Students dance with the stars

Sydney Aboriginal dance students pose for a group shot

Sydney Aboriginal dance students have lived their dream and shared the Sydney Opera House stage with world-class dancers. 

Eight students from a number of Sydney high schools were given inside tips on dance technique, performance and production from Bangarra Dance Theatre and Nederlands Dans Theater during a week-long work experience program.

Newtown High School of Performing Arts dance student Coby Smith-Carr said being part of the program motivated her.

Inspiring experience

"Meeting performers like Bangarra and watching them warm up has made me so inspired to work harder so I can, maybe, be part of that one day," she said.

"It was unique to learn about what happens backstage - all the production that makes the show comes together. As a performer I just thought performers made the show - we learned about all the stage crew and what they do, and that without them it wouldn't be as great as it is."

The experience had a similar impact on student Kate Lienert.

"It's been a real eye-opener. I'm in Year 11 so I don't have long left at school. It made me realise what I do want to do when I leave school. I'm pretty set on hopefully aspiring to be a Bangarra dancer."

Employment pathways

Frank Newman, Sydney Opera House creative learning specialist, said while the invitation to students was timed to coincide with the dance troupes' performances, the visit was part of a wider program called Djurali. This is a partnership between the Sydney Opera House, the Australian Theatre for Young People and the Department of Education and Communities.

The aim of Djurali, which means ‘grow' in the language of the Gadigal people, is to give Aboriginal students the opportunity to participate in arts and cultural activities with a view to creating employment pathways for them.

Artistic opportunities

During the week at the Opera House the students are given a personalised orientation and behind the scenes tour. They engage in role-playing sessions to boost their confidence and explore backstage. They learn about the staff roles from ushers to box office operators.

Aboriginal education and engagement consultant, Kerry Toomey, said the program enabled the students to understand the breadth of employment opportunities available to them in the arts and entertainment industry.

"Not everybody ends up being a dancer, students learn that you can still work in dance through other opportunities such as being involved in advertising, public relations, choreography, composing, set design…the list is endless," she said.

Photo: Program participants with Aboriginal community liaison officer Aunty Fay Carroll. Photo by David Lefcovitch.

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