Powerhouse Youth Theatre launch turns migration complaint on its head

PYT 9 Lives 2015Powerhouse Youth Theatre launched its 2015 program at Fairfield School of Arts, on Monday, March 9, in an atmosphere of exuberant warmth and enthusiasm. Guests were welcomed with traditional Iraqi coffee, tea and sweets, the PYT Ensemble gave a taste of their performance range in languages including Arabic, Spanish, Pashto and English, and the Choir of Love presented a set of songs drawing on the musical heritage of Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac cultures.

Catering was provided by Parents’ Cafe Fairfield, a social enterprise established to explore pathways to training and employment in hPYT - Parent Cafe and Kaz 0315ospitality for newly arrived refugees. Parents’ Cafe is incorporated in partnership with Fairfield High School and Sydney South West Area Health Service. Above, artistic director Karen Therese introduces project 9Lives and right, stands proudly with the team from Parents’ Cafe. The atmosphere of good will and cooperation in support of young people was palpable.

More than 200 young people of diverse cultural backgrounds come into PYT’s home in Fairfield’s old School of Arts each week. They participate in a wide range of programs and wPYT 2015 Program Launch - Team 9 Livesork with some of Australia’s leading artists.  Among this year’s special projects is 9Lives, an urban choreographic portrait of the streets of Fairfield to be developed with Force Majeure for presentation in August. Team 9Lives is a local group  dedicated to the philosophies and movement practices of parkour. Wikipedia describes parkour as a holistic training discipline using movement that developed in France in the late 1980s. Only the human body and the surroundings are used for propulsion, with a focus on maintaining as much momentum as possible while still remaining safe. Team 9Lives has turned parkour into a dance form thrilling to watch, let alone participate in. See their Facebook page.

Team 9 Lives - SOH  2 0315Self-taught from the beginning, Team 9Lives is now western Sydney’s underground street-style champions. Ali Kadhim, Joseph Carbone, Justin Kilic, Jimmy James Pham, Johnny Do, Natalie Siri and Patrick Uy of Team 9Lives have already conducted workshops and performed at Sydney Opera House, right. There are plans for a full scale performance there next year. They share their skills with anyone willing to learn and conduct regular evening workshops with local young people in the RTA car park, almost opposite PYT’s home. For the core practitioners, there is a strongly spiritual base to their work, mental discipline and a commitment to overcome obstacles and disadvantage. A constant creative exploration has led them to filmmaking, sharing skills on YouTube and providing entertainment for public and private celebrations.

PYT - David Capra and Kate Blackmore 0315A series of projects will be developed throughout the year, where young people work with established artists and partners like Fairfield City Council and C3West (MCA Australia) to create new theatre and dance works, dinner parties, dance parties, exhibitions, a film festival and opportunities to become part of continuing PYT programs. Lifetime Fairfield resident and artist, David Capra and Kate Blackmore, above, will work with young artists and experimental filmmakers to present Motion Pictures – A Festival of New Cinema in Youth Week.

PYT 2015 Program Launch - Iraqui danceThe launch was the perfect antidote to a Facebook response to my recent blog post about Cat Thao Nguyen’s memoir We Are Here. The Facebook respondent said: Australia was a great and kind nation because we put Australia first and people who immigrated here wanted to assimilate. Today, we have to try and please the new immigrants to their way of life. It just doesn’t and won’t work. Immigration has gone too far and taken over the Australian way of life. Unfortunately, all the do-gooders out there have allowed this to happen.

The writer seemed unaware that immigration is government policy. The number to be accepted in 2014-2015 is 190,000, set at budget time. Governments want more workers and more taxpayers. Click here for detail. In addition, I understand a further 13,000 may be accepted as refugees. By any standards, Australia’s current treatment of refugees is far less humane than it was in the 1970s and 80s. Like Thao, who is now an international lawyer, many refugees make a great contribution to Australian society. In the photo above, young and old, Middle Eastern, Asian, European and Anglo Australian join a traditional social dance at PYT’s launch, with much whooping and excitement. For more launch photos, click here.

1-PYT 2015 Program Launch - Bridget and AuntieWestern Sydney is “a frontier society . . . It tells us the way Australia is going . . . in western Sydney they’re working out the multicultural project day by day, in a way most Australians are not called upon to do,” says social researcher Hugh Mackay. This is the introduction to the About section of this blog and is the daily experience for most people living in the region. And it’s not always easy. The Fairfield area has experienced non-English speaking migration since the mid 19th century and for decades has had more than 130 different cultural groups and languages. For those who have lived in parts of the region, which have retained their Anglo-Australian composition for longer, change can seem comparatively hard to accommodate. Above, Sydney Opera House head of education and performance for young people, Bridgette Van Leuven, left, with Aboriginal elder Auntie Maggie Williams at the PYT launch.

Powerhouse Youth Theatre is now approaching 30 years since its establishment in 1987 at Casula Powerhouse. It seems it’s already embedded in an “Australian way of life”. For more PYT program information and how to get involved, click here.

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David Capra discusses – What was it like having a water birth with all those people watching?

David Capra, Water Birth, Campbelltown Arts CentreIn a recent conversation with Campbelltown Arts Centre director, Michael Dagostino, artist David Capra laughingly compared himself to Kermit the Frog.

“Kermit just wants to sing, dance and make people happy,” he said, “and that’s what I want to do.”

David and Michael were talking about a project David undertook with members of the Active Over 50s Fitness Group that works out regularly at Eagle Vale Central swimming pool. Birthing Things in the Spirit: The Water Birth was presented at the pool on Saturday, November 30, 2013.

Present with David in the conversation were Jenny Blackburn who leads the fitness group and another member Gwen Prohm. From their comfortable exchanges it was clear that a warm and relaxed friendship had grown up between them as they worked with David to bring his ideas to fruition.

David explained that even in childhood, he was birthing things, walking around the living room with a pillow for his belly, practising his pregnant wobble. In developing Birthing Things in the Spirit, he consulted a midwife, who proved to be former dancer. He learned “there is a reason for pain and it’s worth it”.

He was inspired by the work of Australian-born actor and swimmer Annette Kellerman in the early 1900s and by the Hollywood swimming star Esther Williams from the 1940s and 50s. Moving through water, discussing water births and sharing their pleasure in movies and soundtracks were all part of the project’s development and the group’s bonding.

David Capra, Water Birth, Campbelltown Arts CentreDavid acknowledges that there are three distinguishing characteristics to much of his performance work – his belly, which “carries the weight of responsibility”, the hand of friendship inspired by the Campbelltown train passenger Elizabeth and the white clothing he wears to “become the gallery wall”.

When asked if he becomes a different character when performing, he said no, he becomes a “heightened David with purpose”. Although there was passionate intent in his performance, with his own powerful chanting and the carefully rehearsed choreography, there was an undeniable sense of fun pervading the entire event.

Fitness group members enjoyed the experience enormously and many really “came out of their shells”, they said. For David, it was similarly great fun, but very important that he continues to be engaged with the community.

Birthing Things in the Spirit: The Water Birth was undertaken for David’s Master’s degree, but he rejects any suggestion that his involvement might cease, once he graduates. The focus of much of his work is community engagement and sharing. His little dachshund dog Teena, who features in a lot of his work is far from a gimmick, but an important way of drawing people into participation.

In Susannah Wimberley’s photos David, top, is surrounded by Fitness Group members assisting the birth and below, flourishes his Ministry of Handshakes as they celebrate the birthing.