How pursuing a career in contemporary dance led Kate Usher to producing and curating Supercell Dance Festival

Hot Chicks with Big Brains chatted with Kate Usher, Producer and Curator, to find out how her career developed, who inspires her, and the sort of experiences Supercell Dance Festival strives to bring its audiences.

By Dylan Evans: HERO

Please can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

Hi! I’m Kate. I’m a dance lover and have been in recovery for 30 years now.

How did your career begin and what inspired you to pursue it?

When I was a kid I wanted to be Lois Lane. I admired Mac from JAG and Carter in Stargate.

These strong female characters kicking butt, being sassy, and never wavering in their ability and intelligence. All, of course, while looking completely glamorous.

With these TV role models I always felt more comfortable being outspoken and championing my own ideas. From making my little sister perform in home concerts to school captaincies and other ‘nerd’ activities. However it was my constant ‘jigging’ (my mothers term) at age three being the reason for enrolling me in ballet.

Wearing a purple polka dot swimsuit and pink Jiffies, I fell in love with dance. It gave me structure, friendships, and confidence.

By Reina Takeuchi: @_WHY

I was a very lucky kid as my parents took me to the theatre often and encouraged me to dance as well as to read everything, and to try a musical instrument or two. They even offered swimming and hockey as after school activities (which led to finding out early on that sport was just not my thing). I persuaded my parents to let me go to Macgregor State High School, which has an excellence program for the Arts alongside training at Australian Dance Performance Institute, and I adored every moment there! So at the end of 13 years of pliés and hairspray, it was no surprise to my parents that I wanted to pursue dance at a tertiary level.

But here’s the kicker—when I got accepted into the dance courses, commenced orientation week, and summed up my peers, I realised that I was only a competent dancer.

Striving to be a company dancer is being an elite athlete (duh, Kate!) and I have knobbly knees and weird toes. I needed to find out what else and how else I could be involved, work, and develop a career in this industry I loved. Pulling together the desire to be Lois Lane, with aesthetic experiences that idealistically make change in this world whilst somehow allowing me to earn an income. All of which sounds completely ridiculous to find in the one spot. This investigation took me outside of dance into the broader Arts, into event management that then flung me back into contemporary dance. Various degrees and a $50,000 HECS debt later, with a tin of beans in my cupboard and writing grant applications every other day, I’m pretty happy with my lot in life.

I never thought I would end up producing and curating dance but, if you ask my parents, they say they saw it coming all along.

By Bernie NG: FORECAST

What’s Supercell all about?

Bringing people together through live performance and the exquisite beauty and power of dance. A festival for the dancer and dance lover alike!

How was this year’s program different from the last and what are some of the challenges you faced while developing it?

This program, we made a conscious and immediate effort to dig deeper into the personal and the political and when these two concepts and ideologies cross paths. How we can understand the people we share this planet with, and what our contribution to the world is.

Supercell sets aside aesthetic intention and priorities and instead leads through the narratives, stories and perspectives of the artists as the key medium to connection. We are not afraid to say “We don’t know” or “We don’t understand” and take a moment to listen and investigate and explore and embrace all the things we do not know now.

A festival is a perfect medium to do this through. We are overwhelmed with support, love, curiosity, and care when the artists and audiences come together in this exchange.

By Monika Sobczak: Everything Remains

Challenges, as always, are getting funders, key stakeholders, and industry to believe in your big idea! Being both charming and clever is endlessly tiring. I struggle with this. Particularly in articulating how amazing you instinctively know something will be, and finding the right words to match that. Also, allowing people into the journey of the festival and hopefully providing you with the cash to achieve the shared vision.

Who are some of the women who inspire you most and why?

My whole Supercell team of fearless women inspire me on a daily basis (can I make Glyn on my team an honorary fearless woman?). This year we worked closely together to create a festival that challenges, educates, and inspires audiences.

And of course, Oprah.

By Bernie NG: FORECAST

What’s been one of your greatest achievements to date and what’s next for you?

Creating an arts and cultural movement from scratch that didn’t exist before. And getting out of bed today.

…Next for me? Unemployment. The nature of the Arts is that we move from one contract and one gig to the next, and job security is incredibly volatile.

Then of course a heap of grant acquittals and ‘Thank You’s for the festival, and around May we start the grant writing process to start securing project funds for 2019.

Follow Supercell on Facebook and Instagram


Answers by Kate Usher

Images as individually credited, used with permission from Aruga PR

Questions and Edits by Emma Kate Lewis

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