Aspiring dancers connect through culture

An inclusive dance workshop program run by Bangarra Youth Program is more popular than ever with public school students across the state. Alyssa Terese reports.

A group of students dancing in a school hall A group of students dancing in a school hall
Image: Moving in the right direction: Students participating in Bangarra workshops last year.

More than 1,400 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students from 115 public schools across NSW have signed up to be tutored by Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Youth Program Team through 10 face-to-face and two online workshops.

The workshops continue a 14-year collaboration between the NSW Department of Education’s Arts Unit and Bangarra, Australia’s premier Aboriginal dance company, and are designed to encourage students to learn more about culture and perform a contemporary Indigenous dance repertoire.

The 2024 face-to-face workshops will start today at Engadine High School and will wrap at Warren Central School on 12 April.

This year has seen a 25 per cent increase in student participation from last year’s numbers.

The online workshops are also in high demand with 177 students across 10 schools attending the first workshop on 23 February.

Department of Education Arts Initiatives and Events Officer, Ashley Napoleoni, said 480 students from 23 schools had signed up for the April workshop.

“We’ve had almost three times more students apply to participate in this year’s online workshops than last year,” Ms Napoleoni said.

“The online Secondary Aboriginal Dance Workshops are open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous public school students, so it’s an inclusive experience designed to connect schools across the state.

“The online component increases the flexibility of program delivery and facilitates accessibility for schools in rural and remote areas.”

Both face-to-face and online workshops are reaching the department’s central west and Connected Communities Schools, which is a key focus for these workshops and for the Rural and Remote Education Strategy.

“The strategy’s vision is that every student in regional NSW has access to the same quality of education as their metropolitan peers, so it’s important for students, no matter their location, to have the opportunity to participate in initiatives like this,” Ms Napoleoni said.

The workshops have often provided the first glimpse of dance potential for students who went on to perform in the NSW Public Schools Aboriginal Dance Company, the State Dance Festival and the Schools Spectacular, the world’s largest variety show produced by the NSW Department of Education.

This year, the students will be tutored by former public school student Holly Faulds who participated in the workshops from 2017 to 2019.

Holly is part of Bangarra’s Russell Page Graduate Program, which provides opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance graduates or early career artists to develop as professional dancers through training and mentoring, as well as performing and touring with the dance ensemble.

Workshop schedule

  • Friday 8 March – Engadine High School
  • Tuesday 12 March – Deniliquin High School
  • Wednesday 13 March – Wagga Wagga High School
  • Friday 15 March – Bowraville Central School
  • Friday 22 March – Airds High School
  • Wednesday 3 April – Broken Hill High School
  • Monday 8 April – Lithgow High School
  • Tuesday 9 April – Colyton High School
  • Thursday 11 April – Condobolin High School
  • Friday 12 April – Warren Central School

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