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WA Festival of Dance sees young dancers return to the stage in 2020

David McAllister Cup Presentations. Photo by DancePro Photography.
David McAllister Cup Presentations. Photo by DancePro Photography.

In a year that has seen the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) postpone almost all of its national student events programme, the Academy is pleased to share the news of a beacon of light shining from a very successful 2020 Festival of Dance in Western Australia. The event, which usually takes place over the long weekend in June, was postponed until 27-29 September, and took place under strict COVID-19 safety plans. 

Evelyn Hodgkinson Scholarship Recipient and Junior Female Dancer Award Madison Curtis. Photo by DancePro Photography.
Evelyn Hodgkinson Scholarship Recipient and Junior Female Dancer Award Madison Curtis. Photo by DancePro Photography.

The decision to move forward with the event was a difficult one for the Academy, but after consultation with venues, faculty and the studios who might enter, it was decided that dance students in the region should not be denied the opportunity to develop their skills and shine, whilst performing on a professional stage in front of leading industry professionals. The decision was made all the more compelling in a challenging year with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown isolating students from their passion for dance. The Festival was seen as a chance to bring students together once more and celebrate their dedication and commitment to excellence in their chosen artform. 

Whilst a somewhat adapted version of the usual event format, the Festival still attracted 275 participants, who together competed in over 435 dance items for a range of prestigious scholarships and awards. 

Demi-Character Artistic Award Recipient Phoebe Segman. Photo by DancePro Photography.
Demi-Character Artistic Award Recipient Phoebe Segman. Photo by DancePro Photography.

The adjudicators who dedicated their time this year to inspire, encourage and show support for the young dancers in the region were Sandy Delasalle-Scannella (principal ballet mistress and artistic associate, West Australian Ballet), Brooke Jacobs (former principal dancer and current access coordinator, West Australian Ballet), Melissa McCabe (demi-soloist with West Australian Ballet and former dancer with The Australian Ballet and Alberta Ballet), Reika Sato (former dancer and now assistant ballet mistress, West Australian Ballet), Danielle Hunt (former dancer with The Australian Ballet) and Andries Weidemann (principal dancer, educator and choreographer). Students also had the opportunity to learn choreography by special guest Rachel Arianne Ogle. 

Whilst the adjudicators agreed the standard across the board was high, the major scholarship winners for the event were: Evelyn Hodgkinson Scholarship (10-12 years) Recipient Madison Curtis, trained by Suzanne Arrigo, with the Annalisa Diekmann as runner up trained by The West Australian School of Dance; Gay Cruickshank Scholarship (13-14 years) Recipient Isabella Lockyer, trained by The Graduate College of Dance, with Charley Travia from Perth Classical and Contemporary Coaching as runner up; Joan Stacy Scholarship (15-16 years) Recipient Aimee Yong from Perth Classical and Contemporary Coaching, with Isabella Smith from The Graduate College of Dance as runner up; and Linley Wilson Scholarship (17+ years) Recipient Madeline Gill and runner up Isabella Knight, both from Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

Pre Professional Award Recipient Holly Inglis. Photo by DancePro Photography.
Pre Professional Award Recipient Holly Inglis. Photo by DancePro Photography.

With the event seen as the launchpad for many dancers’ careers, this year’s Festival Pre-Professional Award (18+yrs) went to Holly Inglis from The Graduate College of Dance, with the runner up Chloe Hinton from Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. 

Other notable highlights include the Grishko Award, which went to Sonja Braunl from The Perth School of Ballet and the Claire Marshall Trophy for National Dance, which was awarded to Charley Travia from Perth Classical and Contemporary Coaching. The annual David McAllister Cup, named for its benefactor who trained in Perth before becoming a professional dancer and later the Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, went to an ensemble from The Graduate College of Dance under the direction of Nathan Coppen. 

The Festival culminated on 29 September with a Gala evening including a performance from guest artists Alexa Tuzil (demi soloist) and Ludovico Di Ubaldo (corps de ballet) from West Australian Ballet. The duo performed a moving excerpt from CoVid Lab reflecting on their time of isolation during COVID-19 lockdown. 

A full list of the winners can be downloaded from the RAD website here

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