The Auckland Dance Festival gives young performers a chance to feel part of a community - and hone their marketing skills, writes BERNADETTE RAE.



The dance dilemma continues - hundreds of dance graduates emerging from schools, degrees in hands and high hopes in their hearts but with savagely few professional opportunities to further their art.



Most fall back on do-it-yourself performance projects in which their fundraising and promotion skills are vital forerunners to any chance of performing - on a dusty de facto stage in a dank old church hall. So this year's Auckland Dance Festival's writers forum, Critical Mass, is focusing on the art of writing a media kit.



The festival at least offers young dancers and choreographers an opportunity to feel that they belong to some sort of community for a month or two. And the clustering of performances just might encourage a flurry of interest in our budding dance talent.

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Auckland Dance Festival 2002, the third organised by Northern Danznet in partnership with Auckland City, The Edge and Creative New Zealand, runs from April 19 to May 5. It offers a variety of performances of varying degrees of professionalism, alongside workshops and community events.



"The performance focus is on emerging artists," says ADF director Sonja Bright, "specifically in Living Room, Sub-urban Legends and Polished Up, which showcase the work of fresh, new choreographers."



Karen Barbour is one of five contributors to Living Room (May 1- 4, Unitec Theatre), which promises "to make the personal public as they throw open the doors of home and mind".



Barbour emerged from Unitec's dance training programme in 1995 and was so keen to continue a career in dance that she set up the successful dance co-operative Curve in 1997. Curve was launched with considerable style and verve at Hopetoun Alpha with a programme titled Creating Space for Women and Dance.



Then Barbour was off for the obligatory OE, returning two years later with a different agenda.



"I came back to do a PhD in dance," she says. "There were two reasons for me to go down that track. The first was I could clearly see that very soon there would be a need for academically qualified people in the dance world, to teach and to carry out research. And I had a passion and the skills for teaching and research.



"The second was that surviving as a freelance performer and choreographer is very difficult. Teaching and research looked a better path for me as far as paying the bills was concerned and I was, am, passionate about furthering dance education."



Brought up in the King Country, Barbour found herself back in Hamilton, at the University of Waikato, where Dr Pirkko Markula was then teaching and available to supervise her PhD studies.



Now in London, Markula has a special interest in looking at dance from a feminist perspective.



Barbour's research is on women's solo contemporary dance-making in Aotearoa and her Living Room performance ("This is, after all, the edited life") is part of that research.



"My research involved investigating and reflecting on my own processes in making solo dance, as well as interviewing other women who made solo dance work," she says.



And the conclusion? "In solo dance-making I feel I have an ideal opportunity to investigate and understand my own experiences. It can be very personal but also relevant for others who may share or empathise with my experiences. For example, I am very interested in what it means to feel at home and what it means to be a Pakeha. Being a choreographer/dancer I chose to explore these experiences through movement.



"Solo dance can be a way of knowing about myself, my relationships with others and the world in general."



* Polished Up - Dance Display Set with Vicky Kapo, Brent Harris, Anna Bate and Tania Bond, at the Alleluya Cafe in Karangahape Rd, April 24-26; Sub-urban Legends, with Atamira Dance Collective, is at Unitec Dance Studio 2, April 27-28.



* Full festival programme is available at