On your toes

RT previews the very first Australian Youth Dance Festival

Casting an eye over the program for the Australian Youth Dance Festival in Darwin in September-October, it looks like the young artists and community dance workers expected from around Australia will be kept on their toes. Early morning warmups in drumming and capoeira begin at 8am followed by discussions on daily themes (Partnerships, Culture & Dance, Collaboration and Initiation, Dance at the Edge and the big one—The Future), sessions beginning with keynote addresses from some notable speakers, opening out to panel discussions with audience participation.

Those not taking part in the discussion can choose from a variety of workshops—teaching methodologies for Primary and Secondary students; workshops with young professional artists; making dance with members of Ludus Dance Company who are visiting from the UK; or take classes in specific aspects of technique (Pilates, contemporary, ballet, tap, capoeira) and then catch video showings.

It’s anticipated that relationships established at the festival may produce some collaborative works and this possibility has been factored into the program with some ‘free’ time allocated after lunch to work together with focus groups or to create pieces with mentors and facilitators. There’s the potential for showing works completed or in progress in the afternoon. Got a minute? Access the internet or attend a workshop with Kristy Shaddock, Clare Dyson and Susan Ditter on how to make a web page. Sponsors QANTM Multimedia have provided hardware and training. If you can’t get to Darwin, daily proceedings will be accessible on the festival website at http://sunsite.anu. edu.au./ausdance.

In the evening, there’s a program of performances including works from Expressions Dance Company (Brisbane), Restless Dance Company (Adelaide), Stompin’ Youth (Launceston), Boys from the Bush (Albury), Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre and Tagira Aboriginal Arts Academy (Darwin).

The program is still coming together but confirmed festival speakers include: arts administrators Michael FitzGerald (Youth Performing Arts Australia—ASSITEJ International), Danielle Cooper and Jerril Rechter (Youth Performing Arts, Australia Council); artistic directors Mark Gordon (The Choreographic Centre), Genevieve Shaw (Outlet Dance and Outrageous Youth Dance Company) and Sally Chance (Restless Dance Company); dancer-teacher-choreographers Christine Donnelly, Michael Hennessy; and dancer-film-maker Tracie Mitchell. Also on the guest list are a number of dance mentors (Cheryl Stock, Maggi Sietsma).

Ludus Dance Company, a leading British dance company for young people will be special guests of the festival (courtesy of the British Council’s newIMAGES program). Based in Lancaster, Ludus tours for 32 weeks a year. The company has a strong reputation for innovative performance and for challenging educational and community programs. Especially interesting for Australian practitioners, is their focus on combinations of cross-cultural dance forms and mixed media (puppets, masks, original music, adventurous costume and stage design).

Much recent youth theatre work in Australia has had strong dance and movement components. It’s not surprising that a discrete area called Youth Dance should emerge. As early as 1994, the Australia Council commissioned a report on the area as part of their review of Youth policy. Merrian Styles from the NT office of Ausdance says, “We’ve organised this event in response to strong demand from our under-25 membership. An advisory panel of young dance practitioners from cities and regions throughout Australia decided that a festival would bring young people together and give us a clearer sense of the directions they want to go”.

Australian Youth Dance Festival, Darwin, September 28-October 3

RealTime issue #20 Aug-Sept 1997 pg. 33

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1 August 1997