Bangarra Dance Theatre recently treated twenty Mount St Bernard (MSB) College students to an exclusive performing arts workshop on the main stage at the new Cairns Performing Arts Centre.
The professional dance troupe made time for the students while they were in Cairns performing their last show of the Bennelong Regional Tour in March.
Students not only learnt some fantastic dance moves, but also some essential life lessons.
A teacher with connections
MSB’s School Officer for the Arts, Andrea Gower, has previous connections from working with Bangarra on the Townsville 2017 ‘Rekindling Bangarra Youth’ program. Andrea finds performing arts opportunities for MSB students and said, “I really wanted students to experience the live
performance of Bangarra Dance Theatre.”
“I called Bangarra in Sydney to see if they’d do a workshop and they were happy to oblige. I was excited that they agreed to run this exclusive workshop for MSB students.”
Learning the moves
First, the students were given a tour backstage, where five Bangarra dancers were waiting for them. A circle was formed for introductions where students and dancers alike, talked about themselves and their backgrounds.
During the workshop, each Bangarra dancer provided a different element of focus.
The students learnt how to do a totem animal dance along with some choreography from the Bennelong show itself.
“This was an amazing, inspiring and unforgettable experience; an opportunity to attend a first-class workshop and connect with the Bangarra experience,” said Eliza Lyall.
She said, “We really loved the performance by the Bangarra dancers the night after the workshop.
All staff and students enjoyed the powerful, emotive show of Bennelong.”
Many of the students who put their hands up to be involved, did so because they were looking for inspiration through a new experience, and/or simply because they love to dance.
“I’ve never seen contemporary Australian dance before so was interested in attending,” said Shawntella Maiap, one of MSB’s Year 12 boarding students from Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Another student, Eliza Lyall said, “This was a good opportunity to gain insight into Indigenous Australian dancing.”
Pride, effort and confidence
Initially, the students were very nervous, although a buzz of excitement was evident. When asked what the biggest take-home message from the workshop was, the students responded with fairly consistent answers:
“Never be ashamed by your culture or by who you are.”
“Take pride in your actions and put in 100% effort – try your best.”
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Ms Gower said, “By the end of the one hour workshop, the students really started to relax, and I could see that they were filled with more confidence and pride.”
Year 8 student Leandra Baira learned that, “If you become more confident, it will take you places you never imagined.”
What a buzz!
The experience enabled new connections with new people and gave the students an insight into professional dancing.
Petersen Naawi, a Year 9 boarder from Moa Island was stoked to have learned an Island dance as part of the workshop. He would like to apply to join the Bangarra Dance Theatre.
Back to the real world
Shawntella has never been really into dance, but the live show and workshop experience really opened her eyes and gave her some great concepts to apply to real life. She said, “From this opportunity I have realised that I want to be more open to new experiences.”
An opportunity like this does not have to be the end, and it doesn’t mean that everyone involved needs to try to become a professional dancer. The students have been able to identify the important underlying lessons that they think can be applied to their lives everyday:
“Try your best and you will succeed.”
“Practice makes perfect.”
“You never know unless you go for it.”
From now on
The school is offering links to information regarding future pathway opportunities relating to Bangarra or NAISDA, Australia’s premier Indigenous Training college producing the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers.