Eras of Youth Dance

Eras of Youth Dance

Everyone's Dance Story Starts Somewhere

Tracks has a history working with young Territorians, developing a stronger dance community that's able to adapt to the often harsh conditions of the Northern Territory. Drawn from diverse backgrounds our youth participants bring to Tracks an array of dance styles and experience. Tracks’ Development Program mentors and trains them to become the next contemporary cultural leaders, as they invigorate many of our major performances and provide valuable intergenerational links into the broader community.

Kelly Beneforti - Mr Big. Photo Peter Eve

Eras of Youth Dance

Since the beginning of the company our relationship to youth dance has continually evolved. In listening to community needs we have changed and adapted our programs, whilst creating artistic opportunities to participate and develop our youth dance community.

1988 - 2002

Collaborations and Co-Productions

In the early days Tracks was the Community Dance Program of Brown’s Mart Community Arts, a place where many Darwin arts organizations were based. Collaboration between companies and artists was commonplace. The dance program ran weekly classes for seniors, adults, youth and children.

Collaboration with Aboriginal communities

Brown's Mart was also a first port-of-call for Aboriginal communities looking for artists to work with young people. Tracks artists became key artists for many of these jointly conceived projects. The relationship between Tracks artists and the Lajamanu community was born out of this time and remains a major focus.

2002 - 2008

Major Youth Works

Once we became a key organization of the Australia Council for the Arts in 2000 Tracks began to navigate its own direction. We started creating our own major youth works, a key focus area of the company

In 2001/02 a Multicultural Residency with Betchay Mondragon gave us many ideas of how to involve youth from culturally diverse communities. Newly appointed Tracks Dance Animator Julia Quinn led many of the youth activities. (Julia is a well-respected dancer with strong teaching practice, and works within diverse cultural contexts.)

Youth Dance Leaders

In 2002, the first Youth Dancer leaders program began. Six young people were chosen to be mentored into the company's activities. Over the following years new youth entered into the program. They were involved in performing as part of Tracks major Darwin festival seasons, working with guest choreographers such as Joanna Noona (now Artistic Director of Slide Youth Dance Company) and Nick Power (Artistic Director of Between Tiny Cities and Two Crews), attending the Australian Youth Dance Festival, working alongside Tracks core artists to run workshops, be they in jails, Aboriginal communities, schools or with the Grey Panthers (Tracks 60+ performance troupe). To work in the Northern Territory as a dance artist you need to be robust and gutsy, and this training aims to impart this.

Marko Taopo- Rivers of the Underground. Photo Mark Marcelis

Many of the Tracks youth dance leaders have continued on to have a career in the arts and/or become leaders in their communities.

2009 - 2020

By 2009 secondary school dance in Darwin had become an exciting place. Three secondary schools ran dance programs that led into productions. Out of Darwin High School emerged Slide Youth Dance Company which continues today to offer Darwin's youth stimulating dance experiences, leading into productions.

Choreographic Development

At this point, Tracks started to move its focus into youth development and in 2009 began the Choreographic Development Program (now an annual Tracks Program). The program provides an opportunity for emerging movement artists and dance-makers to explore the mechanics and creative scope of choreography in a process-led environment. Jessica Devereux, as the Dance Animateur, led the first six years of the program. In 2015, Kelly Beneforti took over Jess’ role. Kelly initially became involved with Tracks as a youth dancer in 2004 which led to her being a Tracks Youth Dance Leader. In 2019 Jess returned to the company and they jointly led that year's program.

The Choreographic Program was originally conceived to offer young people an entry-level tertiary experience. It has attracted a diverse range of ages, dancers from differing dance languages, and artists from other art forms.

Stevie Kirke-Groves, Katena Valastro, Ricky Borg, Nick Power, Kate Boyd and Elle Chandler - The Cook, the Queen and the Kelly. Photo Peter Eve

Youth continue to be an active part of other areas of the Tracks program, whether that be dancing in our participation projects like Big Dance, En Masse, and Tracktivation, or performing and choreographing within Major Works.

1988 - Current

Youth Dance in Lajamanu

Tracks artists have been working with this community since 1988. Desert Boy (Mannankarrawadingi Malju), as part of the Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre’s Living in Isolation tour in 1988, travelled to Lajamanu. The cast of western artists had to perform Warlpiri script in language. The community may have been amused by their pronunciations, but they were impressed that a group would try to learn their language. The elders insisted on performing ‘their’ dances for the cast, and the team stayed a few extra days. And thus began a relationship that has now spanned over three decades.

This led to two, three-month Lajamanu residencies with artists working with youth to create touring performances that travelled to other Walpiri speaking communities, 1989 Lajamanu Community Residency and 1990 Lajamanu Community Residency. In 1992 a group of Lajamanu youths travelled to Darwin to create Lajamanu Kurra Karna Yani. They were joined in performance by Lajamanu ceremonial dancers and other elders.

Yellow Group Girls - Milpirri 2012. Photo Peter Eve

In 2005 the first Milpirri performance was created. Now a major biennial event this performance stems from a two way learning that brings together the wisdom of the elders and the energy of the youth together. Read more about this amazing performance within the Lajamanu / Milpirri Home Page. Over many Milpirri's and many trips to Lajamanu, we've had many incredible experiences. Read about some of these experiences working with Lajamanu youth as shared by Tracks Dance Animateurs.

Youth Profiles

Kelly Beneforti

"Since my first youth dance show with Tracks in 2004, the company has offered me so many profound and transformative experiences, both in developing my career and in the sense of influencing me to become a deeply socially and culturally engaged person. The many opportunities to grow and nurture connections and relationships here in the Territory have been the most generous and invaluable gifts that Tim and David have given me. I only hope that my own work is imbued with the same humanity that I continually discover while working with Tracks." read more

Aaron Lim

A B-Boy and co-founder of the D*City Rockers. Aaron has also worked extensively with Nick Power.
“Tracks has given me great opportunities that has let life take me on this path. 10 years ago I would never have thought to be in the position I am in now, and the only reason I can now make dance my full time career is because of the opportunities Tracks has given me to make the right choice.” read more

Venaska Cheliah

Originally coming from a background in traditional Indian dance.
“I come from a traditional Indian background I am trying to find my western contemporary style and how that sits in my body. I am interested in the contrast between styles. Tracks has given me a safe space to explore my current dance style and interest as well as a safe space to develop." read more

Tracks Dance Company Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.

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