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The Yard review (Arts Centre, Melbourne)


Krumping, booty shaking and acrobatic flips are not the typical stuff of an Australian schoolyard, but a group of high school kids from Sydney’s western suburbs show that they can streetdance with the best of them. 

The Yard is a collaboration performed by dancers from Shaun Parker & Company with teenage performers from Captivate . It’s set during a high school lunch break and puts break-dancing, contemporary styles and high flying moves into the high-energy mix and backs it up with plenty of attitude.

The cast of 20 is a cultural melting pot of modern Australia; African, Pilipino, Asian, Sudanese, Pacific Island and a handful of other backgrounds. The dancers are dressed in various styles of school uniform from preppy to sport gear as the guys and girls use cool moves to compete for power, or form packs or pairs for protection.

For a group of young students there are some seriously impressive skills on show in The Yard. Break dancers hit the floor and spin in classic moves, while one guy demonstrates a great talent for balancing chairs and caps on his head. Sporting motifs run throughout; one girl shows off her razor sharp, accurate ping pong. Two girls demonstrate classical ballet styles and blend them with contemporary dance and even some cheerleading. They recruit a young man to their girl’s group – who soon faces the wrath of the competing male pack.

Like Piggy in Lord of the Flies, there is always someone on the periphery — the person who inhabits a different bag of tricks and this show is laden with messages about diversity and acceptance but reflecting on how society can cruelly outcast those who appear different.

Anger is always simmering and seems set to explode at the slightest provocation in this school yard. When fights do happen the aggression is fierce, as are emotional and physical consequences, but then the school bell rings and things cool and life rolls on.

The only stage prop in The Yard is a slide, but the dancers incorporate soccer balls, scooters and pogo sticks into their stunts and routines.

The show has been created by Australian choreographer Shaun Parker who has artfully corralled the diverse talents of these students into a piece of theatre which matches its intensity with lighter, fun moments. The constant shifts in energy are complemented by the original electro-music score by Nick Wales with arrangements from songs from Sarah Blasko’s album I Awake.

The Yard uses dance skills to provide a unique take on youth culture and cultural diversity but it might also leave you wanting to krump, flip, bounce on a pogo, slip down a slide, and generally inject some serious hip into your life.

The Yard is at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Fairfax Studio until Saturday, August 16. Its tour continues to Wagga Wagga on September 2 and Griffith on September 5.


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