Southern Stars embraces new heights

More than 3000 students from 120 schools took to the stage as Southern Stars celebrated its 22nd year. Julee Brienen reports.

Students dancing on a stage. Students dancing on a stage.
Image: More than 3000 students from 120 schools performed at the Southern Stars event.

Exceptional talent, a sold-out show, and a relentless stream of crowd-pleasing performances propelled Southern Stars 2023 EMBRACE to unparalleled heights.

EMBRACE hit the stage at Wollongong’s WIN Entertainment Centre, boasting a cast of 3000 students from 120 schools across the Illawarra, southern Sydney, Shoalhaven, South Coast and Southern Highlands.

Now in its 22nd year, the event was a glittering showcase of students’ talents that pushed boundaries and celebrated diversity.

Southern Stars Executive Producer, Paul Roger, said EMBRACE was a huge success and a testament to the talents and hard work of students, under the guidance and support of their teachers and Department staff.

“Southern Stars has always been about embracing everyone who wants to be involved and providing students with the opportunity to showcase their many and varied talents across multiple performing arts disciplines in an inclusive environment,” he said.

“For some of our performers, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to perform in a world class arena spectacular. For others it becomes a lifelong obsession.”

A band overlooking a stage. A band overlooking a stage.
Image: This year's show featured a 60-piece orchestra.

EMBRACE featured a 60-piece orchestra, 2000 dancers, a 300 strong choir, two awe-inspiring circus troupes, talented featured vocalists, moving (and amusing) drama performances, the cultural richness of Yanggaa Garaba, along with fan favourites the Rising Stars and the NSW Public Schools Millennium Marching Band.

There was an eclectic mix of music, blending timeless classics, such as the electrifying finale of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, nostalgic hits from the 80s and 90s, and a nod to the recent football World Cup with the Ricky Martin anthem Cup of Life.

The show also ventured into experimental territory, with the inclusion of K-Pop act Pink Venom, a highlight that left audience members in awe of not only the vocalists, but the energetic performance of the Southern Stars Performing Company Dancers.

Southern Stars Creative Director, Ruth Ellevsen, said the theme of this year’s show was about inspiring students to embrace every moment of their lives.

“EMBRACE is about awakening, looking at life through an appreciative lens and making the most of every moment,” she said.

“It is also about embracing your skill set, challenging yourself to develop, being enthusiastic about opportunities, and embracing the opportunities that cause you to grow as a person.

“For the students in the show, it is about conquering nerves and anxiety as they take to the stage, embracing the friendships they form with different people that they meet in the show.

“It’s also about accepting that it is okay to be different to others, celebrating the individual, embracing leadership opportunities, and embracing responsibility to ensure their performance is their personal best.

“I’d say they achieved all that, and much more!”

Dancers on a stage. Dancers on a stage.
Image: Students from Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts on stage.
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