Coppelia to play to refugee and migrant audience

West Australian Ballet is gearing up this week for the first of its two annual community matinees, sponsored by Lotterywest.

Coppelia to play to refugee and migrant audience

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Started in 2010, these events are usually themed—and this Wednesday on 16 September, the theme is helping refugees and migrants overcome the barriers they experience in accessing the arts.

The ballet to be performed is Coppélia. Choreographed by Greg Horsman, this version ofCoppélia is a re-working of an old classic. Set in the late 1800s in the small South Australian town of Hahndorf, this comedic story-ballet contains themes of migration, assimilation and community, and a little bit of AFL for good measure.

West Australian Ballet worked closely with several community organisations to get the message out—the Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees, ASeTTS, Edmond Rice Centre, Mercycare, Centrecare, St Vincent de Paul Society, Migrant and Refugee Committee, Aranmore Catholic College and Lynwood Senior High School.

All written material on the day such as synopsis sheets, will be in eight languages other than English, with eight language ‘stations’ dotted around the theatre before the show so that people can find out information about the production and the theatre in their language.

The eight languages are: Arabic, Farsi, French, Swahili, Burmese, Haka Chin, Karen and Tamil.

‘We want to provide access to people who would not normally be able to come to the ballet,’ said Deborah Robertson, Education and Access Manager for West Australian Ballet.

For refugees and migrants, barriers to attending can include not knowing where to buy tickets, or how to get to the theatre. It can also include not understanding what the performance or artform is about.

‘It can be quite an intimidating experience,’ Deborah said.

West Australian Ballet has put together a comprehensive information kit which has been sent out to the community organisations involved. It is also useful in raising awareness among its own staff and performers about what to expect from an unfamiliar audience.

Around 800 people are invited to watch the matinee performance free of charge—not just the community organisations’ clients, but also the volunteers and staff of the organisations that do such great work in the community.

In the past West Australian Ballet has run matinees for people with vision impairments, people with hearing impairments, youth support agencies, people living with cancer, volunteers, disadvantaged youth and people dealing with mental illness.

The next matinee, to be held on 25 November, will coincide with the international day for the prevention of violence against women.Cinderella, appropriately, will be the ballet of choice.

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