Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Gillies Avenue (Cnr Silver Road) Epsom, Auckland

31/05/2016 - 01/06/2016

Production Details


Youth , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

2 x 1 hour

Dance is flourishing in our schools!

Review by Briar Wilson 15th Jun 2016

Programme 1 presented 18 short works from eight secondary schools and two youth dance companies to an enthusiastic audience (mostly parents and school mates) that filled the theatre.  This was not entirely good news, as the show was booked out so early, quite a few people would have missed out.

Howick College successfully opened the programme with its first piece, Wherefore Art Thou, for 15 dancers, carefully broken up with groups, duets and a solo.  The range of movement was entertaining and included some steps from ballet.  Its second piece, Forced Winds, showed good originality with great timing, energy and discipline.  Here teachers worked with the dancers on a piece depicting the sad theme of ejection of overstayers.

St Dominic’s Catholic College.  Three pieces were each by student choreographers, two of them working with the dancers.  The first piece, Exclusion, used some of the same moves as might be seen in a dance studio, and the third, Medicine, in the same way, came up with a flip and multiple turns! It was the second piece, Letting Go, for two dancers, that produced a more original and interesting picture of conflict and competition between friends.

Pointy Dog Youth Dance Company had 15 dancers on stage in Reminiscence.  The piece had a casual look with some untidiness, perhaps because the dancers had a range of ability and were all on stage throughout.  However they did also work together, and as usual, the choreographers, with the dancers, made new movement patterns.

Glendowie College brought three pieces, each using student choreographers – although the last, What It Seems, was based on material from the Royal New Zealand Ballet.  But even this moved away from the ballet idiom in a creative and natural way.  The first piece, They Tried to bury Us, included one guy with five girls, he having a different part at times, but not at other times, and the look was strong, independent and vital.  Their next, Identity, had two guys who, even in skirts, managed to push some of the girls around a bit, but otherwise were just part of the group.

Mt Albert Grammar School’s first piece, It’s Just a Line, was choreographed by a student for three others who shared individual moves that held interest.  The second piece, Va’a a le Pasifika, put together by an adult choreographer, had ten guys who sang and moved with high energy, in ways not just coming from the Pacific Islands.  The next, Lay Your Heart On Me, was choreographed by one student on two others, who had to give personal expression to a relationship where one relies on another.

Western Springs College’s first piece had two guys and three girls who worked up their own dance, At Ease, about the conflict between imposed rules and self.  It showed discomfort as well as compliance.  The other, A Fragile Shoulder, choreographed by a student for five others, explored different angles with arms and body, the music suggesting that the sources were deep.

Pakuranga College’s piece, It’s Hard Being a Girl, employed spoken words, and was put together by the 22 dancers with guidance from their teacher. Though a large group, they still managed to keep well within the patterns of movement.  However, individuals were also given their opportunities to stand out from the group, with one lifted up by her outstretched arms. 

Avondale College’s piece, Slip, choreographed by two of the dancers, had ten girls on stage.  It made good patterns with groups, including pairs and solos, and also achieved good unison.  It felt loose, as well as flowing, the music being well chosen for that impression.

Out of the Box Youth Company’s You Don’t Own Me had six dancers on stage, including four guys in an athletic piece, with mentoring assistance from the company’s director.  The six worked well and happily together, and turned on some virtuoso moves with a mechanical look.

Manurewa High School finished the show with Politician, for a mixed group of 19, including lots of guys, and was choreographed by a teacher with the dancers.  It stressed individual differences and the costumes had a “camo” look.  Active and engaging, but not relying on the guys to do acrobatic moves, it closed the show with a bang.

It seems as if the dancers and dances get better every year, though I note that is what I said last year! 

Some things stand out – one was how some of the groups still reflected the kinds of dance styles that the dancers would have been taught in private  dance studios, with a technical rather than more creative or imaginative focus.  However, perhaps that is simply because those are the movements that the dancers knew and therefore felt more comfortable with.

Also, there are still more girls dancing than boys, and when the guys do get going, often (but not always) it is in the popular very masculine haka like works.

Finally, it’s just wonderful to see how dance is flourishing in our schools!


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YouDance: Yes, you certainly can dance

Review by Sarah Knox 04th Jun 2016

Over two nights, 20 high school dance groups and youth dance companies from all over Auckland presented their work as part of YouDance at the Raye Freedman Centre. An initiative of the Northern Dance Network, YouDance is a festival specifically for high school aged students to share and showcase their dance talents in a safe, non-competitive and inclusive environment. As a lecturer in Dance Studies at the University of Auckland, I am a big fan of the diversity and opportunity that feature within the festival.

We all know that dance can be a vehicle for social transformation, learning to understand people not like us, for communicating what cannot be said in words. The young people involved in YouDance have got this down. The dance works in the programme speak to issues that are meaningful and real in their worlds: identity, consent, relationships, self-discovery and cultural histories. These young people ‘show up’ consistently in every piece with bodies, hearts, and minds. They look fiercely out to the audience with confidence and pride. They remind me what a feat it is to stand in the bright lights looking out into the dark, quiet theatre hoping that the people will like you. It is terrifying and exhilarating. This is confidence building, community strengthening and identity affirming in their very best moments. 

As each year does, the two programmes feature a mixture of students’ and teachers’ choreographies.  At times, if you didn’t have a programme you might not be able to guess whose is whose. Big kudos to each dance teacher involved. All pieces are excellently rehearsed, cohesive, well costumed, and cleanly staged. The performers on both nights are strong and able. Many are already very seasoned performers, clearly in training in three or four dance styles. However, I have to wonder, have the pieces have almost become ‘glossy’ and homogenised? There is something missing that I have witnessed in previous years: the gutsy, raw, messy energy of fresh performers whose bodies are not yet docile; the beautiful naivety and courage of someone’s presence growing with certainty in the space of a four-minute choreography.

I’m big on technique, but I do question if this year there are perhaps too many balletic pirouettes and forced-arch contemporary dance manoeuvres. I ponder at what point might all this potentially alienate some of YouDance’s future performers? I yearn for some of the more experienced dancers to investigate more subtlety, more quiet, more complex rhythms, and a more diverse range of dynamics, qualities and textures in their movement, to explore the generation of their own movement vocabularies or to further manipulate and develop the ones they know.

The strongest choreographies, for me, are those that cohesively bring different dance styles into collision, those where the dancers are human rather than playing the role of ‘performer’, and those where the sense of community on stage is as strong as the dance content and concept. Particular images haunt my memory: a group of red-shirted young men singing a capella, a wheelchair being tilted to the side with risky joy, and a haka that grew seamlessly out of the dance.

The atmosphere in the theatre is supportive to say the very least. As with every YouDance I have attended, the peer supporters are almost jumping out of their seats with rapturous applause at the end of every dance work. Out in the foyer there are proud parents and teachers, there are selfies and laughter. There is something going on here and these kids know it. 


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