Music / “Byrd Round Table”, The Song Company. At Wesley Uniting Church, March 16. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD
“CityNews” popped in on a preview yesterday morning and caught students from Erindale College and Gold Creek School going through their paces as they prepared for the big event.
Now in its 33rd year, Dance Fest is a Canberra success story that has nurtured dozens of top professional dancers and has been presented by Ausdance ACT since 1985. Remarkably, it does not involve competition, rather preferring to encourage the young participants to choreograph and stage their works for the sheer joy of it.
Ausdance Describes it as a “celebration of dance that embraces differences, creativity, team work and building relationships and that teamwork was visible everywhere”.
On stage at the rehearsal were a variety of dancers from Erindale College’s talent dance program performing their entry, “As a dancer”, a piece that shows how well-rounded one needs to be a dancer. The dancers showed exactly that, with elements of ballet, hip-hop, jazz and a more creative style dance set in the context of an audition. They’ll appear on Thursday night’s program.The Erindale work was followed by dancers from Gold Creek School who will be taking the stage tonight to perform “Living IRL” a piece expressing, in hip-hop style, how technology shouldn’t be the centre of attention. “Right now is your time”, the lyrics to their song went.
2017 creative director, Jamie Winbank, told “CityNews” that although he had been working with the festival since 2012, this was his first year at the helm.
He said the 2017 theme aimed to encourage the students “to think about the world that they live in and create a dance work about it”.
“Some will be joyful, some considered, some light, some deep, some sombre – but overall, a reflection of the creativity and world that these young people live in,” he said.
And, as the printed program reveals, subjects will be as diverse as children involved in armed conflict, teenagers navigating peer pressure, two kids embarking on a journey to find Wally and even a classic murder mystery.
There was just as much going on backstage as on the boards yesterday and Ausdance ACT project manager Olivia Fyfe joked, “Jamie does creative things and I do the hard stuff”, praising the all-inclusiveness of the event as she busied herself mustering a crew of willing helpers.
“CityNews” then caught up with two of these willing volunteers.
Hikma Aroub, part of the work experience team, said she had been charged with photographing the different schools so Ausdance can upload them to social media. She said the three years that she had spent performing in the dance festival when she was at school were enormously influential that she was aiming to study dance in the future at a tertiary level. Aroub is now studying dance at QL2 and performed in their recent production “The Poisoned Sea”.
Campbell high school student Steph Sailer said she had been participating in the festival for many years both dancing and choreographing as part of the school’s enrichment program, and is now enjoying the backstage work too. Her job at Dance Fest is to work shifts to show the performers where to go backstage, and she also helps set and remove props under the supervision of stage manager Roni Wilkinson.
“Once I leave school I want to go full-time dance school or work backstage,” she said.
As if on cue, Ausdance manager Emma Dykes popped in on the conversation to point out that this year’s assistant stage manager, Samantha McNally, had done two year’s work experience with the festival before getting her present job.
That’s how the Youth Dance Festival works, she said, “it nurtures new talent”.
AUSDANCE ACT’s 2017 Youth Dance Festival “Right Here. Right Now” leaps into action tonight at the Canberra Theatre on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday September 20-22, bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.