Guest speaker dances to her own tune

Dr Anita Donaldson with a dance student at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

Dr Anita Donaldson with a dance student at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
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Friday, 13 April 2007

The academic head of one of the world's top dance schools, Dr Anita Donaldson OAM, will deliver the Hong Kong graduation address for the University of Adelaide on Tuesday 17 April.

Dr Donaldson is the Head of Academic Studies and Co-ordinator of the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dance at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA).

A former Dean of the Faculty of Performing Arts at the University of Adelaide, Dr Donaldson took up her Hong Kong appointment in September 2006 after more than four years at Laban, the leading contemporary dance conservatoire in the UK.

Awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2003 for her services to the performing arts, the accomplished dancer, teacher and researcher has enjoyed an impressive international career.

Dr Donaldson was born to Latvian parents in a children's refugee camp in Germany before migrating to Adelaide in 1949, aged two.

Her initial plans to become a physical education teacher were aborted when she realised that movement, not sport, motivated her. While completing a teaching degree, as well as an Arts and Physical Education degree in Adelaide, Dr Donaldson was introduced to creative dance.

"I wanted to pursue the work of dance pioneer theorist and scholar Rudolf Laban (1879-1958), an extraordinary man who contributed enormously to the understanding of dance as an art form, both in performance and in education," Dr Donaldson said.

Several stints at Laban reinforced her interest in the Hungarian dancer's teachings. In 1978/79 Dr Donaldson completed a Diploma in Education specialising in movement and dance at the London dance academy. Between 1985 and 1993 she travelled intermittently between London and Adelaide, completing her PhD in Dance.

In 1986, Dr Donaldson was appointed Head of the Dance Department at the-then South Australian College of Advanced Education for a three-year stint. Two years after the SACAE city campus merged with the University of Adelaide, Dr Donaldson took up a position as the Dean of the Faculty of Performing Arts in 1993, which involved overseeing music, dance and drama before the latter two departments were dissolved in 1996.

The new millennium saw her back in London, heading up the Research & Graduate Studies program at Laban from 2002-2006.

Dr Donaldson was responsible for establishing five Masters degrees at Laban - Choreography, European Dance Theatre Practice, Dance Performance, Scenography and Dance Science (the latter was a world first, bringing science into an arts institution).

"My job at Laban was to lead these degrees through their first five years. It was hard work, but wonderful to see them grow and develop," she said.

The School of Dance at the HKAPA is preparing an exciting program of works in 2007, including Sextext, a contemporary ballet by French choreographer Thierry Malandain.

In May, an international panel sponsored by the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation will also visit the academy to revalidate the undergraduate BFA (Honours) degree in Dance.

A total of 39 students will graduate from the University of Adelaide at the Hotel Intercontinental in Kowloon at 7.30pm on Tuesday 17 April.

Established in 1874, the University of Adelaide is the third oldest university in Australia and carries a five-star rating for prestige.


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