It was fantastic to be able to join the Ausdance NSW team, the choreographers and more than 150 young people from all over Australia on the last day of the Australian Youth Dance Festival at NAISDA Dance College in Gosford NSW.
Shades of Us, presented in Mt Penang Gardens on the final evening, was a performance that grew out of an intensive week of creative development with choreographers Sue Healey, Philip Channells, Anton, Kay Armstrong, Matt Cornel, Adelina Larsson, Lee Pemberton, Vicki Van Hout and artistic director Rowan Marchingo.
Here are some of photos of this memorable performance on the last evening.
The performance began with Indigenous dancers performing amongst audience members in an imaginative Welcome to Country by Minning Minni Kaiwarrine in the grassed amphitheatre, with the audience surrounded by the 150 AYDF dancers.
The beautiful gardens provided an inspirational setting for each of the seven site-specific works, set in amazing sculptural spaces, exotic plantings, water features, rolling grasses, a gorgeous cactus garden, stone walls and multiple stairways.
The People’s Trees, Sabotage/Concealment—Secrets/Consipiracies in the Bottle Tree Garden—choreographer Kay Armstrong and performers. This work used the creative starting points of conspiracies from our modern world, secrets from each of the artists, and the camouflage that nature provides for its creatures. The People’s Trees is an unstable landscape, neither of the past or the future, but of some other time and place. Who can you trust?
The choreographers guided their young dancers through the spaces with great sensitivity and skill, making seven mini works, each repeated several times throughout the one-hour performance. This enabled audiences to view the works from different angles and at different times in the gathering dusk. The diffused lighting came into play as the sun set, adding to the magical atmosphere. The works were accompanied by a soundscape especially composed by Bob Scott.
Barefoot Garden—choreographers Matt Cornel and Adelina Larsson. This installation was created with contemporary dance and break dance fused as one, playing with the aesthetics of weight and momentum. Matt and Adelina used the garden to inspire the aural resonance of the space, the pitch and position at which frequency is amplified and to explore the physical connections that are experienced outside the imagination.
The week had included a busy program of creative development, taster classes, forums and performances by some of Australia’s leading youth dance groups. Dancers came from as far away as Europe, from Perth, Adelaide and Darwin, and from regional cities including Alice Springs, Cowra, Broome, Bega, Tathra and Wollongong.
Dragon Garden—choreographer Sue Healey. This dance was a play with scale, both large and small. Dancers explored making movement for both the camera and the expansive garden space, collaboratively creating a short film and choreographic movement. The film was screened in the garden alongside the live performance.
Apart from performances by these groups during the week, a highlight was an Indigenous dance forum with Vicki Van Hout, who is documenting and creating an Indigenous dance technique, supported by NAISDA Dance College. She raised many important issues, and we'll link to her full presentation when it becomes available.
Lithophytes and Epiphytes—choreographer Philip Channells. The dancers were challenged and inspired to look for a new and authentic quality of movement specific to them. Based around a process of improvisation in the performance space, they explored an embodiment of plants that live on air, that cling to life on the side of a cliff, a staircase that engulfs life and the drama of a murder mystery film.
The AYDF is a unique event on the Australian dance calendar, with its focus on Indigenous dance culture, creative development and site-specific work. It was exciting to see all of these elements brought together so successfully by Cathy Murdoch and the Ausdance NSW team, and to see a new generation of young dancers from all over Australia benefiting from such a unique experience. The new studios at NAISDA and the cooperation of Kim Walker and his team helped to make this an extra special AYDF.
Misty Mountains—choreographer Vicki Van Hout. Rolling Hills with Sculpture was set in a series of rolling hills with a metal supporting structure. The concept was to create a peaceful and meditative scene indicative of soft eddies, waves or currents, and insert interruptions at increasing intervals to build to a climax of fast energetic chaos, only to end as it began. The challenge of this segment was to introduce the element of surprise from a 360-degree viewing perspective.
Wind Fissure—choreographer Anton. This installation was a physical and technical dance exploration inspired by the idea of how the body could be affected by wind. Set along a wall, the ensemble simulated dance that floated in the breeze and was pushed by gale force wind.
Puddle Garden—choreographer Lee Pemberton. This work was created using water and the effects water has in making reflections. The choreographic material was placed in, around and on the water during the work.
The creative team of Shades of Us would like to thank each young artist for their individual creative input, brave spirits and hard work.