Students from 22 schools around Queensland have performed live “story dances” as part of Australia’s largest performing arts festival, Wakakirri.
Established in 1992, the Wakakirri Story Dance Challenge invites students across Australia to portray their thoughts through dance in front of a national panel, who are searching for the “Story of the Year”.
Wakakirri means “to dance a story” in the Indigenous language of the Wangaaypuwan people.
The Queensland portion of the competition was carried out over several days in July and August this year.
Festival director and Wakakirri co-founder Adam Loxley believes Wakakirri is an important experience for students.
“At Wakakirri we believe that participation in the arts is essential if young people are to develop confidence in expressing themselves,” Mr Loxley said.
Around 20,000 primary and secondary school students participate in the festival each year, which is watched by more than one million people, either in person or online.
New Zealand actress and singer Michala Banas spoke of the significance of Wakakirri and said she was excited to be a part of the festival.
“Performing is an incredible expression of creativity,” Ms Banas said.
“It can be joyful, terrifying, exciting, fun, nerve-wracking, overwhelming, freeing, thrilling, and everything in between.
“I’m thrilled to be part of Wakakirri, and am so looking forward to hearing all [the students’] stories,” she said.
Each story dance in the competition must be between three and seven minutes long and must use movement, dance, acting and props to depict a theme that is important to the students.
Mr Loxley said the Wakakirri Story Dance Challenge was a chance to gain insight into the problems that troubled youth.
“When you give young people a creative voice through something like a Wakakirri Story Dance, it’s remarkable the insight you get into the issues facing youth at a point in time,” he said.
“It’s quite touching to see it played out on stage; often audiences are astounded at how deeply and delicately they explore a topic that means something to them.”
Story themes explored by schools this year include history, bullying, culture, reconciliation and the consequences of technology in the modern age.
Marsden State Primary School drama teacher Michael Duncan was in charge of his school’s Wakakirri performance, “This is Africa”.
He said it was an honor to help the students prepare for the festival.
“It’s heartwarming to see the effort and passion the kids put into their performances each year,” Mr Duncan said.
“It’s really a highlight in my career to be a part of it all.”
Marsden State Primary School parent Rachael Collins said performing in the school’s story dance entry had had a strong impact on her daughter.
“Their [Marsden State School] performance was basically about picking yourself back up when you fall down and how friends can help,” Ms Collins said.
“Through this my daughter gained [a] better understanding of bullying and why it was wrong,” she said.
The Wakakirri awards nights for the Brisbane region will take place on September 4 and 5.
The national results for “Story of the Year” will be announced on October 17.