Well, the opening to PIAF is over and, with 50,000 people in attendance, it’s gone down as the biggest Swing performance in Perth history. It was a challenge and an incredible thrill to be involved and I can’t thank my team enough for all of their hard work.
When I was hired by PIAF to choreograph an original piece for Home, the official opening of the Perth International Arts Festival, I was immediately excited and thrilled to be working with such a host of WA talent. I chose six amazing dancers from Swing It to join in on the performance and PIAF picked six wonderful Noongar dancers from the Noongar community. Over twelve hours (spread over a week) I’d need to teach the new dancers how to Swing dance and get everyone trained and ready for the choreography that would be performed on stage at 200 beats per minute alongside Ernie Dingo.
The dancers worked HARD and the feeling in the room was fantastic. Everyone was supportive and locked in to make the performance the best it could possibly be. And I really need to take my hat off to the incredible Noongar dancers for their commitment; pushing themselves that hard to achieve what turned out to be a perfect performance…amazing.
In the lead up to the performance the pressure was on to bring it all together. At a press conference the WA media heard from the heads of the show (and Tim Minchin) about what we had in store and the excitement in the room was palpable.
Also there was a little extra excitement over being able to meet Tim Minchin… (no we’re not related)
All the hard work had been done in the training rooms at the ABC Studios and it was time for a full rehearsal at the site at Langley Park. On the way there we got an extra treat…Swing It was on the board!
Right before the first full dress rehearsal we had a chance to check out our stage and walk through it all one final time. I was taking Ernie through where he needed to be while the team got a chance to chill.
The dress rehearsal went well which only left the actual performance. The following night my gang would be performing in front of tens of thousands of people.
I was more than happy with the piece I’d choreographed and what it had to say about the Coolbaroo Club and about racial unity between Aboriginal and white Australians. The Coolbaroo Club was an amazing speakeasy back in the day that saw Aboriginal people dancing to Swing music and was an interracial club…one of the few places where Aboriginal and white dancers could share the floor and, if only briefly, forget about the abhorrent treatment of Aboriginals during that time. The piece I’d put together highlighted white and black dancers and ultimately, as the intensity increased, brought them all together to dance with each other as a unified whole.
The time had come! It was the night of the show and backstage the crew was feeling nervous but excited!
Out the front we had wonderful supporters from the Swing It community sending us photos and messages as they waited for the show…
We nabbed a shot with Ernie Dingo, our front man…
And then with the whole cast from our piece plus one of the original dancers from the Coolbaroo Club!
The team was called and it was time to perform! I can’t tell you how nervous I was for them but I needn’t have been. The performance was honestly the best I’d seen from them. Everyone nailed the routine, nailed their tricks and brought it all together with incredible energy. I was gushing with pride and overwhelmed by the whole experience.
Thank you to everyone that came out to watch and support us. Thank you to the whole PIAF team especially Olivia for bringing me on board. Thank you to all of the Noongar dancers, you were amazing. Thank you to the Noongar community for being so embracing, especially Richard Walley, Ernie Dingo and the ever lovely Gina Williams. To Richard Watson for the amazing performance photos. And lastly thank you to my incredible team of dancers; Bec Vincent, Gemma J Frampton, Ali Graziotti, Dave Hounslow, Robbie Hockley and Justin Sideris.
It’s an experience none of us will forget!