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Men in sand pit performing indigenous dance in the homeground of Sydney opera house.

Dance Rites 2020 registrations are now open

Sydney – Friday 26 June, 2020. Registrations for the sixth annual Dance Rites – Sydney Opera House’s esteemed national First Nations dance competition – are now open. Since its inception in 2015, more than 900 participants and 68 dance groups have joined the hallmark First Nations event that helps to revitalise Indigenous leadership, safeguard vanishing cultural practices, and showcase the richness and diversity of First Nations culture.

As a result of nationwide measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 festival will be presented primarily as a digital event, broadcast on the Opera House’s social media channels in November. Further event details will be announced in the coming months.

Sydney Opera House Head of First Nations Programming Rhoda Roberts AO said: “Dance Rites is a significant national moment of hope for our communities that has seen audiences and participants continue to grow. Today we fight to preserve, practise and give value to the inherited birthright of First Nations cultural matters as an intrinsic element of Australia’s cultural fabric. While we can’t gather on the sand together this year we can still conserve and celebrate our identity and songlines for future generations by sharing the language, stories, music and dance of the world’s oldest living culture with a global audience – online."

Dance Rites is a community event open to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups. To enter the competition, each group is required to film two performances of three minutes each – a traditional welcome or farewell dance, which should include local language, and a wildcard dance of the group’s choosing. Upon registration, additional technical and production support can be provided through First Nations community media organisations and the Sydney Opera House. The Dance Rites judges will consist of community, industry and independent dance professionals who will be looking for authenticity, reclamation work, use of costumes and revitalised crafts and cultural materials, along with fusion of language and music.

Dance Rites continues the rich traditions of Tubowgule, the land on which the Opera House stands, as a place of gathering, ceremony and celebration for thousands of years for the local Gadigal people. A highlight of the Opera House’s year-round First Nations program, Dance Rites fosters the learning and sharing of traditional practices among the community and audiences around the world. The annual competition has promoted cultural knowledge and increased confidence and pride through custodial leadership at a grassroots level. A total of $32,000 in prizes will be awarded to the winning dance groups this year.


Important dates

  • Registrations open: Thursday 25 June 2020
  • Registrations close: Sunday 16 August 2020
  • Performance video submissions close: Tuesday 1 September 2020

Dance Rites 2020 will be broadcast on Sydney Opera House social media channels (Facebook and YouTube) in November 2020. More information regarding specific broadcast dates will be confirmed after registrations close.

How to register

Register here before midnight AEST Sunday 16 August 2020. For more information on how to register, call Dance Rites coordinator Ali Buckley on 0407 535 111 or email

More information including specific recording guidelines will be provided in an information pack once participants have registered.


  • The winning group will receive $20,000
  • One group will be awarded runner-up with a prize of $5,000
  • One group will be awarded the best Wildcard dance with a prize of $3,000
  • One group will be honored with a Rites of Passage award with a prize of $4,000

As positions for Dance Rites 2020 will be limited, we encourage groups to submit their registrations as early as possible. If the number of registrations received outnumbers the available performance slots, the Dance Rites team will select groups to participate based on a number of factors including broad geographic representation, adherence to the criteria and previous participation.

For media information, please contact:

Georgia O'Connor
Communications Specialist / 0432 554 643

Shelley Watters
Communications Manager / 0415 901 440