15 June 2023

'Fearless' students come together to celebrate 10th Dance Break extravaganza

| Katrina Condie
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Students from across Canberra are preparing for the annual Dance Nation extravaganza. Photo: Kulture Break.

More than 550 students from 16 schools across Canberra will come together to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Dance Nation Schools Spectacular on 29 June.

Audiences can expect an exciting mix of dance styles and theatrical performance when students present their ‘Fearless’-themed works at the Royal Theatre in Canberra’s National Convention Centre.

The brainchild of Kulture Break CEO Francis Owusu, the first Dance Nation extravaganza was held as part of Canberra’s Centenary celebrations in 2013 with 400 students from 23 schools taking part.

Francis said following what was to be a one-off event, schools and students were keen to continue performing. A decade later, Dance Nation has become a highlight on Canberra’s educational and cultural calendar.

“It was so successful that we started the Dance Nation Schools Program which runs throughout terms one and two,” he said.

Public and private schools across the territory can take part in the program, uniquely designed to build student resilience through movement.

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Over a 15-week period, Kulture Break works with schools to design and rehearse a dance routine that reflects the showcase theme and enables students to shine on stage.

While he won’t get a glimpse of the routines until the full dress rehearsal, Francis said he expected to see some exciting performances addressing this year’s ‘Fearless’ theme.

“All schools perform separate pieces and whatever fearless means to one school may be different for another,” he said.

“I know one school is basing its dance on Mulan being a fearless warrior.

“Everyone is really looking forward to it, because they don’t know what they’re going to see from each school until the night.”

Most of the students have no previous dance experience and the routines are based on their ability. Performances can include breakdance, hip-hop, jazz, acrobatics and role play.

As well as enhancing dance and social skills, taking part in Dance Nation could build an individual’s sense of identity, pride and belonging which Francis said sat within Kulture Break’s aim of “transforming lives with every move”.

“Over the years we’ve seen kids that were shy get on stage and shine in front of a large audience,” he said.

“I’ve witnessed kids improving their social skills as year sevens mix with year 10s. It builds a real sense of cohesion and pride as they represent their school.

“At Kulture Break, we’re all about how to improve the wellbeing and mental health of young people and our goal is that young people believe in themselves and live life with purpose.

“There’s so much evidence around the impact dance and movement has on wellbeing and mental health and this program is an extension of that.”

This year’s 10th anniversary show follows the 2022 post-COVID revival event which Francis said highlighted how significantly students were “disengaged and displaced” during the pandemic.

“In all the years we’ve done Dance Nation, last year the atmosphere was another level,” he said.

“Social inclusion is a very important thing and it was really noticeable, particularly from high school students, that they wanted to be able to express themselves.

“They exuded so much joy, I can’t even describe the absolute adulation and incredible atmosphere of the evening.”

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About 1500 people are expected to fill the theatre to watch this year’s showcase presented by primary and high school students. And, while it remains top secret, there will be some special 10th anniversary additions to the show.

“The family and friends of students can expect a euphoric atmosphere as kids exude joy and freedom,” Francis said.

“Because it’s non-competitive, unlike dance competitions or eisteddfods, there’s no pressure. It’s about having fun – that’s when the joy and freedom comes.”

A not-for-profit organisation established in 2002, Kulture Break is committed to the wellbeing, transformation and empowerment of young people by engaging them in a safe and active environment, using the performing arts and leadership development to change lives.

Kulture Break conducts dance classes, mentoring and social skilling programs, tailored workshops, seminars and conferences, motivational talks and performances for schools, government agencies and community organisations.

Tickets are now on sale for ‘Fearless’ – Dance Nation Schools Spectacular HERE.

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