Vivacious and full of energy, Kate Meade is an unprecedented force for good in the Australian Dance Community, a champion of ‘Dance for all’ and creating enriching opportunities for every child (no matter the obstacles), Kate’s legacy is the enduring merits of dance for each of us, extending outside any professional spectrum, and into every aspect of daily life.
Growing up on a small dairy farm in rural Victoria, some of Kate’s first memories of dance were the forty-five minute car trips she would spend with her mother to get to and from classes at her local school, which offered ballet, tap and jazz lessons. The possibilities of dance expanded irrevocably for Kate when at fourteen she saw her first professional contemporary performance, and realised how much more was out there, yet not quite within reach. Kate’s passion for dance continued to grow, as did her resolve to make the dance community accessible to all, becoming a dance teacher and rural dance school owner in Camperdown, Victoria in 2004. Yet what became more apparent than ever through Kate’s time as a teacher was that country kids were still at a significant disadvantage when it came to being involved in community events.
Her response was to gather as many of her students as were able, and take them to the Australian Dance Festival, in Sydney. Twenty students came along, and by the end of the three day event, all of them had spent around $1000 in flights, accommodation, tickets and food, and many more had stayed behind, unable to afford the financial tolls. But upon her return Kate she was struck with an idea: If twenty students were willing to make the trek to Sydney, surely she could find enough support for a local event that gave regional students the chance to enjoy the festival experience. With that in mind, Kate founded the Victorian Dance Festival for the sole purpose of creating a community event that was affordable and accessible for regional dancers, schools and teachers. This was six years ago, and to say the event has prospered would be an understatement; the first VDF saw two hundred dancers attend, last year’s event had swelled to well over four thousand, with an additional two thousand expected attendees for the 2018 VDF in February next year. VDF has become a highlight not just for Victorian dancers, but for students, parents, teachers and schools all around Australia, and even overseas. In 2016 the Festival was awarded the ‘Best Cultural, Arts or Music Event in Victoria’ by the Australian Event Awards, and the National AusMumpreneur Award in 2017, under the category of Regional Business; well-deserved acknowledgements of the incredible work Kate and her team have been doing for the past six years.
Q: What do you find so rewarding about your role in the dance community?
KM: Every minute! There is not one day that goes by that I don't pinch myself, how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. The Victorian Dance Festival has grown from humble beginnings of a couple of hundred students attending to over 5000.... but that is not the measure of success or the most rewarding part.
There is a moment. Right before we open the doors to the event each year where I hold my breath.... I will always wonder.... will people actually turn up. When the doors are opened I am always standing at the entrance to thank each dancer and parent and teacher for coming. To welcome them to the family, to the community. The look on the faces of the dancers as they walk in, nervous, wonder, excitement.... and then the first class starts and it all washes away. I get the abosult honour of watching the magic of dance and the power of music and movement. I see strangers embrace and friendships form. I take great pride in being able to create an event that brings people with many different dance backgrounds and abilities and let dance lead the way.
I am truly always so humbled that people turn up! I never take it for granted. I owe the Australian Dance Community so much.
And if organising and directing VDF doesn’t sound like a busy enough schedule for you, Kate’s also a morning radio announcer (on 3YB), a mother of three, and a producer for the Come Together Dance Convention (a QLD event offering industry insight to teachers and studio owners on everything from dance education, business, psychology, early childhood, alignment, pointe work, musical theatre, staging, props and technology, and dance workshops and masterclasses for students). A workload she balances with seemingly un-depletable energy and enthusiasm.