian Dance Award for the best female contemporary dancer, will be leading a Masterclass Weekend Workshop on 1-2 August. It’s exclusive to Catapult and a first for the Hunter.

English poet John Dryden said that dancing is ‘like dreaming with your feet’ a quote I particularly love and one which keeps coming back to me after spending a morning with the inspirational Cadi. Our city desperately needs local creative folk to stay and, just as importantly, to welcome artistic out-of-towners with open arms. Newcastle should be/could be a great place for a professional arts career. It can be a destination, not a departure point.

Catapult dance, 880 Hunter Street, Newcastle West. Detailed list of classes and requirements for enrolment on their website:, Email: Facebook: Catapult dance and Flipside Youth Dance. Instagram: catapult_flipside. Catapult is a not for profit company. It receives support from: City of Newcastle Council, Australia Council for the Arts, Arts NSW, the University of Newcastle, NSW Department of Education and Training, Creative Arts Newcastle, Harlequin Floors. Catapult is an associate organisation of ausdance NSW.

Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires or infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me:; 0413 250 155.


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