Tara Gower’s 2004 AYDF experience

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Tara Gower was an 18-year-old first year student at QUT Dance in Brisbane when she attended the 2004 Australian Youth Dance Festival (AYDF). She is now a member of Bangarra Dance Company. Here she shares her experience of the 2004 AYDF.

Tara Gower

Day 1

It was already exciting being in a new space, in a new place, rather than where I’d been studying since the beginning of 2004. The little balls of energy were compiling as we slowly began to meet each other at the barbeque at the University of New England ... to prepare for an explosion of Australian dance from all over this nation! We were given the opportunity to meet others with the same passion for movement from as far away as Darwin in the NT to Tasmania and Perth in WA and, of course, all the places in between.

We were to begin a journey along a path to ceremony … creating our own as individuals within a wider landscape, directed by Andrew Morrish, Jeanette Fabila, Michael Hennessy, Morganics, Mariaa Randall, Gerard Veltre, Sandi Woo, Darren Green, Bernie Bernard, Bec Ried, Ruth Osborne, Kylie Ball and Sandi Rapson.

Day 2

After experiencing Balance Point, a piece by Extensions Youth Dance Company from Townsville last night, I was overwhelmed by the maturity of my newfound peers. Their dance work was glittering with professionalism and yet dealt with issues of young people today, which seemed so close to home.

With a tummy filled with yummy food provided by the University of New England kitchen staff, we all headed up the hill, through the park, to the main campus for our tutors’ introduction. Then, with this colourful bunch, we headed towards Apsley Falls with Aunty Fay.

I absolutely loved the song we learnt today from Jeanette, when we first arrived at the National Park. At first I thought it was kind of contrived, but then as we performed it more, and then with the traditional elders of the Anaiwan Country, it really flew through me.

‘… I can feel its warmth, through the earth, that covers our skin … ‘ Throughout the week this became our kind of theme song, together with Jeanette’s 'look, listen, learn' …a Torres Strait Islander dance/song which influenced the choreography within our final performance.

Looking back overall on my experience, this day was my most influential. To be connected and invited into our surroundings with Aunty Fay was so special. The flight of the landscape surrounding Apsley Falls is one I shall never forget, especially the rainbow serpent story, though the rock cave is amazing! Thank you for sharing the inside truths of this country’s history.

The ochre workshops were taught by Sue Hudson (Wyradjuri and Daingatli descent) and Elder Liza Duncan (Gamaroi descent). The ways in which they demonstrated the meanings of ochre in specific relation to the face were ones I’d never experienced before. Black, yellow and red ochres are generally used for rock art, and white ochre is used for mourning.

Day 3

I have been awaiting today for a long time. I was very anxious to start working with Michael Hennessy, who has previously worked with Sydney Dance Company–whooahh whoo!!

It was great, we did pilates and strengthening exercises in the beginning. Then we workshopped our ideas about yesterday’s experience at Apsley Falls. The massacre site hit us all the most. Michael said he wanted to steer away from this part of history in his piece, but it was such a strong influence expressed by all of us, that ‘sadness’ became one of the sections in our piece. It was amazing! I was hungry for more. Dance was appetising! I wanted more and more … to reach a natural high beyond the expression of words!

We started with a sculptural beginning which at first seemed a bit kinda simple, but as the day progressed the symbolism was obvious. It felt so good to work in another way … to approach choreography and certain ideas with so much creative space/permission. Love it—can’t wait for tomorrow!

Day 4

Our location is beautiful. So tranquil in the middle of outback, sparce Australia. The University of New England’s campus is a true reflection of our history and colonisation. The colours of autumn are beautiful—the trees almost look like fresh flowers ranging from light sunny yellows to lime green, red, maroon, orange and deep purple … something I’ve never seen, growing up in the Kimberleys where we only have two seasons. It’s so freezing though!

Today we continued with our choreography. It’s so inspiring—I am definitely continuing my career in dance! I aspire to one day bringing my own group over from Broome to share and contribute to Australian dance.

Day 5

Last night’s performance was so delicate and spell-binding … I dunno … beautiful … out of this world! I’m talking about the gentle representation of The Plague and the Moon Flower by the local dancers of Armidale … so delicate and spell-binding—it’s amazing the difference and work we all put in to achieve the results of performance. I feel giddy inside because it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before! And then contrasted with Rossmoyne Senior High School’s performance, it just hit the spot … dancing to music and moves we all relate to as young people is, for me, what expression through dance is all about!

I already feel sad, because tomorrow we’re performing and then it’s all over. I’ve met so many amazing people who all have a different stance on the same passion that fills my life—I don’t want it to end!

Class today was about finalising our piece, which has a distinct Indigenous flavour. I absolutely love it and wish that it could go longer than 5 minutes. My taster classes have made me so hungry for more movement. I love the way Michael Hennessy moulds movement together. The dance culture in Australlia, I now realise, is becoming … alive ….

Day 6

Thursday! Performance time! Today was the last day we had to practise our choreography with our main tutors in the mornings. My group with Michael Hennessy was on the way. By now we’d mingled with everyone at the camp. Meeting new people with the same passion as you, is the best feeling—sharing information and conversing on different levels about the one thing we love (dance) was equally a natural high for me as performing our piece.

We all gelled together naturally—almost like we’d known each other for years. At first I was sceptical about meeting and working with over 200 students from around the country, but as soon as we got there and into it, it was so natural I didn’t want to leave. I’d met some special people and I want to keep in contact with them. Ohhh! Our performance was amazing, shifting all over the uni grounds, sharing what we’d learnt all week. I loved it and will remember it always!

Australian Youth Dance Festival site-specific performance.Tara Gower performing in the site-specific performance at the 2004 Australian Youth Dance Festival.

So much talent .. raw and fresh ..
Ausdance is here to bring out our best …
From all over Australia we meet funk, contemporary, hip hop, jazz to complete …
The passion of dance everywhere with Indigenous flavours and care for each other and our land …
Together through movement
The youth will stand!!
YOU could be next!

Armidale 2004

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