Page 2967 - Week 08 - Thursday, 17 August 2017

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MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (5.46): Three weeks ago I had the absolute delight of attending the dress rehearsal for the 2017 Wakakirri performance at Charnwood-Dunlop Primary School. I am not sure I have adequate words to describe the magic of watching the young boys and girls enthusiastically present their performance. I still have happy memories of what I experienced at this event.

Wakakirri is an Aboriginal word that means “to dance a story”. The Wakakirri program, first established in 1992, is now Australia’s largest performing arts event for schools. Open to every school in the nation, the primary school segment for Wakakirri currently involves over 20,000 students from every state and territory, and over one million people, including me, watch Wakakirri performances each year.

In order to prepare for their performance, students and teachers create an original story and then theatrically retell that story using a combination of dancing and acting, all set to music. Performers can include any combination of performances, music, sets, props and costumes. The only limit is the imagination of those involved, and it is encouraged that the dance stories reflect students’ thoughts, ideas and aspirations.

Wakakirri performances are then taken to professional theatres, where they are showcased in front of the official Wakakirri panel, who are searching for the story of the year, and appreciative audiences. They are also recorded and made available for viewing online. When the 2017 performances are uploaded I encourage everyone to have a look.

The stories that the children create have no limits on them but there is a theme for each year that schools are encouraged to integrate as part of the challenge. This year that theme was the gift. The interpretation of this theme in the dress rehearsal that I was privileged to watch was nothing less than inspiring.

The performance began with three students actively playing video games together. A father then came on the scene and gave each of the three children a book. The first student opened his book, which then came to life as ballerinas from the book took to the stage to dance with great grace and artistic beauty. The second book was then opened, and its contents also came to life on stage, though this time the performance was one of great humour, with a group of clowns bringing laughs to all. The final book was then opened.

I spoke to one of the young performers after the event and asked her what her favourite part of their dance story was. She said she loved how it showed that reading a book is like going on a great adventure, and the performance that emerged from this third book really communicated that reality, as the stage was taken over by a number of wild jungle animals.

The message of this performance is an important one: books do take us to all kinds of places, and literacy is incredibly important. It is likewise important that our children learn to create, and I love how the Wakakirri program gives them a formal framework to do that.

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