Nationally and internationally renowned as a director, choreographer, teacher and performer, Elizabeth is one of our foremost dance pioneers. A passionate artist with a life-long dedication to dance, she has been a prime mover in shaping the Australian dance landscape for over 50 years. Elizabeth began her early dance training in Adelaide and in 1957 left Australia to study and perform in London, Europe and New York. After working with Murray Louis, James Truitte, Kurt Joos and Alwin Nikolais and especially Eleo Pomare, Elizabeth returned home in 1963 to establish her own school of dance in Adelaide and, in 1965, with Kevin Roberts as production manager, she founded one of Australia’s earliest contemporary dance companies—Australian Dance Theatre, now celebrating its 50th year.
As the company’s artistic director and chief choreographer for 10 years, Elizabeth created over 30 works, frequently with commissioned scores from Australian composers and designs by Australian artists, and with regular international tours. Her new dance was innovative and controversial and the establishment of the company led to a flourishing of modern dance techniques and improvisation all over the country. Long before interdisciplinary projects and international collaborations became ubiquitous in the arts, Elizabeth was closely engaged with both; introducing her dancers to now celebrated composers, visual artists, writers and media artists, greatly enriching dance itself and those who worked with her.
After her departure from Australian Dance Theatre in 1975 Elizabeth spent the next decade teaching and choreographing in Europe, establishing a dance school and youth dance theatre group in Ventimiglia, Italy. Since 1986 Elizabeth has been working in Australia and Asia as an independent artist, creating many solo and group programs. In 1990 she founded the Mirramu Creative Arts Centre at Bungendore in New South Wales. Situated on the shores of Lake George, the site is the source of inspiration for many of her site-specific works, and for continuing her interdisciplinary and international collaborations.
Elizabeth has received numerous awards, including an Australian Artists Creative Fellowship in 1994, a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 1995, and an Australian Dance Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1997. Elizabeth also completed her doctorate at the University of Western Sydney in 2012 with a thesis entitled The Quest for an Australian Dance Theatre.
A visionary as well as a pioneer, Elizabeth has always been an advocate of human rights—as expressed in her many creative works—actively supporting Aboriginal rights, women’s rights, the environment and contemporary arts. Leading a generation of artists who were seeking a spiritual and holistic pathway through their art in order to communicate and explore ways to interpret the world, she has contributed to defining Australia’s diverse cultural identity and has made a significant and lasting impact on the development of Australian contemporary dance.