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Telling a story of permeance and transience, the Youth Dance Festival is back in theatres continuing its long legacy of empowering and uniting Canberra’s community in a magical celebration of youth-led dance.
After a challenging (but by no means unsuccessful) 2021 digital performance, festival performers are excited to finally breathe shared air on a tangible stage.
With a theme of ‘Transience and Permanence’, each school is tasked with re-imagining this year’s theme to create a showcase that is thematically linked yet vastly unique—depending on the students and the gentle influence of the teacher.
For Director Dr. Cathy Adamek, she wanted this year’s festival to create reflective and emotional ties to the tumultuous and unpredictable world around us. Allowing students to use this unique platform of self-expression, her hope is they can begin to navigate ever-changing lockdowns, travel bans, and restrictions through dance.
“I wanted to create a theme that really tapped into what was going on in the world around them. And I think the idea of transience and permanence conjures up where we are at the moment,”
“We’ve just been through this period where everyone’s been locked down, and now everyone is travelling, suddenly, particularly those secondary students have a lot of options that were very limited,” she reflects.
The theme also leans poignantly into issues across the world, sparking timely conversations surrounding those in Ukraine—a sombre topic Dr Cathy encourages students to explore.
“There are these big flows of people who’ve been turfed out of their homes who are fleeing and running. So, the idea of transients, they’ve lost any sense of permanence. I wanted them to consider all those ideas and how that could be explored on stage.”
Ausdance ensures that every school has the tools and support needed to bring to life the diverse work that makes up this festival. Two hours of mentorship is dedicated to each piece, from TikTok-inspired dances to memorising conceptual acts nothing is off limits.
And as students find themselves supported creatively, this internal unfurling takes place, where empowerment, personhood and self-discovery quickly takes centre stage.
“Some of the feedback I’ve had from years before is that Ausdance and Dance Festival was the only place in Canberra where young people could explore their identity,” says Cathy.
“And we’re getting them to create Dance Theatre, it’s not just about doing a dance performance— it’s thinking about what’s the theatre involved. Let’s take an idea, and how do you express a concept through dance?”
As 650 school students unite towards a festival that celebrates its 38th year, there’s a spirit of resilience and endurance that runs through its organisers and participants who understand just how important this festival is for our Canberra youth.
But its presence is not something we should take for granted. It needs the support of the community to keep its powerful pulse beating for the next 38 years to come.
“They really do need the community to support them,” Cathy explains. “I’ve been so moved by those kinds of communal experiences where you sit and watch a whole bunch of young people from years 7 right through to 12 come together and express themselves from across the territory.”
What: Ausdance ACT Youth Dance Festival
When: Monday 5– Tuesday 6 September
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre