MEJ Masthead

Students show off moves of a different kind

Laura Peppas

With prowess in rugby union, soccer, AFL and hockey, Marist College is widely known as one of Canberra’s most successful sporting schools.

But as I discover when visiting the school on a Friday afternoon, a group of students are showing off impressive moves of a different kind.

Five times a week, the boys (aged between 14 and 18 years old) dedicate time during their lunchbreaks and after school to practise their dance routine for this year’s Ausdance ACT’s Youth Dance Festival, under the watchful eye of the festival’s creative director and choreographic mentor Jamie Winbank.

Jamie, who is a locally-based dancer, improvisation artist, choreographer and dance teacher, has been visiting 34 other ACT schools as part of his role, to support and guide students through the process of developing a work and being part of the festival.

“I’ve been involved in Dance Fest for a long time but this is the first year I’ve taken on this particular role,” he says.

“It’s been fantastic, I’ve got the best seat in the house in terms of the process, I get to see pieces at really different stages. For example [the Marist College] piece, we’ve got two weeks to go and this dance is just going to grow and grow and grow in that time. It’s been really interesting to see what different people can bring to the table.”


The boys, led by Sam Fotu (left) and Cameron McKendry (right), practise their routine.

Created in 1985, Ausdance ACT’s Youth Dance Festival (or Dance Fest as it is popularly known) aims to provide the youth of Canberra with the opportunity to dance in a professional theatre environment. Students choreograph their own pieces for the festival, with this year’s theme to be ‘Explorations.’

“For many, this amazing event will live with them as perhaps their only opportunity to experience a full theatre production that works with them to build self esteem, teamwork, and supports what they want to express,” Jamie says.

“It’s not a competition. We say everyone can dance. We don’t give prizes. We want the dancers to choose their own music, create their own dance, introduce their own dance works, and be the only people on stage. We want to hear their ‘voice’.”

Jamie says he has been impressed so far at the level of student choreography.

“The talent is always fantastic and in terms of the Marist College students for example, this is the sixth year they’ve been involved in the festival and it’s really great because they’re representing young men dancing, and it shows a school that is so heavily involved in sport also has the capability and function to be involved in dance,” Jamie says.

Jamie Winbank

Marist College students Sam Fotu and Cameron McKendry, who choreographed their school’s piece, say they “can’t wait” to get on stage.

“It’s challenging but it’s fun – it’s a chance to show what we do to other people and all the hard work we’ve put in,” says Sam.

“It’s really the best feeling when you’re up on stage performing.”

Cameron, who has been dancing since he was 11 years old, says having Jamie as a mentor has been a highlight.

“This is the first time since year 8 that we’ve had a male dancer come and help us, so instantly we kind of connected with him because he knows where we’re coming from,” he says.


the essentials
What: Youth Dance Festival 2015 ‘Explorations’
When: 16, 17 and 18 September
Where: The Canberra Theatre Centre
How much: $32 for adults, $26 for concession ($3.30 transaction fee applies)


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author