Fast+Fresh Dance – Interview with Carl Sciberras

It’s all about Fast+Fresh Dance for FORM this week. Now in its fifth year, the popular youth dance festival showcases short works by choreographers and dancers aged 21 or under. Heats are being held Wednesday and Thursday. The gala awards final is on Saturday19th November. I recently caught up with FORM’s Education Officer Carl Sciberras for a quick chat.

Fast+Fresh is part of FORM’s education strand called transFORM. It is very popular and has been presented for quite a few years now. Would you say it has become somewhat of a cornerstone of the education strand?

It definitely feels like its epicentre. Throughout the year, when we run the See the Show, Learn the Repertoire programs, we promote Fast+Fresh early on as a way to bring all these young interested dancers together and give them the opportunity to express themselves and perform, after they have seen the quality of the Dance Bites shows.

So, some of the people entering in Fast+Fresh have participated in the See the Show, Learn the Repertoire programs?

Yes. The teachers  who bring along their kids to those programs, are really encouraging of students to get involved so they are generally the first port of call. And there are a few groups this year who have come from schools that came along to one of the Learn the Repertoire sessions.

How do people enter Fast+Fresh? What is the process?

We encourage people to apply by submitting a DVD which means we don’t have to organise a live audition process. This year we had about 40 applications and we reduced them down to 30 works that will be presented in two heats, 15 each night. Fast+Fresh has been around for a few years now so the kids know the quality that is required. This year we had six people from last year, and some even from the year before, who applied again. The benchmark for every application is quite high so it is hard to reduce them. We tried to fit in as many as possible. The point of the program is to expose as much young, up and coming dance as possible.

Fast+Fresh is set up as a competition. From an educational point of view, what is the value of that?

We pitch Fast+Fresh as a dance festival mainly. And we give awards without places, there is no ranking as such. What is great about Fast+Fresh is that, unlike dance Eisteddfods, for example, there are no categories in terms of style of dance, no age brackets and no distinction between male and female. People are given the opportunity to come from any age bracket, under 21 obviously, to present work in the style they are comfortable with. It’s not about giving boundaries to dance. It’s about innovation and giving kids the opportunity to show what they think dance is.

Can you talk about what background the judges have?

They are from a whole range of different expertise in dance. We have judges who are from contemporary dance and judges who are from the commercial scene, who have been on So You Think You Can Dance and these programs, as well as people from funding bodies and producers – a real range of different experiences and different points of view.

You say Fast+Fresh is about minimising the boundaries in dance. In terms of the judging, what criteria are judges asked to assess against?

We deliberately have left the criteria quite open. Essentially what all the judges will have in common is whether a dancer is connected with them. I think it’s quite liberating to open out the criteria and say to the judges: “What we are interested in seeing is people who perform for you, people who perform the best and people who present choreography that is innovative and interesting, something you haven’t seen before, something that sticks with you.”

What can we expect from this year’s program?

I can honestly say that the standard this year is much higher than it has been before. Interestingly, there are some exceptional male dancers, from a vast range of age and style. We have a 13-year old ballet dancer, for example, who has danced with The Australian Ballet, he’s got an incredible technique. There is also a 7-year old Hip Hop dancer – he is really fun and energetic. And then there is also a 19-year old dancer who has just been accepted in the New Zealand School of Dance, with backgrounds in both Hip Hop and Contemporary Dance. I think it’s going to be really difficult to choose prize winners.

In terms of the works that are being presented – there are solos, duets and group works?

Yes, there is quite a few solos and duets, some trios. There are also groups of five and six and a couple of teen-sized groups- 13, 14 and 16. The largest group is 24. It’s pretty mixed. Some groups are high school groups, others are from performing arts high schools and private dance schools. There is also a group from UNSW and some from Wesley and Ev & Bow. So, very eclectic indeed.

And as for the prizes, what will the winners receive?

We have some interesting sponsors this year. Ars Musica, for example, has donated some cash prizes and an up and coming production company is going to award a dance film session to turn the ‘Best Choreography’ into a short dance film. There will also be secondment opportunities with the recently formed dance collective DMC (Dance Makers Collective) as well as memberships from Ausdance and DirtyFeet and other great prizes by all kinds of interesting companies and organisations. 

That all sounds great. I’m looking forward to it. Good luck with it all!

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Thank you.
Martin del Amo

Photo: Brett Hartnett & Maria Esquivel, Photography: Anya McKee