Celebrating Dance at the Tititea Performing Arts Dance Competition

Last weekend, the Wānaka community witnessed an extraordinary showcase of talent and passion at the first-ever dance competition in Wānaka hosted by the Tititea Performing Arts Trust. From the graceful movements of ballet to the high-energy beats of hip-hop, over 118 dancers, aged 5 to 18, took the stage to wow audiences with their performances.Gillian White, one of the founding…

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Last weekend, the Wānaka community witnessed an extraordinary showcase of talent and passion at the first-ever dance competition in Wānaka hosted by the Tititea Performing Arts Trust. From the graceful movements of ballet to the high-energy beats of hip-hop, over 118 dancers, aged 5 to 18, took the stage to wow audiences with their performances.

Gillian White, one of the founding members of the Trust, reflects on the journey that led to this momentous event. "As parents of passionate dancers, we saw a need to create an opportunity for dancers to perform closer to home in the Queenstown Lakes District," she shares. "We wanted to provide a welcoming, supportive, and enjoyable platform for performers from all backgrounds and abilities."

There are a number of young people with a passion for the arts (specifically dance) living in the Upper Clutha and wider Otago who regularly travel to Dunedin, Invercargill, Alexandra, Christchurch and further afield to take part in dance competitions. These competitions are in such demand that the Alexandra and Mosgiel competitions have recently been fully booked in less than 3 minutes of registration opening.

The Tititea Dance Competition is the first of its kind in the Queenstown Lakes to provide young dancers with the opportunity to gain valuable and enjoyable performance experience right on their doorstep, whilst also attracting dancers from around the South Island to come together and share their love of dance.

The competition spanned four days, during which participants showcased their talents in over 550 performances across various dance categories. From ballet to contemporary, hip-hop to jazz, and even self-choreographed pieces, the stage was alive with the vibrant energy of young dancers pursuing their dreams.

But this event was more than just a competition; it was a celebration of the arts and a testament to the dedication of the Wānaka community. Gillian emphasizes, "Dance meets all five ways to well-being - it's about connecting, being active, learning, taking notice, and giving. We wanted to highlight the benefits of dance and wellbeing throughout the competition."

The Trust's efforts were met with overwhelming support, with the event selling out in around 30 minutes. Dancers travelled from across New Zealand, from Wellington to Invercargill, to participate. For others, it was a chance to perform closer to home, eliminating the barrier of travel expenses and allowing them to immerse themselves in the arts right from their district.

The economic impact of such events also cannot be understated. The competition ran over four days, with many participants and their families staying longer to enjoy the school holidays. In turn, this would undoubtedly have contributed to the local economy through accommodation, dining, and retail.

A highlight of the inaugural event was the nomination section for National Young Performer Awards (NYPA). Dancers in this section each performed two classical solo variations, usually performed by professional ballet dancers.  

Gabriella Barr (Christchurch), Hannah Thomas (Wanaka), Natalie Smith and Matilda Stevens (both from Invercargill) were awarded nominations to the NYPA competition that will be held in Palmerston North in October this year. The National Young Performer Award hosted by Performing Arts Competitions Association of New Zealand Inc is the pinnacle achievement for many dancers giving them a unique opportunity to perform at a national level.

Looking ahead, the Trust aims to make the Tititea Performing Arts Dance Competition an annual event. "We’re exploring ways to expand the competition to include masterclasses for dancers and encouraging more participation in genres like hip-hop," Gillian shares. "We're also continuing our conversation with M!NT Charitable Trust to encourage and support dancers with an intellectual disability, autism or sensory/auditory processing disorders to participate in the competition."

As the curtain falls on the inaugural Tititea Performing Arts Dance Competition, the echoes of applause and the memories created will linger. It was a celebration of talent, resilience, and the power of community coming together to support young performers. As Gillian aptly puts it, "It's so much more than a competition - it's a chance to try something new and to connect with fellow dancers and enthusiasts. There was such an excellent atmosphere across the four days, with dancers from across the South Island supporting and encouraging each other right through the competition."

In the heart of the stunning landscapes of Wānaka, a new tradition has been born - one that helps celebrate the arts and nurture the dreams of young dancers. As the Tititea Performing Arts Trust continues to champion creativity and excellence, it extends its warmest thanks to the participating dance schools for their support, both locally and around the country. “We couldn’t do it without the support of the whole dance community - we just provide the opportunity to showcase all their hard work.” They also extend thanks to the local businesses and individuals who supported the event.

The success of the competition can be attributed to the dedication of the Trust's volunteers, who poured countless hours into organising and executing the event, as well as 30+ additional volunteers who we couldn’t have run the event without. From stage managers to sound technicians, their tireless efforts ensured that the competition ran smoothly and that every dancer had the opportunity to shine on stage.

In addition to providing a platform for young dancers to showcase their talents, the competition also served as a learning opportunity. Renowned adjudicator Sarah Knox shared her expertise with participants, even holding impromptu workshops on stage. Her presence added an extra layer of excitement and inspiration to the event, leaving a lasting impact on all who attended.

The inclusive nature of the competition was evident throughout the four days, with dancers from all backgrounds and abilities coming together to celebrate their love of dance. Whether they were seasoned performers or first-time competitors, each dancer was greeted with warmth and encouragement, creating a supportive and uplifting atmosphere.

Looking ahead, the Tititea Performing Arts Trust is eager to build on the success of the inaugural dance competition, with hopes to expand the event and introduce new initiatives down the line.

As the final notes of music fade away and the lights dim on the Titiea Performing Arts Dance Competition, one thing is clear: the passion and talent on display have left an indelible mark on the hearts of all who attended. It's not just about the trophies and accolades; it's about the joy of dance, the camaraderie of community, and the endless possibilities that lie ahead for these young artists.