Executive Director, Sydney Dance Company

  • Full-Time
  • Sydney
  • Posted 6 days ago
  • Oct 18, 2021

Sydney Dance Company

A rare opportunity to lead—in partnership with the Artistic Director—one of Australia’s foremost performing arts companies.

The organisation

Sydney Dance Company (‘Company’) is a contemporary dance company; it is Australia’s leading company and amongst the world’s top companies. Founded in 1969, the Company has been artistically led since 2009 by Artistic Director (‘AD’) Rafael (Raf) Bonachela. Over the last decade through its domestic performances and international touring, the Company has cemented its global reputation as a creative powerhouse, with an acclaimed group of dancers presenting new work by Raf and other choreographers, designers, composers and musicians. The Company has expanded its reach into the towns and cities it visits with work for schools and local dancers.

Since 1986, Sydney Dance Company has been a resident of purpose-built studios at The Wharf in Sydney’s Walsh Bay Arts Precinct. The Company recently returned to The Wharf after significant renovations with state-of-the-art facilities, including the 79-seat Studio 5 (The Neilson Studio). The Company also regularly self-presents two annual main stage seasons at Roslyn Packer Theatre; an annual New Breed season at Carriageworks, and an annual main stage season at Arts Centre Melbourne. The Company also regularly tours other capital cities and around regional Australia and delivers performances promoted by local theatres and festivals. In addition to its domestic performances, the Company has a regular international touring program. The next international tour to Paris and New York is planned for March/April 2022.

The Company has a broad community beyond the practice and performance of its lead dancers. It believes in the universality of dance and—with the largest public dance class program in Australia—it helps over 120,000 people per year connect with grace, strength and creativity. The nationwide education program offers a strategic curriculum targeting primary and secondary students through to career-focused study for pre-professional dancers and university graduates. During the pandemic, the Company was able to move much of its education program to online learning. Sydney Dance Company is expected to attain shortly status as a Registered Training Organisation for its Pre-Professional Year, allowing the Company to award diplomas in its own right.

In 2020, Sydney Dance Company achieved revenues of A$11.2 million via ticket sales; course enrolment; government funding through the Australia Council for the Arts and Create NSW, and philanthropic and sponsorship support.  In 2019, the Company achieved ~38,000 total audience attendances across 73 performances of 15 works, including 10 world premières; a national tour to 12 towns and cities, and 12 international performances in 4 countries.

The role

Reporting to the Board, the Executive Director (‘ED’) will resume responsibility for Sydney Dance Company’s overall strategic, operational and commercial leadership. They will work in close partnership with the AD, who also reports to the Board. The AD and ED jointly lead a team of ~55 including 17 dancers, plus ~80 casuals, with staff levels varying depending on production and touring commitments.

The priorities for the role include:


  • understanding audiences & students;
  • attracting audiences & students and driving acquisition, reach, engagement and retention;
  • maintaining the Company’s quality, profile, reputation and values;



  • developing the strategy and model;
  • supporting the AD in leveraging local and global theatre and social trends;
  • putting in place a digital strategy;



  • partnering with the AD;
  • fostering external relationships, including with government and the arts sector;
  • raising funds;
  • working closely with the Board;



  • “making it happen”;
  • promoting and delivering an international and regional touring program;
  • overseeing an exemplary education program;
  • delivering the budget and ensuring the Company’s financial sustainability;
  • managing the venues, and
  • meeting all governance requirements.


The person

The ideal ED will have functional expertise in general management within the arts sector, most likely in performing arts company administration with an understanding of how to ‘put on a show’. They may be a general manager of another performing arts company or festival, or a 2IC, ready to step into a lead role. Alternate backgrounds include having worked in performing arts production or commercial entertainment. Irrespective of background, the hired candidate will have a track-record in working for a consumer-focused organisation where leveraging consumer insights is vital for success. Ideally, this would include a diversity of audiences or customers.

Given the Company’s touring schedule, there is a distinct advantage if the new ED brings existing networks within international venue and festival communities, and is experienced in identifying, negotiating and executing on opportunities for international and domestic touring. Similarly, there is a benefit for candidates, who are experienced in education. Experience working with all levels of government will be an advantage.

It will be critical for the hired candidate to have a strong understanding of financial statements, and experience in managing a budget and forecasting. It will also be an advantage if the ED has experience in technology, legal issues and human resources. They will also have experience in identifying and growing revenue-streams, including fundraising from government, commercial partnerships and philanthropy.

The successful candidate need not be an Australian, but it is preferable for them to have worked in the local market or countries with similar cultures. Academic qualifications from well-regarded institutions are anticipated.

Of course, they also need to bring—or be able to develop—a passion for contemporary dance.

How to apply

For a detailed role specification or to apply, please contact Helen Johnson at Challis & Company, the Executive search and Leadership consulting firm advising the Board, on +61 2 8039 2223 or at Applications close at 5pm AEDT on Monday, 18 October 2021. Challis & Company is simultaneously conducting an executive search.

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