On the banks of the iconic Murray River, ninety-five young people staged a spectacular performance to close the 2014 Australian Youth Dance Festival. Held in Renmark on the border of South Australia and Victoria, this was the eighth Australian Youth Dance Festival (AYDF). The AYDF's unique structure allows young people to engage in creative exchange in a supportive, non-competitive environment that encourages participation and learning.
Artistic Director Adam Wheeler, a Stompin and VCA alumni and director of YellowWheel, led a team of tutors including well-known Australian performers and choreographers Katrina Lazaroff, Larissa McGowan, Sani Townsend, Kiale Nadine-Williams and Frankie Snowdon. Working on a simple rotation system meant everyone got a chance to take a class with one of the tutors in the morning and then work on skills development (such as tumbling, balance and strength and choreographic approaches) in the afternoon.
With classes taking place in the Chaffey Theatre, Renmark primary and secondary schools and the Renmark Sports Centre, the Renmark community welcomed the festival. Members of the Riverland Youth Theatre and Riverland Special School shared their skills via showcase performances, and dancers from Nunga Rhythms took part in classes and the final performance. Local newspapers and ABC radio spoke with some of the dancers and captured some great pictures of the event. Even the local Federal Member Tony Pasin MP dropped by to see all the excitement.
The final performance included rocking out to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and a series of duos, trios and the full company dancing to an original score composed by Alex Waite-Mitchell. The performance closed with the dancers bringing members of the audience to the river’s edge to join in setting paper boats adrift in the river–each with a personal message of regeneration, hope and change.
The event had an all-in, inclusive approach where peer-to-peer learning and support was a highlight. Even the AYDF staff members were involved in morning warm up and classes. Somehow, after a huge week, the participants found more energy to sing and dance for hours at the closing night party.
This was a week that will stay in the minds and hearts of all involved. Existing friendships were strengthened and new ones formed. Through the leadership of the artistic team, participants were able to dance, create and perform in new ways. This experience has strengthened participants’ love for dance and provided insights into how dance can continue to be a part of life in years to come
Ausdance SA worked with the local community, project managers and the artistic team to build the AYDF2014 program. The AYDF2014 steering group included Ausdance SA, Ausdance National, Country Arts SA and Carclew. Support also came from the Chaffey Theatre, Renmark Paringa Council, Renmark Water, ArtsSA, Dance Informa and the Australia Council for the Arts.