PROJECT Hip Hop; ASB Stage Challenge; Fresh Moves Smokefree ROCKQUEST       I’ve no idea what to expect when I get to Bethlehem College Performing Arts Centre for PROJECT the street dance competition. Competitors are coming into the hall and it turns out this isn’t just local but there are groups from round the North Island as well as the Bay of Plenty. I recognise the livery of South Auckland Bus and they are, busload down from Manurewa High School and I make a point of meeting their uniquely hatted dance teacher Shaquelle Maybury whose mainly Year 11 students have paid their own way to their first competition. Urban dance is a passion but so too is conventional professional success – one of the dancers tells me he wants to be a pilot.

It’s mid-Saturday and this is rehearsal and stage familiarisation time. What’s immediately apparent is the high level of organisation involved and the attitude of the organisers to the children and young people participating. Everyone no matter what their age (and some are tiny) are treated in a calm, teacherly and professional manner. There is one run through of the individual dance sets to establish stage placement and then a second run of the routine from entry to end. The levels of fitness have to be high to repeat some of these physically intense routines. There’s some panting and heavy breathing.

So what am I watching – it’s street dance – Hip Hop – derivative African dance filtered through the slave and urban black American experience. It has its own patois and vocabulary. The dance groups are crews. The music is loud and fierce. There are style categories of dance and movement. The dance and performance actions are military precision intense. The style combinations are individualistic and crew unique. I see elements of ballet and haka. There’s a high level of facial expression – smiling, grimacing, scowling and gesturing.

I’m totally hooked and it’s suggested I come back for the evening competitive performance. Today there are school and studio based groups and the auditorium is packed with supporters and families. I meet one of my friends working in the fundraising cafe – her daughter has started a crew at her local school. It’s hot and noisey -but I’ve been warned so I stuff tissues in my ears ( I think this is an age thing as I had no difficulty screaming with the Beatles).

Everyone’s in perfomance clothing and stage makeup. Some crews look like the marching girls of former years with matching glitz and style; others are in street clothing. What’s so noticeable is that everyone is fully clothed. There’s shouting, cheering and “shout outs” – thanks and comments from the stage performers.

There are two large groups of performers from Auckland – Mount Albert Grammar School and Manurewa High School – the diverse ethnic composition of the United Republic of Auckland is evident in these school groups. These mega groups are great to watch. I love the ‘Rewa High girls dressed in simple loose grey shifts and the boys all in matching puffer jackets. When their performance finishes I yell and cheer with the crowd. The next day and evening are just as good. There are again performers from 6 years of age to adults promoting their professionalism and individual dance styles and groups.

I’ve avoided hip hop music and a lot of rap because of the language and misogynistic content. I’ve also been uncomfortable at the highly sexualised movements and lightly glad young women of television and commercial music videos. Here the first thing I noticed was the family and youth focus of the event and the ability of street dance to include all ages, all shapes, all sizes and abilities. The levels of dedication and fitness were obvious – as important in all respects as a school rugby or netball team. Shaquelle Maybury tells me that Manurewa High School now has about 500 dance and performance students with three fulltime teachers – a journey she’s taken from the initial 45 kids six years ago. For the past 12 years dance has been a formal qualification subject. Why would I a former ballet student be surprised.

The other important thing I found out at this event was that the organisers of PROJECT have been supported and encouraged by Creative Tauranga and sitting through the evenings is Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell. Anyone who thinks arts funding is about painting or “elitism” should have seen PROJECT. If you have the opportunity to attend this event next year I would recommend you do so.

(Note: creativebeat May 2014 at Page 4 and 5 has an excellent article on the development of PROJECT and the Urban Street Dance Trust. The Tauranga Public Library has “Hip Hop Dance Meanings and Messages” by Carla Stalling Huntington -” tracing the African American dance from the Diaspora to the dance floor, this book covers a social history germane not only to the African American experience, but also to the global experience of laborers who learn lessons from hip hop dance. Examining hip hop dance as text, as commentary, and as a function of identity within the confines of consumerism….”)

I’d also recommend you take a look at next year’s ASB STAGE CHALLENGE: “ Stage Challenge is a high energy dance, drama and music extravaganza that aims to motivate and inspire students lead positive pro-active lives by giving them a ‘natural high’ without the use of drugs, tobacco or alcohol.” (Baycourt What’s On)

In the Baycourt Community and Arts Centre foyer the ASB sponsor’s table displayed a large herd of yellow elephants herded by suitably yellow teeshirted ASB staff. I’ve been an ASB banker since my first school banking days and have my own little yellow elephant as an art object!

I sat in on a rehearsal day for this school-based event at Baycourt. Again you’re viewing talent, dedication and organisation. I saw rehearsal performances by Te Aroha College, Mount Maunganui Intermediate, Whangamata Area School and Katikati College.

Essentially I was watching small stories with themes, separate acts and props. The content of these performances included some “lighter” versions of Hip Hop movement and music. There was also a traditional French cafe dance a deux .

There seemed to be a highly moralistic and educational tone to the performances – the perils of success, exploitation and abuse; a recreation of the turbulent 60’s of American society and efforts to achieve equality.

Last month Mandy Rowe of Otumoetai College gave me a quick overview of this student created and directed performance event. The themes and issues I viewed were therefore those considered performance relevant by the students themselves. After each rehearsal at Baycourt a team of students would appear on stage to talk and tweak performances.

This was another extremely well organised event. I went in to talk to the Katikati College teacher Louise Buckley and sitting on a blue tarpaulin in their named space were the College’s performance team getting out their packed lunches. The composition of the peformance group was again visibly diverse – an opportunity for all students to participate in a highly competitive creative and physical team event. Without doubt an avenue for the development of management, leadership and organisational skills.

FRESH MOVES 2014 – Move that Thought: “…The festival is non-competitive but each team will receive verbal feedback from a panel of experts and an award of excellence for an element that was particularly effective (eg concept, choreograpy, stage presentation)” It’s hard to believe that this is a dance festival of primary and intermediate school children. The standard of performance and presentation is outstanding. The festival is held over two days at Baycourt Community and Arts Centre. The evening programme is introduced by the inimitable Di Leach in traditional ringmaster style garb. She tells us that Tauranga Intermediate boys are manning the spotlight and that Tactix is filming and producting a DVD of both evenings. Prior to and after each performance Di speaks to a student representative – again an unexpected level of confidence and communication from these young people.

This is a showcase of talent, not a competition, giving young people a major perfomance opportunity and also an insight into the education courses available in senior secondary school years. First up was Paengaroa with their performance interpretation of the journey of the whitebait. It was balletically beautiful and incorporated traditional poi and movement. The little fish were as believable as the corps de ballet cygnets. Arataki showcased a composition of diverse musical and dance styles ending with their own contemporary “style” .

Te Puke Intermediate performed a disability and dream sequence confronting a difficult topic with maturity. I wrote “Wow” after their performance. Omanu performed their school motto – “Achievement comes with effort”. This was a large school group with multiple costumes and dance groups. Ti Akau ki Papamoa – danced “progress” – another very large group, simple but effective costumes but with visual and dance surprises. Tauranga Intermediate faced the unpleasant topic of cyber bullying – opening with a happy birthday, moving through the masked faceless of phone bullying and optimistically ending with forgiveness and awareness.

The programme concluded with three Tauranga Girls’ College student performance groups presenting dance and movement interpreting the recent Pukehinahina-Gate Pa Commemorations.

The presentations were a delight. All the children had been brought out to the stage to watch Tauranga Girls College and the sides of the stage were crowded. Everyone was acknowledged. The input of teachers and parents into this event must have been huge to achieve the level of presentation and performance I saw. My quote of the evening from Di Leach “stars don’t do that”. And this event was certainly about promoting stars. Added bonus of the evening: being seated next to a Te Akau ki Papamoa Mum.

John Gardner said “….very few have excellence thrust upon them…They achieve it. They do not achieve it unwittingly by doing what comes naturally and they don’t stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves. All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.”

And that’s what both PROJECT; ASB Stage Challenge and Fresh Moves 2014 showed me about the young people I saw. (Rosemary Balu’s tickets for PROJECT provided by Urban Dance Youth Trust and by Baycourt for ASB Stage Challenge and Fresh Moves 2014)

839-largeTHE SMOKEFREE ROCKQUEST 2014: Tim Peck of Otumoetai College: I thought the 2014 Smoke Free Rock Quest was brilliant. The show is a musical talent competition, and featured 9 rock bands, and 3 solo performances, by young, talented musicians from various schools around the Bay of Plenty region.

The show was started with a highly energetic performance from the band Joe’s Van, and this energy was maintained throughout the whole concert. I thought all the acts were of a really high standard. I especially liked the rock atmosphere in the auditorium, and this was achieved with a lot of dry ice smoke and great lighting effects.

The whole show was entertainingly pulled together by a really funny host, who liked to make jokes with the audience and the band members. His favourite joke was to ask the band members if they had made their instruments in wood working class! I really liked how the host gave out lots of freebies, including, guitar picks, lights and wristbands. However, I think he should work on his throwing arm so that the young audience members at the back of the theatre have a chance to get some of the free stuff, especially young reviewers like me!

At the end of the competition there was a prizegiving, with prizes from NZ RockShop.

Mt College band Joe’s Van won the band competition, with second place going to Liquid Sun from Katikati and Waihi College, and third place went to Phoenix from Otumoetai College.

In the solo division first place went to Georgia Lines from Bethlehem College, and second went to Ben Mollison, also from Bethlehem College.

The winning acts have the opportunity to gain selection for the national final at Auckland’s Q theatre, on Saturday 27th September 2014.

I thought all the acts were amazing, and it must have been hard for the judges to pick the finalists. I wish the finalists well for the competition in Auckland.

Thank you to Baycourt for providing the tickets to this event.



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