Geography no barrier for performing arts talent

CLASS ABOVE: Queensland Ballet's Christian Tátchev leads a group of students at the Granite Belt Performing Arts Challenge at the Stanthorpe Civic Centre.
CLASS ABOVE: Queensland Ballet's Christian Tátchev leads a group of students at the Granite Belt Performing Arts Challenge at the Stanthorpe Civic Centre. Liana Turner

RHONDA Binnie believes a regional postcode should not prevent a budding performer from having a career in the arts and she is determined it won't be a barrier for aspiring dancers from the Granite Belt region.

Ms Binnie, who has long been a champion of the arts in regional areas, this week oversaw four days of competition and learning at the Granite Belt Performing Arts Challenge.

The GBPAC chairman said the scholarships challenge is a way for youngsters in regional Australia to learn from industry experts and for the section winners to further hone their craft.

The GBPAC concluded on Sunday with a gala performance and the final sections of competition.

Soloists sat for the scholarships on Thursday and Friday with groups on Saturday and Sunday morning.

"It's not an eisteddfod,” Ms Binnie said.

"It's a scholarship so children can learn, as well as compete. We bring in genre-specific experts for each section of the competition.”

Ms Binnie said the judges for all four sections were highly credentialed and shared their expertise in workshops.

They included Dr Jessica O'Bryan from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music for musical theatre, Kuki Tipoki, dancer and musician for tap, Jayde Westaby (who will star in the musical Mamma Mia at QPAC later this year) for jazz and Christian Tatchev from Queensland Ballet.

The success of the scholarships program was evident at the gala performance when the winner of the junior musical theatre section chose a great song having used her prize money to help pay for choreography, enabling her to have a routine for song-and-dance sections in eisteddfods.

Amber Hahn, from Glen Innes, performed the completed routine at the gala.

Prizes to the value of $10,000 were awarded to competitors, including cash bursaries from Granite Belt businesses (to be spent on education), summer schools donated by Brisbane-based organisations, exam refresher courses, industry-related products and entries to GBPAC's sister organisation, the Brisbane Performing Arts Challenge, next month.

GBPAC groups convenor Cheryl Green said the four-day event was a great success.

"It was really good. The whole four days was really successful,” she said.

"All the participants were really excited by the whole event and can't wait to come back next year."

Mrs Green said the event gave regional performers an opportunity to learn from the industry's best while exposing them to organisations which could be on the hunt for talent.

Competitors were drawn to Stanthorpe from nearby towns of Warwick, Gatton, Lismore, Casino and Glen Innes, with some from Ipswich and Brisbane joining Granite Belt students.

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