By Dolce Fisher
McDonald’s Performing Arts Challenge
Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
Sunday August 2nd
Australia has a wealth of talent in the performing arts industry and both the McDonald’s Performing Arts Challenge and Dance of the Champions events are a wonderful platform for young performers to hone their skills.
This year’s McDonald’s Performing Arts Challenge did not disappoint. The competitors in both the Ballet Scholarship and the Open Jazz Troupe finals gave solid performances and showed great commitment. The finalists were all amazing, however it is a competition and at the end of the day there could unfortunately only be one winner.
The finalists for the Open Jazz Troupe were from Marie Walton Mahon Dance Academy, Alegria Dance Studios, Brent St Studios, Bradshaw Dancers, and Ev & Bow Fulltime Training Centre. The Jazz Troupe judges were Ramon Doringo, Zac Jaffar and Mark Hodge. With such high quality performances it must have been tough for the judges to decide a winner. Ev & Bow came out on top, taking out first place. Their routine was choreographed by Marko Panzic and was a demanding, high-energy dance. Second place went to Brent St Studios, who do well in this section of the eisteddfod every year. They are consistently strong. Third place was awarded to Alegria Dance Studio’s. Known for their high standard in ballet, their strong jazz performance may have been unexpected. However, their slick performance to the Broadway hit ‘Bye, Bye Blackbird’ was fantastic.
The Ballet Scholarship also seemed difficult to judge, as the standard of all the competitors was very high. I have learnt from past years not to try and guess the winners as there are so many factors taken into consideration with the final ballet class and interviews playing a big part in the judging. This year the tough decision was made by the very talented Margaret Illmann, Marilyn Jones and David McAllister. The scholarships were awarded to two promising students who both attend Sydney’s Australian International Ballet Academy at the McDonald College. The winner was Lachlan Monaghan and the runner up was Serena Green. The Australian International Ballet Academy’s Josephine Jason and Allan Cross must have been very proud as not only did their students take out both scholarships, but they also had another student in the finals, Kymberleigh Cowley. Winner Lachlan Monaghan had been a finalist in the 2008 scholarship. He was wonderful last year as well, but this year it was very evident that he has come a long way with his technique and performance.
Along with the performances by the wonderful finalists, the audience was also treated to a special guest performance by Steven McRae, a former finalist who is currently dancing with the Royal Ballet. He performed a solo, choreographed by Wayne McGregor, resident choreographer with the Royal Ballet. The piece had intriquite movement and showed McGregor’s understanding of musicality. It was demanding and displayed Steven McRae’s strong technical ability. Steven McRae has been busy during his summer break from the Royal Ballet, also teaching some workshops in Sydney. (Read his interview here)
Dance of the Champions
Science Theatre, UNSW
Sunday Sept 27th
This year the Dance of the Champions audience voted competition was once again fantastic. There were a number of eisteddfod winners selected to compete in the night with a broad spectrum of dance displayed. We enjoyed everything from tap to world dance. The competition is a great opportunity for school’s, offering not only another chance to perform their work but also a huge $10,000 prize sponsored by McDonald’s and Kids West.
There were many standout performances. Alegria Dance Studio’s contemporary routine choreographed by Paul Siliba was amazing. We also enjoyed an impeccable performance from the Conlan College’s Under 14 group and an Alice in Wonderland inspired concept from ED5 International’s Under 14 Jazz group. The winner on the night was Cherrybrook Public School, who performed ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’. The stage was jam packed with dancers. It was a tight and entertaining performance and was enjoyed by the audience, which was full of dancers’ supporting family and friends. Second place went to Dance Junction and third place was awarded to PAWS, who are both from Western Sydney. Both studios gave strong group performances with clean unison work throughout. Dance Junction won the Under 12 Group Tap section with a dance inspired by Hollywood legends to ‘Putting on the Ritz’. It was well choreographed and an enjoyable piece, that showcased a number of talented little dancers. ‘Disturbia’ by PAWS was a mix of songs from Rhianna and Marilyn Manson and was selected as the winner for the Under 17 Group Jazz section. The dance number was packed with sharp canons and acrobatic work and was very engaging.
The Dance of the Champions was once again a fun and entertaining event, with the level of audience participation making it unique and interesting. The dancers all seemed to relish the opportunity to once again perform their well rehearsed pieces, which were all fantastic.
I give a huge congratulations to all the McDonald’s Challenge entrants. The hard work that goes into this eisteddfod is evident. Thank you to the Challenge organisers and volunteers who make such opportunities available to young Australian dancers. We look forward to next year’s events!