Monday, September 3, 2012


Canberra Dance Development Centre

Canberra Theatre

Saturday 25th August 2012

By Bill Stephens

Students of the Canberra Dance Development Centre performing "Midnight Symphony"
Hayden Baum (Left) Georgia Powley (Centre) Nick Jachno (Right)
Photo: Greg Primmer

Canberra has no shortage of excellent dance schools. Around this time each year, these schools present their annual showcases, which not only provide students with goals to work towards, but also parents and family with the opportunity to see what their children have learnt during the year. For parents looking to enrol children, they also provide an excellent opportunity to compare the standard of the schools.

Though the Canberra Critics Circle does not review these annual showcases, we sometimes attend because, not only do the best of them provide excellent entertainment, they also offer an insight into dance trends, and perhaps even an opportunity to spot a future dance star.

Earlier in the year I attended a performance in Llewellyn Hall given by students of the Canberra Dance Development Centre, in association with the Canberra Youth Orchestra, of “Romeo and Juliet Suite No.2”, which had been choreographed by CDDC principal Jackie Hallahan, and which I wrote about on this blog. I had also interviewed dancer/choreographer, Paul Knobloch, for the Artsound FM 92.7 program “Dress Circle”.

Knobloch is an ex-student of CDDC who became a principal dancer with the Australian Ballet, before dancing with the Bejart Ballet in Lausanne. This year he joined the Alonzo King LINES Ballet in San Francisco where he is a principal dancer. At the time of our interview he was home on a short break from LINES Ballet and giving master classes and workshops at the Canberra Dance Development Centre. During our interview he mentioned that he had also taken the opportunity to choreograph some items for inclusion in“Treasure”. The opportunity to see an example of Knobloch’s choreography provided extra impetus to have a look at the work of this particular dance school.

“Treasure” proved to be quite an extravaganza with more than 300 spectacularly costumed students demonstrating their prowess in 48 items during the evening. The performers ranged from adorable tiny tots making their first stage appearances to senior students about to embark on professional careers. No doubt it was probably a nightmare backstage for stage-manager extraordinaire, Dot Russell, but from the audience, the show ran like a dream.

“Treasure” had a theme inspired by Mother Teresa’s poem “Life Is”with the 48 items loosely connected by the story of a woman’s journey through life. Not all the connections were obvious; however the transitions between the numerous scenes were imaginative, quick and efficient, accommodating an astonishing array of dance styles and even a vocal ensemble item performed by the dancers.

Along the way there was a welcome opportunity to revisit some excerpts from “Romeo and Juliet Suite No.2”, including Jackie Hallahan’s exquisite pas de deux from this work, beautifully performed by two senior dancers, Georgia Powley and Hayden Baum. Hallahan had also choreographed a delightful light-hearted solo for Baum, “Cowboy”, which cleverly showcased his excellent line and confident classical technique.

Hayden Baum performing "Cowboy"
Photo Greg Primmer

As it turned out Knobloch had choreographed several items including a spectacular ensemble classical ballet “Midnight Symphony” which opened the second half of the program. Beautifully costumed, “Midnight Symphony” was a superb showcase of classical ballet technique and Knobloch had made few concessions for the youth of the dancers. It was excellently danced and would have done a professional company proud.

Among other items choreographed by Knobloch were two extraordinary solos. One a contemporary piece entitled  “Spider”, which received an impressively confident and
superbly acrobatic performance from Georgia Powley

Georgia Powley performing "Spider"
Photo: Greg Primmer
Nick Jachno performimg "Prisoner"
Photo: Greg Primmer

The other was a moody gymnastic piece entitled "Prisoner" which provided Nick Jachno with an excellent vehicle to demonstrate his impressive dance development. The choreography for both these pieces was well above the standard usually encountered in a student presentation.

These were not the only examples of excellent choreography in “Treasure”. Several of the teaching staff had contributed items to showcase various levels of achievement by the young dancers, and apart from those already mentioned, those I found particularly impressive among the 48 items were Joanne James’ exhilarating ensemble tap routine “The Musical”, and Renee Hallahan’s spectacular finale numbers “Life” and “Far and Away”.

Canberra Dance Development Centre students performing "The Musical"
Photo: Greg Primmer

And as for doing a bit of star spotting. Watch out for Hayden Baum, a young man with all the attributes needed for a successful dance career should he so choose. His excellent all-round training was obvious throughout “Treasure”where his excellent stage presence, superb classical ballet, contemporary dance technique, his attentive pas de deux partnering skills and obvious delight in performing the tap dancing routines were a joy to watch.

No doubt everyone in the packed Canberra Theatre had spotted their own special star among the hundreds of enthusiastic performers and of course there were many other dancers who displayed huge potential, and many who probably have no intention of pursuing a career in dance, content just to enjoy the thrill of having their own special moment in the spotlight on the Canberra Theatre stage.

Canberra Dance Development Centre students performing "Life"
Nick Jachno (Centre)
Photo: Greg Primmer

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