When Stage Challenge collapsed, leaving school-aged dance and drama enthusiasts without an event to compete in, Bethlehem College went searching for an alternative.
They found DanceNZMade's national interschool dance competition, which set up a Stage Art category to cater to Stage Challenge students in 2018 - and every year since, Bethlehem College has taken the national title.
This year was no different, and after preparing since the first school term, were named the 2020 national DanceNZMade Stage Art champs.
The school's theme was based around domestic violence, a performance titled Break the Chain.
Head choreographer, Year 13 student Bianca Anderson, said she had become aware of more cases of domestic violence recently and the students wanted to highlight the issue and strengthen the message that domestic violence was never okay.
"We sat down as a group to discuss themes," Bianca said.
The 18-year-old said their performance was about shedding "light on issues in a creative way", encouraging communities to work together to stop it.
Bianca has performed in all three winning teams and was thrilled to continue the school's winning streak in her final year at high school and first year as head choreographer.
"Participation from everyone was awesome. We got a lot of good feedback."
Fellow choreographers included students Jessica Nicholson, Gracyn Tito and Genevieve Zingel, who fused dance genres such as hip hop and ballet to create a dynamic display of dance. Combined with a high level of skill and powerful, emotional music, it made for a dramatic and cohesive performance that was enough to win their national category.
The student team was led by Bethlehem College's head of drama and arts co-ordinator Linda Anderson, who said the school had been competing in Stage Challenge events since 2002. When DanceNZMade created their new Stage Art category as part of the national interschool dance competition, Anderson said they started performing in that.
"We looked around for a new competition," Anderson said.
"It's an entrenched tradition."
The Stage Art competition, which provides students with the opportunity to develop their performance art, production and life skills, has been running regional events since July, with the national finals being held in Palmerston North last Saturday.
She said their concept was developed during the first school term, followed by auditions and selecting the genre of dance they would perform, before beginning rehearsals every weekend in preparation for the regional competition in August.
Although Covid-19 had massive impacts across New Zealand, Anderson said the organisers had done an "extraordinary" job and still managed to have all the regional competitions.
With the Stage Art competition, Anderson said schools competed in regional events and the finals results were based on the points awarded in those competitions.
Anderson said all students who took part had worked hard and deserved their third title.
"It's a huge sacrifice."
Three other Tauranga students were also recognised nationally as part of the overall interschool competition. Ōtūmoetai Intermediate student Lulu Moore was named the New Zealand SHE SHINES ON Solo Year 8 Champion, Ōtūmoetai Intermediate's Sophie Lane won the New Zealand SHE SHINES ON Solo Year 7 Champion title and Mount Maunganui College student Lyla Radich won the Art of Movement Solo Award.
Other Bay of Plenty and Central North Island Schools that won national awards:
Western Heights High School (Genesis): New Zealand Year 11-13 Team Champions; Making a Difference Award.
Taupō-nui-a-Tia College (In Your Arms): New Zealand Year 9-10 Team Champions.
Taupō Intermediate (Does Your Mother Know): New Zealand Year 7-8 Team Champions.
Ōtūmoetai Intermediate student Lulu Moore: New Zealand SHE SHINES ON Solo Year 8 Champion.
Ōtūmoetai Intermediate student Sophie Lane: New Zealand SHE SHINES ON Solo Year 7 Champion.
Mount Maunganui College student Lyla Radich: Art of Movement Solo Award.