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How did you define yourself when you were starting out in dance? What points of reference did you use? Who was there to help you with your next move? There can be significant turning points for young dancers which either assist to transform them into professional dance practitioners or help them to realise a life of dance may not be quite what they had expected. Ausdance responded to these issues in youth dance in 1997 with the inaugural Australian Youth Dance Festival.

Creating the right environment for the facilitation of creative development is an important emphasis of the Australian Youth Dance Festival which this year is being held in Townsville, Queensland from June 27 to July 2. The initiative brings together youth interested in or already practising dance to gain further knowledge and to formulate networks of peers across Australia. The program is based on workshops, forums, discussions and performance.

Catering for all levels of dance, the festival has 3 major strands; one for young dancers who are still students, one for new dance graduates and independent artists, and one for youth dance leaders and teachers. Youth, for the purpose of the festival, is defined as being anyone from 10 to 30 years of age.

Festival tutors have been selected firstly for their specialised knowledge in a certain field and secondly for their ability to work with people of differing age groups and dance knowledge. Students who have had little dance experience will be able to participate and enjoy the festival equally with those who have studied dance technique intensively. Technique sessions will be available every day in many different dance styles.

Some of the festival’s scheduled workshops cover dance education for teachers; skills development for young dance writers and youth dance leaders; and choreographic, film and new technology workshops for independent choreographers and dancers. Panel discussions and forums will be presented by emerging artists on such topics as the processes behind choreography; how cross cultural works fit into the landscape of Australian dance; gender in dance; the moving body in relation to film; the importance of dance research; the relationship between traditional and contemporary dance practices; and dance and meaning. As well as emerging artists, more established artists such as Chrissie Parrott will deal with topics like Motion Capture and the use of technology in dance.

To play host to a major national youth dance event is an exciting prospect for the Townsville dance community. For this reason the Festival’s performance component has been integrated into the local community as much as possible.

Local residents and the many tourists in the region will be able to enjoy free lunchtime outdoor performances presented by young people, in the centre of the town throughout the week. The Townsville Civic Centre will host 2 large public performances on June 28 and 29 featuring the Festival’s resident professional dance company, Dance North and its youth counterpart, Extensions Youth Dance Company and international and interstate dance groups like Steps Youth Dance Company from Perth. A range of new work by independent choreographers will be presented on a daily basis.

Young dance students (10 to 15) will be involved in a special component of the program, the Community Dance Project which will focus particularly on dance and art making processes. Victorian choreographer Beth Shelton and visual artist from Tracks Dance in the Northern Territory, Tim Newth, will lead this project with the participation of the Mornington Island Dancers. Beth and Tim have previously worked together on large-scale community projects with young people and are able to work with students at many skill levels. Other dancers and visual artists will assist them in making the work, which will be shown on Magnetic Island on the last afternoon of the Festival, Friday July 2.

RealTime issue #30 April-May 1999 pg. 30

© Naomi Black; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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