Dancing away the COVID-19 blues with virtual competition

An online dance competition organised by an Ipswich school has attracted national and global interest.

More than 1,000 students across Queensland and New South Wales are set to perform in the Phoenix Online High Schools Dance Challenge – a virtual competition organised by Ipswich State High School.

Ipswich State High School Dance and History teacher, Tara Yarrow, said the challenge was designed for students to showcase their talent in the absence of eisteddfods, which were cancelled this year due to COVID-19.

“We started this as something for our year 12 dance students as they had missed out on all their dance competitions this year,” Ms Yarrow said.

“We expected a handful of local schools to get involved, but we’ve been really surprised by how much interest we’ve had.

“We’ve had entries from all over Queensland, from Ipswich to the Gold Coast, to Mackay, Bundaberg and Townsville, as well as rural New South Wales.”

Around 200 dance groups have entered from a total of 47 schools, with high-calibre dance professionals set to judge the video entries.

“Our judges have lots of professional dance experience and are excited to see the level of talent from all the dancers in the competition,” Ms Yarrow said.

“There’s not a lot of work in the industry right now because of COVID-19 and a lot of dancers have had to come home. One of our judges has recently returned from New York, another from Sydney, while another was doing lots of hip hop work in China.”

Connecting with other dance teachers through Facebook groups has even garnered interest from as far afield as Canada, although COVID-19 school closures and restrictions on gatherings have prevented schools there from taking part.

Ms Yarrow said that the Phoenix Online High Schools Dance Challenge was something for students to look forward to, after such a challenging year.

“It’s been a really difficult year for our senior students, they had a picture of what Year 12 would look like and week after week they’ve been let down by cancellations or adjustments to big events like their formal and graduation,” Ms Yarrow said.

“It’s been nice for them to have this performance to focus on and get excited about.

“All of the schools who have entered have been so kind and really appreciative that they can be a part of it.”

Submissions for the Phoenix Online High Schools Dance Challenge close on 26 August, with the results streamed to participating schools on 28 August.

Categories include contemporary, lyrical, hip hop, jazz, and general entertainment.

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