Dancers get to the pointe
Largely regarded as the best and most professional to date, the visual feast which is the 2012 State Dance Festival enjoyed capacity performances recently at the Seymour Centre and Martin Place, Sydney.
A quote from legendary late German dancer/choreographer, Pina Bausch, who changed the face of modern dance in Europe, provided the theme and inspiration for this year's festival, which was "Point of Departure".
The Seymour Centre hosted six performances including an extra matinee on Friday that repeated some of the week's best works and a performers' performance, which allowed students to watch their peers. Around 1,500 talented public school dancers performed from all regions, including as far afield as Barham, Kingscliff and Dubbo.
Specialist troupes included the NSW Public Schools Urban Dance Crew, which received special mentoring by choreographers Don Naplan and Nick Power, and the Aboriginal Dance Ensemble, which received valuable tutoring by Bangarra Dance's Sidney Saltner and Sonny Towson.
The 23 Indigenous students performed a sublime work called Gapan based on some of the choreography from Bangarra's recent performance, Ochres.
"It was a fantastic experience working with them, and the students learned so much," said Susan Rix, student dance performance officer, DEC arts unit.
"We were also amazingly fortunate to have secured the ambassadorship of Rafael Bonachela, artistic director of the Sydney Dance Company (SDC). A graduate from the department's dance program, Tom Bradley, originally a country boy from Cootamundra, is now with the SDC, so that's a lovely link to have."
Mr Bonachela said nurturing the talent and passion of young dancers was a crucial stepping stone in their development.
"At Sydney Dance Company I've seen first-hand the potential that these experiences can bring to life," Mr Bonachela said.
"Creativity is a life skill; something that you can draw on outside of the dance studio or stage. Creativity helps you to think outside of the box, to come up with new ideas and to find solutions to problems that might not be so obvious. It teaches us to be curious and to question the world around us. It helps us to grow as individuals and to understand ourselves.
Ms Rix said the State Dance Festival had been running for about 20 years and was the only event of its type in Australia.
This year was the best yet, she believed.
"I'm always amazed how much stronger the talent is every year," she said. "There are students who look like they're stepping out of professional companies now. Teachers have embraced the dance syllabus and I'm very proud of what's been achieved in our schools."
See more of the unique partnership between Bangarra Dance and the department's arts unit with Aboriginal dance workshops and performances held as part of the 2012 State Dance Festival.