Attending my first AYDF

Valerie in an Audition Workshop at AYDF

Valerie Tan is a high school student currently completing VET Dance with an Ausdance VIC partner. Valerie attended AYDF 2022 during the July school holidays as an independent dancer, alongside groups from Youth Dance Companies and 20 other independent dancers.

Valerie reflected on the experience of attending the festival in this piece for Speak Up for Dance.

What I loved about attending my first Australian Youth Dance Festival

Valerie Tan, VET dance student

I heard about the Australian Youth Dance Festival through my VET Dance program. I received an email about it and decided to sign up. I didn’t know how I would feel as a Jazz and Hip Hop dancer at a Contemporary-based event, but I decided to go because I knew it’d be a huge learning opportunity for me. It was a great experience and I met so many incredible people and youth companies.

The whole festival was amazing, all the workshops felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As this was my first AYDF, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the festival completely blew my mind. I got to learn how each “mentor” grew up with Contemporary dance and what their interpretation of it was. Each and every person was so unique in their own way, and they were all so nice.

All the workshops felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience

I got the opportunity to help backstage for the (Re)Generate performances, alongside the Ausdance VIC team and other independent dancers. I was part of the backstage team for the first show and learnt how to operate comms for the second show. I was also able to watch each youth company perform their Contemporary pieces during dress rehearsals. 

Personally, as a dancer, AYDF helped expand my knowledge of Contemporary dance. As I am a Jazz and Hip-Hop based dancer, I have little to no experience in Contemporary dance. I’ve performed Contemporary pieces before but those were more Lyrical and Balletic. AYDF really helped me explore the more abstract side of dance and experiment with how my body moves.

My connection with Contemporary dance is on a much deeper level now

After attending AYDF, my connection with Contemporary dance is on a much deeper level as now I understand more about it, interpret it the way I need to, and get out of my comfort zone when dancing. I learnt that there is no wrong way to dance Contemporary and we should just let our bodies flow with our movements and not be so controlled.

I hope that many other young dancers take the opportunity to attend the AYDF in future years as it will certainly benefit other dance styles they might be more familiar with. I found that Contemporary lets you find a better connection with your body. You will also meet so many amazing people and make so many friends.

I’d like to thank Kyall Shanks and Caitlin Comerford for directing an amazing festival, as well as the Ausdance VIC team for making AYDF happen. 

Thank you to AUSTI. Dance & Physical Theatre, Bangkok Dance Academy, Catapult’s Youth Initiative: The Flipside Project, DRILL Performance Company, FLING Physical Theatre, L2R Dance, QL2 Dance, Stompin Dance, the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Melbourne, Yellow Wheel, Youth Dance Makers Initiative and all the independent dancers that attended.

I gained many new friends and will be back from many more festivals to come.

Valerie in a Jazz Workshop

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