Victorian Dance Festival 2018: What to expect from Victoria's biggest dance event
Last year was the first year that the Victorian Dance Festival was held in Melbourne since it's conception in 2012. An incredible success, 2017's event saw over four thousand dancers take to Melbourne's Town Hall across the three day program, taking part in masterclasses, seminars and performances, and of course breaking the World Record for the most dancers en pointe for one minute in one place. With guests including ballet royalty Lucinda Dunn, the ultra-talented Kathryn McCormick, Sarah Frangenberg and Tate McRae, young dancers from all across Victoria had the opportunity to watch and learn from some of the best in the industry. It is no surprise that based on the turnout at VDF 2017 (staff at Melbourne Town Hall said it was the busiest event they have seen at the venue!), founder and director Kate Meade has taken the festival to a new level this year, hosting an expected 6,000 dancers at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens from February 16-18.
What is VDF?
If you've never attended or even heard of VDF, here's everything you need to know: Victorian Dance Festival was founded in 2012 based on the ethos "VDF is a community. Not a competition." Founder Kate Meade (who you will recognise from our recent Atelier campaign!) describes it as an "all inclusive, all ages, dance event providing dancers of all abilities the experience of working side by side with the leaders of the Australian Dance Industry." It's a place for learning and evolving, and for sharing your passion and love for dance with your fellow dance community.
What's on offer?
February 16th is Teachers Day. Held at Ministry of Dance, this is a full day event dedicated entirely to dance teachers and studio owners. This year the program is divided into two streams, one for educators, and one for business owners, so that the information is completely tailored to those attending. This year's schedule includes seminars, an open panel with industry professionals, practical lessons (including classes on safe acro practices and foundational dance movements) and a social event at the conclusion. For any dance teacher or business owner in the industry, attendance is an absolute MUST!
The Gala Showcase held on the same day is an amazing evening of dance studios, professional dancers and dance companies demonstrating their passion and love of dance (as well as outstanding choreography!) in one high-energy performance. This is taking dance concerts to a whole new level - and with last year's line-up including the award-winning Tate McRae, commercial group Tenacity and Ministry of Dance, this year's showcase is bound to be just as spectacular if not more so.
February 17th and 18th are the main event at the Royal Exhibition Building. With back-to-back masterclasses and workshops designed for all ages and abilities, attendees can expect non-stop inspiration and tuition from Australian and International dance superstars. This is the ultimate experience for anyone who loves dance, without the competitive atmosphere of an eisteddfod or comp.
Who will you see?
Yvette Lee: Returning to VDF this year is the amazing Yvette Lee, but this time in an even greater capacity, as the Artistic Director for 2018 (taking over from Paul Malek, who will still be teaching this year). Her vast experience in all areas of the Australian dance and music industry make her the perfect fit for the position - from musical theatre to television to music videos, you name it, Lee has done it - so attendees can look forward to once again being inspired by this incredible lady.
Stacey Tookey: This year the VDF team announced that Canadian dancer Stacey Tookey, who is a three-time Emmy award nominee, will be teaching at the event, as well as offering a key-note presentation on Teacher's Day and a teachers workshop. Fans will recognise Stacey from the hugely popular TV show So You Think You Can Dance, where she has been a choreographer and guest judge for 8 seasons, but her career has been wide-reaching, and she currently teaches and choreographs across the US, including for her own company Still Motion.
Portia Talib: Energetiks/Dance Informa model search winner Portia will be attending the festival as the official VDF ambassador for 2018. Flying in from WA, Portia is thrilled to be able to take classes and workshops with some of the amazing teachers and mentors at this year's festival.
You'll be able to meet this gorgeous lady at the event, and ask her all about her recent photoshoot with us for our upcoming 2018 collections (hint: she looked stunning!)
Era Jouravlev: Ballet Trainee Programme Director at the famed Joffrey Ballet School in New York, Era Jouravlev brings a world of experience to this years event, and will be running masterclasses in ballet technique. A former Principal dancer with the New Jersey Ballet, Jouravlev has worked with some of the biggest names in ballet, and her expertise will no doubt be in high demand from this year's attendees. VDF have also announced that The Joffrey Ballet School will be giving away 15 scholarships across the festival, including 3 incredible full tuition scholarships for their year long trainee program, and 12 scholarships to their summer intensives. Just attending the festival puts you in the running (eeek!).
James Barry & Neale Whittaker: This hilarious duo (members of Australia's funniest Hip Hop dance group Phly Crew) are back again after smashing it at last year's event and this time they've given two lucky winners the chance to assist them on stage. Ryan Dickson and Niki Trifon will be #onstagewithvdf this year, but for the rest of us, we'll have to settle for simply taking part in James and Neale's high-energy and super fun masterclasses. Brand new Phly Crew merch is also going to be available - so make sure you visit their stand.
Also at this year's festival will be Energetiks ambassador Cat Santos, the highly respected Paul Malek (and his mother Karen Malek, who is patron of the event and also starred in our Atelier campaign), Matthew Lawrence from the RAD, who will be teaching classes for the Project B initiative to encourage boys in dance, Kim Adam, Stephen Tannos, Jason Coleman and rising star Michael Ralph. A stellar line up of some of the biggest names in Australian dancing - not to be missed!
What else can you expect?
For the first time, Royal Caribbean's casting team will be attending the event, and running a masterclass in RCCL repertoire and technique for their auditions, as well as an actual audition on the 18th. If you're successful at the audition, you could be leaving the festival with a contract, but even if you only attend the masterclass, you'll be receiving invaluable information and coaching for future auditions that most people will never experience. If ever there was an opportunity for a head start in the industry, this is it! Click here for details.
In addition to all the incredible classes, workshops and tuition on offer, you can also expect an atmosphere like no other. Thousands of dancers in one place, eager to learn and revel in the joy of it all. New friendships are made, memories created and ambitions are realised. This is an event where it's not about being better than anyone else, but about celebrating dance for the art form that it is, and letting attendees be themselves in a completely safe, welcoming space.
Article by Emily Newton-Smith
Photographs by Elly Ford