An artist in the field of dance, Russell Dumas’ practice has intersected with generations of dance practitioners in Australia and world-wide—as dancer, teacher, choreographer and chronicler.
His training ranged from Scottish and Irish national dancing in regional Queensland to achieving Solo Seal and an international scholarship from the Royal Academy of Dance. After several professional engagements in musical theatre under the tutelage of Betty Pounder, he left Australia and worked in companies as diverse as the Royal Ballet, Nederlans Dance Theatre, Ballet Rambert and others in Europe, and with Twyla Tharp and Trisha Brown in New York.
Returning to Australia in 1976, he founded Dance Exchange. Dance Exchange, then and now, addresses his unshakeable belief in the need for direct transmission of physical information, from body to body, from generation to generation. He regards this experienced understanding of embodied history to be paramount to the development of the art and for the perception of dance as an autonomous art-form.
Dumas’ approach has produced, over a forty-year period of practice, a distinctive and original body of Australian work. His dance style has been described as “sensuous, non-decorative, pedestrian classicism” (Larousse Dictionary de la Danse 1999).
Dance Exchange has been presented by a multitude of international institutions and organisations including Dance Umbrella (UK), The Baryshnikov Arts Centre (NY), Holland Dance Festival, and the Sydney Opera House; has garnered awards such as the Jury Prize from the International Video Dance Festival (Sete); and has collaborated with seminal dance artists and academics including Sara Rudner, Steve Paxton, Lisa Nelson, Jodi Melnick, Deborah Jowitt, Laurence Louppe among others.
The deceptively simple aesthetic Dumas works with requires prolonged and rigorous work with dancers. Each dance and each performance grows out of this work. The dancing, free of narrative, psychological, or other theatrical devices, is a testament to kinaesthetic intelligence and an ode to the simple, always surprising, sometimes humorous beauty of human bodies in action.
Dance Exchange has generated a cadre of dance makers, teachers, performers and writers who were exposed, as young artists, to a practice that is insistently experiential and experimental, fierce in its championship of dance as a stand-alone art form. The exposure to this singularly rigorous practice has equipped them to compete on the international stage and to contribute in a diversity of platforms to the field in Australia. A few such artists are: Lucy Guerin, Ros Warby, Trevor Patrick, Stuart Shugg (Trisha Brown Company), Rebecca Hilton (Stephen Petronio, Xavier Leroy, Tino Sehgal), Linda Sastradipradja (Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Project) Josephine McKendry, Margie Medlin, Sally Gardner, Elizabeth Dempster, (Editors Writings On Dance), Anne Thompson, Phillipa Rothfield, Reyes de Lara, Jo Harris.
Dumas continues these working practices well into his seventh decade.