Fresh Funk kicks up its birthday heels

Dance writer SAMARA PURNELL reports from Fresh Funk’s 18th birthday celebration at The Street Theatre on October 27.

Fresh Funk at The Street, photo Samara Purnell

TUGGERANONG Arts Centre’s Fresh Funk dance has turned 18 and at the weekend the company celebrated with a dance showcase at The Street Theatre.

There were speeches, a video presentation reminiscing on the creation, impact and legacy of Fresh Funk and a lot of thanking and best wishes for Fresh Funk’s artistic director, Leena Wall, co-founder with Geza Szanto.

Wall performed in several of the 10 original compositions for the advanced dancers, choreographed by past students-cum-teachers and tutors, many of whom have gone on to study, train or work interstate or internationally, including in Greece and Los Angeles.

Robert and David McLean have worked with well-known recording artists including Justin Bieber, Jason Derulo and Guy Sebastian. Jack May now runs his own dance studio in Melbourne. Max Burgess and Shannon Hanrahan studied at the Ev and Bow dance school in Sydney and Garrett Kelly and David Santolin recently competed on the TV series “Dance Boss”. Other alumni remain in Canberra as teachers and choreographers.

The topics of support, connection, friendship and the freedom and joy of dance in all forms provided much of the inspiration for the dance works, met with enthusiasm from the audience eager to support and cheer for the performers.

Fresh Funk, photo Samara Purnell

The sentiments of support and friendship were echoed in the slick video clips, which preceded each dance piece. These provided a bio on the choreographer and their reflections on Fresh Funk and congratulations and thanks to the company, teachers and students, in particular to Wall for her nurturing.

Fresh Funk prides itself on creating a culture of positivity, resilience, self-worth and friendship, incorporating a blend of styles, from hip hop to contemporary, to create urban dance.

In a story related by Chris Ryan, a self-proclaimed “old Fresh Funk dancer”, opportunity for young dance enthusiasts has come a long way in Canberra. From her early attempts for encouragement, with “Flashdance”-inspired presentations to school teachers, more interested in their salad sandwiches, to the limited options of joining either a sea of pink tutus, the lycra-clad jazz dancers or the baton-wielding calisthenics clans, the creation of Fresh Funk was a godsend.

Fresh Funk started at and continues to be housed in Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Eighteen years ago, the centre’s then-director, Evol McLeod,  was inspired by two eager, teenaged dancers, Caroline Spry (now Wall) and Geza Szanto, to take a chance on the idea of creating an urban dance class and from humble beginnings of around 12 students the numbers quickly doubled, tripled and now Fresh Funk caters for more than 300 students, continuing on its legacy.


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