Now celebrating over 25 years in Australia, the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge is stronger than ever …
> How did the Rock Eisteddfod originate?
The events are produced by the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge Foundation, a not for profit organisation. The event is a unique and exciting opportunity for schools to take part in a dance, drama and design spectacular, where the students are the stars.
Each year, the events are professionally staged in some of Australia’s top entertainment venues.
As part of the Global Rock Challenge, nearly 400 Australian schools and 30,000 students compete in the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge and J Rock shows in 17 regions across Australia.
> How does it work?
Teams as small as 10 or as large as 140 students plan an eight-minute performance based on a theme of their choice and set it to contemporary commercially available music.
Students, teachers and entire communities work together over a period of months planning and rehearsing, before competing against other schools at events in a 100% drug and alcohol free environment.
> Tell us about the kids. Are they excited … and how much work is going into rehearsals?
The 62 students in the St Columba Rock Eisteddfod team are from years 7 to 12. There are 17 boys involved, and most of the students have no dance background at all. There is also a back stage crew of Year 11 students from the school’s Entertainment Industries course.
They started rehearsals at the start of term 2, one afternoon a week and then had more intense rehearsals on the weekends leading up to the heats.
Since then, they have been having a rest before getting back into serious rehearsals. The students are over the moon about their success and are determined to do just as well in the finals.
> What does the Rock Eisteddfod aim to achieve?
The focus is on developing health, life skills and creative thinking in young people.
Participants commit to being 100% drug, alcohol and tobacco free. Research has proven that the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge® builds resilience and raises awareness of the health problems associated with substance abuse.
Rock Eisteddfod Challenge is an opportunity for students to develop real life social and management skills which will be beneficial in the future. This includes organisation, coordination, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, motivation and leadership skills, production, technical and creative skills.
It’s also an innovative way for students to represent their school outside traditional sporting or academic arenas and work collectively towards a positive goal.
Performing on stage at Australia’s biggest venues and having fun provides a life experience that’s hard to forget, as students and teachers see the rewards of their commitment.
Rock Eisteddfod Challenge strives to inspire, educate, and entertain secondary students and gives them a creative platform o-n which to express themselves.
The practical application of creative thinking comes alive, as many students gain real vocational skills in activities like designing and building sets, writing scripts or planning choreography, make-up, fundraising and budgeting, planning and scheduling, designing and sewing costumes and of course, performing.
After months of budgeting, design, construction and rehearsals, they present their performance to thousands of excited audience members, who are often amazed at the talent and achievement demonstrated by every school participating. Show time is a night of true inspiration and entertainment.
Awards are given to recognise these achievements, including performance, dance and production, community support, student achievements, school initiative and more.
The Rock Eisteddfod Challenge is an event produced by young people for young people, and this gives it a unique energy and innovation.
The focus of this friendly and vibrant competition is on youth being the best they can be in a 100% drug free environment.
> How are the performances being choreographed?
Taryn Johnston, the Head of Dance at the school, created the concept and has done all the choreography. She has some senior dance students working with her on this and assisting her with running rehearsals, but the work is largely hers; she is an incredibly gifted young woman!
> Tell us about the behind the scenes crew. Just how much support is behind this?
Taryn has been hugely supported by the talents of Sharon Waldow, a parent at the school, who has spent the last six months designing and creating the costumes. All the dancers have two costumes, so that is over 120! As well as this, Mark Brown, Head of Creative Arts, helped create the sound track and designed the lighting.
A team of teachers and parents travelled to Sydney for the heats to do the catering, hair and makeup, as well as making up the cheer squad.
The Entertainment Industries students manned the spotlights, worked back stage and introduced the performance. The whole school community has been behind the project with fundraising, folding paper cranes and the Columba Day Carnival, which followed the Peace theme of the performance.
> Can you tell us more about the theme and costumes of some of your performances?
Taryn Johnston selected the moving story of the young Japanese girl, Saduko, who was an infant in Hiroshima when the atom bomb was dropped. Taryn’s choreography tells the tale of Saduko’s resulting Leukaemia and her belief that if she made 1,000 paper cranes she would be saved. It also examines the fact that despite the horror of Hiroshima, we still live in a world of conflict and nuclear bombs.
The result was a stunning performance, which the judges could not praise highly enough.
Sharon Waldow’s costumes start with Japanese Geisha and then move to Punk in green and orange, followed by men in black and girls in sequined pink for the Bomb Sales Game. The finale has all the dancers on stage in white.
> How else does the Eisteddfod promote the wellbeing of kids?
As well, St Columba Anglican School chose to participate in the RAW division as opposed to the Open division, as RAW Division strips away the sets and focuses purely on the performance elements.
Participants are encouraged to explore using the human body in order to tell their story, and it challenges schools to explore fresh and innovative ways to manipulate the elements of sound track, costume, make-up, lighting and hand held prop design to create their performance.
> How do you think the kids will go in the competition?
The St Columba Anglican School Rock Eisteddfod routine took the judges’ breath away in the heats.
It won eight major awards, and there is nothing to suggest that it hasn’t got a great chance of doing just as well in the Finals at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
They have the passion and the talent and a brilliant routine and won’t let the fact that they are a small regional school get in their way at all. No guts, no glory!
> Thank you Julie, and we can’t wait to hear how the school does in the Finals.