Shades of Us – Australian Youth Dance Festival

AYDF - Dancer: Maitreyah Guenther

More than 150 young people from all over Australia attended the Australian Youth Dance Festival at NAISDA Dance College in Gosford NSW. I was one of the guest choreographers amongst an exciting line up that consisted of some of Australia’s notable artists working with young people in dance including Anton, Kay Armstrong, Matt Cornell and Adelina Larsson (working together), Sue Healey, Vicki Van Hout and Lee Pemberton.

Each day of the AYDF the choreographers worked with different groups during one off workshops or masterclasses before working more specifically with their assigned group on the choreographic tasks for Shades of Us. My workshop repeated a format where the dancers introduced each other to someone they hadn’t met before and shared their personal stories of an embarrassing moment (some more then others). From this they designed a motif to tell their story through movement (and voice) and teamed up with their partner and other dancers to create a short dance which I then crafted using simple choreographic tools. Each group  showed their at the end of the session.

I directed a work called Lithophytes and Epiphytes in an area of the gardens of the same name with a cast of 19 performers with and without a disability. 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.

Shades of Us, presented in Mt Penang Gardens on the final evening of the week-long event 8 – 14 April 2012, was a performance that grew out of an intensive week of creative development with all the choreographers and artistic director Rowan Marchingo.

Ausdance National Director, Julie Dyson writes…”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.”

I’d like to thank everyone at Ausdance NSW for providing me such a fantastic opportunity to work with so many incredible artists throughout the week and especially to Frankie Woo who at less than a year old, was my youngest ever participant and to his mum Sandi who really helped me keep it together in the most challenging times.

For more writings on Shades of Us and the Australian Youth Dance Festival 2012, click here.

Photograph: Julie Dyson | Dancer: Maitreyah Guenther

This is a Youtube link to the promo for the Australian Youth Dance Festival 2012.