Project by NSW young people in juvenile justice centres
Beyond the Walls is a dance project produced by leading Australian community arts company Phunktional, designed to empower young people in custody.
A group of six professional dance artists, including First Nations Australian dancer Glenn Thomas, held workshops with the young people in Reiby and Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centres (JJC) across greater Sydney recently. The young people were supported to create a dance performance piece that will be presented by the professional dance artists.
“During the workshops the professional dancers we engaged, not only taught the young people in custody, but also listened, felt and responded to them,” Phunktional’s Artistic Director Gerard Veltre said.
The project will culminate with the collaborative dance piece performed by the professional artists to staff and young people in the Juvenile Justice Centres as well as three separate public performances within Greater Sydney.
“The young people shared their stories and experiences (during the workshop) and began to shape the dance work that will be the performance of Beyond the Walls,” he said.
“These (professional) dancers have now become the young people’s voice, their stories and their hope,” Veltre said.
Beyond the Walls is a Community Arts and Cultural Development (CACD) program for culturally diverse at-risk young people in custody in Sydney. The unique initiative is a strategic approach to empower young people through the arts, building on two years of collaboration between Phunktional and Frank Baxter JJC.
“Beyond the Walls is aimed at creating resilience, hope and connectedness for the young people behind the walls who might feel forgotten,” Veltre said.
“Come and support the creative achievements of young people in detention and be part of a much-needed ongoing dialogue, the show is going to be incredible,” he said.
“The art the young people have made is powerful and at times appropriately harrowing and hard to watch, and at other times it fills us with laughter and hope for the future. Don’t miss it! There’s only three public shows!”
According to various recent studies dancing improves brain function and has a raft of psychological benefits. Hanna Poikonen of the Cognitive Brian Research Unit at the University of Helsinki says, ‘dance allows the basic elements of humanity to combine in a natural way.’
Dance improves human connection, memory and mood, essentially connecting one with their own body and spirit that allows an authentic freedom regardless of circumstance.