The students of Pymble Ladies’ College have not one but two reasons to celebrate having been awarded first and second place at the 2017 Sydney Eisteddfod Secondary School Dance Group Final, which was held at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.
The winning performance, Book of One, was inspired by a tribal narrative with the message that we can all live in harmony and, despite our beliefs and differences, we are all one on this planet. Katrina Cluff, curriculum and cocurricular dance coordinator at Pymble Ladies’ College, describes the dance as having a “jazz/lyrical style with strong, powerful movements to show the strength of the performers and the routine itself, whilst also comprising zephyr-like moments to encapsulate the theatrical presence of the piece.” According to Cluff, “It provided the girls with a completely different style of jazz to challenge them, using intricate and sophisticated music composition, an array of prop elements, and a mature storyline and character journey. The girls are completely engaged in the routine, and it is a masterpiece to watch.” Second place was also awarded to Pymble Ladies’ College for the dance Talk Like That, which Cluff describes as a “solid, high energy jazz routine with complex formations and eye-catching movement.”
Both dance routines were choreographed by the talented Mitchell Dellevergin and demonstrated innovative choreography but also a very polished performance by the students. “The pride the girls have doing the routines is a true testament to the passion and dedication [Dellevergin] has instilled in them this year,” shares Cluff. “Mitchell Dellevergin has refined his choreographic practice, and with the increased skills and maturity of our dancers, he is now launching into creating outstanding theatrical dance routines, which encompass so much more than just dance steps for our girls to negotiate.”
To create a winning dance routine, there is a lot of time and effort that happens behind the scenes by both the teachers and students, and it is was no different for the teachers of Pymble Ladies’ College and the 28 students who performed in Book of One. Cluff explains, “Although the students spent around 12 one-and-a-half hour lessons on this routine and worked exceedingly hard to fulfil its potential, the choreographer, administration staff and coordinator spent a lot of time meticulously planning how to get the best out of the girls in this short time to ensure their dance endeavours are balanced with their academic studies. Some students also assisted outside of class time painting their props, mastering the remote control-flying bird and meeting once a week at lunchtimes for student-guided rehearsals.”
Dellevergin’s choreography in Book of One also challenged the students in more ways than one. “The rhythms within the piece proved to be the most challenging for the students….and their teacher,” Cluff remarks. “There are five different time signatures and seven changes of tempo, all being very abstract. Having composed the piece, the choreographer, Mitchell Dellevergin, was able to challenge them by varying these aspects of the music, all whilst still maintaining a smooth flow as a whole.”
Another challenging aspect for the students was having to work with several different props, from drums and sticks to flying scarves and even a flying bird. So how did the students manage to do this so effortlessly? “To truly master this array of objects on stage and to make them work seamlessly within the routine, teamwork is needed,” Cluff says. “They certainly excelled in that department, and we were very proud of how they conducted themselves as a group.”
The teachers and students of Pymble Ladies’ College are thrilled that the vision for both routines, along with their dedication and hard work, proved to be a successful combination at this year’s Sydney Eisteddfod. On taking out the two top spots this year, Cluff remarks, “The outcome of being placed not only first but also second in the section was definitely a pinnacle achievement for all involved.”
By Nicole Saleh of Dance Informa.