Twenty-one youth dance ensembles will put their best feet forward in this week's YouDance Festival.
They will perform dances they have composed in their dance courses at secondary school and after school, seizing the opportunity to find out how they measure up beside their peers.
Dance is one of the fastest growing subjects in the secondary school curriculum. Students at all levels are developing skills in performing, choreographing and responding to a wide range of styles, as well as studying the development and contribution of dance in their communities.
Choreography is one of four significant areas in their dance classes, where they make their own dances as a way to communicate images, feelings and ideas.
The YouDance Festival is different from other formal events such as Stage Challenge and PolyFest, street dance and hip-hop competitions. Those are large-scale events with ensembles of between 30 and 120 students competing for the glory of the school.
YouDance is not a competition and there are no prizes. Most dances on show are student-made, from the choreography to the costumes and lighting design, and most have small casts.
Some dances have been developed by teachers, and others by choreographers who have a particular interest in working with teenagers.
Importantly, the students get feedback about their work from a panel of dance-industry professionals.
YouDance presents an array of styles from 16 secondary schools in the Auckland region and from five well-known local youth dance companies.
Each participating group performs for up to 12 minutes, usually presenting two or three short items. There are two completely different programmes for the two nights of performances.
Each group has a rehearsal showing, which helps festival artistic director Jacqui Cesan and co-ordinators Melanie Turner and Joshua Martin decide the programme order to keep the show flowing and varied.
"The non-competitive nature of the festival is a key to its success," says Cesan. "Coming together to perform without having to compete, and seeing the wide range of approaches and ideas that their peers are trying out in their dances, encourages these young people to really stretch their boundaries."
Last year the directors of Tempo, the annual festival of professional dance in October, were so impressed with the dances shown at YouDance that they created a new showcase programme, Secondary Colours, to show some of them again.
What: YouDance Festival
Where and when: Centennial Theatre, Auckland Grammar School, June 6-7