Brisbane: Nov 2021 – March 2022

Commissariat Store Museum

26 November 2021 – 8 March 2022
William Street, Brisbane

The first venue in the national tour of Dancing in Fetters: the culture of convict dance was the Commissariat Store Museum in the heart of Brisbane. The Commissariat was built by convict labour in the 1820s and is Queensland’s oldest habitable building, making it the most significant heritage building. The museum is owned by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland and was the perfect venue for the launch of our tour.

We included local content about the convict dancing master, John Bushel, and accounts of convict women dancing – in 1853 one woman (Hannah Rigby) even died from an excess of dancing! The public programming featured a launch with music and dance, the curator’s talk, and the premiere of the Dancing in Fetters musical.

Launch at the Commissariat Store

26 November, 2021

Wonderful full capacity gathering last night at The Queensland Commissariat Store Museum for the launch of @dancinginfetterstour by @rhs_qld President Denver Beanland, a speech by curator Dr Heather Clarke and entertainment from Phillip’s Dog (Australia’s only early colonial period dance band who have performed at the National Folk Festival in Canberra and regularly hold dances and balls in the Brisbane area, one of which they headed off to after the event). Pictured (bottom right, left to right) are Edith Cuffe OAM Director @abbeymuseum which is auspicing the @ausgov funded tour; Dr Heather Clarke (Curator), Joan Kelly (Tour Manager)

At the Commissariat launch

Wonderful words from our tour launch venue @rhs_qld Commissariat Store Museum – thanks for such an amazing opening night last Friday, we value your support and that of @ausgov for making this @dancinginfetterstour possible, @abbeymuseum for auspicing, Bush Traditions for partnering, Phillip’s Dog @colonialdance for performing and all the six other recipient venues we are heading to.

Based on research from QUT

Dr Heather Clarke, Curator of @dancinginfetterstour was delighted to welcome Professor Gene Moyle, Academic Director – New Projects, Office of the Provost @qutrealworld to the launch event at @rhs_qld
Professor Moyle was a supervisor of Dr Clarke’s doctorate ‘Social dance and early Australian settlement: An historical examination of the role of social dance for convicts and the ‘lower orders’ in the period between 1788 and 1849’ which can be found at

Curator’s Talk at the Commissariat
9 February, 2022
12:30 – 1:30pm

Dr Heather Blasdale Clarke and musical director, Roland Clarke. The talk included a section on the Moreton Bay convict, John Bushelle who taught music & dance to the officers and their families in the penal settlement in the 1830s. The Spanish Quadrille was in his repertoire – danced to waltz tunes.

Convict Concert at the Commissariat
18 February, 2022
5:30 – 7:00pm

Dancing in Fetters – the musical

The first concert of the tour was held in the Commissariat Store Museum in the heart of Brisbane – one of only two convict-built structures in Queensland. A perfect venue for a lively presentation of the music, songs, and dances that formed the basis of convict culture.

The feedback to last week’s @dancinginfetterstour booked out Concert at @rhs_qld was overwhelming. A premiere event launched at this first leg of the national tour, exhibition curator, Dr Heather Blasdale Clarke said “I feel we have created something quite unique and the audience realised this.” Audience comments received included ~
“Lovely to see a different side of convict life”
“Inspiring and uplifting”
“The first event of its kind in the Commissariat”
“A perfect setting – the stone walls, and ambience of the convict building”
“A wonderful combination of singing, dancing and music – it had it all”
“Where else are you staging it? We’d love to see it again”

View the gallery

The next venue >> Museum at the TasWool Centre

The Museum at the Tasmanian Wool Centre
48 Church Street, Ross, Tasmania
8 April – 28 June 2022

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