Image: Jessica Du, Credit: Dominic O’Donnell
This past weekend I was privileged to be one of the judges on the panel of Fast and Fresh Dance, an evening of dance by big talent of tomorrow, presented by FORM Dance Projects at Riverside, Parramatta.
I have to be honest, at first I was more than a little hesitant. Dance, like all art disciplines, is subjective, in the way we comprehend it, appreciate it and judge its worth. Surely attracting new participants and audiences is always a primary objective when considering entrants so young (21 years and under).
Seventeen items on the bill, 7 prizes on the agenda and a theatre full of number 1 fans comprised of close family and friends, who (I imagine) have lived every stage of the young performers’ theatrical endeavours alongside them. This was not a responsibility to be taken lightly.
A pause by the more than affable MC made me think I was introduced as a past contestant on So You Think You Can Dance. My cheeks flushed hot in the comfort of the darkened seating bank, thankful that no one could witness first hand my response to this preposterous notion. Sadly I cannot be counted amongst the fresh faced, hard bodies at ease with all things bedazzled, amid production values only network TV can create.
I was very nervous thinking I would forget each item, so took copious notes, with detailed descriptions of every aspect of each performance. Sadly, it later amounted to chicken scrawl, only to be rivalled by the indecipherable notation found in doctors’ prescription pads. Apparently my ability to count is also somewhat suspect, the last item numbering 20. That’s 20 out of a possible 17.
What unfolded before me was an amazing diversity of expression, representing a range of genres from tap to hip hop and cultures spanning the globe. The strength of each piece as wide-ranging as the experiences epitomised from teenage angst to immense cultural hardship and significance. Some dancers possessed a physical virtuosity beyond their years while others the ability to convey the gravity of profound emotion.
When the (proverbial) curtain fell on the last performance we (judges) were ushered to the boardroom out back and given 30 minutes to allocate the prizes. This is when we realised how seriously we had taken our positions. We were invested, and a major haggle ensued, as the merit of each piece was mulled over. Forty-five minutes later voices became heated, rules were tested and a new category was created to acknowledge just one more deserving performance.
I always worry about the competitive aspect, especially considering such a young demographic. I needn’t have shouldered that burden though, as pure joy was evident in their faces as they took their final bows.
Dance is inherently competitive, as you vie for the audience’s attention, the urge to beat a physical ideal within a fallible instrument and to beat your best. In the right context a contest creates a step toward excellence, a step outside of mediocrity and stagnant comfort. For those who sit in the audience it can often be the entry point to a lifelong patronage of the theatre.
Verdict- a great night out.
And the winners are:
Best Female: Lacinda Fisk
Best Male: Abuzar Abdelrahim
Best Solo: Sumire Antonioli
Best Duo: Kai Taberner & Hannah Danon
Best Group: Tia Lung, Courtney Raftry, Kristina Richmond & Maddie Trait
Most Outstanding Choreography: Kei Ishii
Judges Choice: Joseph Duffy
Industry Placement: Jessica Du
Audience Choice: Maria Esquivel & Brett Hartnett
By Vicki Van Hout