Dancers Embody Powerful Stories From Incarcerated Youth

Beyond the walls banner

Celebrated Australian arts company Phunktional will bring their extraordinary dance work, Beyond the Walls, to the Sydney Opera House for one show only on December 12, 2019.

This inspiring program of original dance works was choreographed by young people incarcerated in Youth Justice Centres, directing the professional dancers.

Phunktional Founder and Artistic Director Gerard Veltre said the company is thrilled to be able to share this immensely powerful, uplifting and inspiring work with new audiences at the Sydney Opera House.

“This is a unique opportunity to see work created by incarcerated youth, to support their journey of healing and to celebrate their achievements by sharing their stories ‘beyond the walls’,’’ he explained.

Early in 2019, Beyond the Wall visited two NSW youth justice centres – Frank Baxter and Reiby Youth Justice Centre, twice a week for six weeks. They worked with the young people aged 11 to 19, encouraging them to share their experiences and stories in the form of dance and directing the dancers. Together they found a collective voice for their individual experiences.

Public performances earlier this year, including a sold out performance at Redfern Community Centre, were acclaimed by audiences.

The Sydney Opera House performance will feature Australia’s best B Girl, Demi Serono (So You Think You Can Dance, Blaze); recognised aboriginal dancer, Glen Thomas; Torres Strait Islander model and dancer, Hans Ahwang; B Boy Anastasios Repousis and Aroha Pehi with live music by DJ Wasabi.

Inspired by the heart-breaking stories of young people in Youth Justice Centres, artist, dancer and social activist Gerard Veltre wrote his first educational theatre production in 2007 to educate and support other young people from making similarly avoidable and painful mistakes. Phunktional has since collaborated with artists on projects across the country, and more than 350,000 people have been a part of, or seen their work.

Phunktional is passionate about providing equal opportunities for diverse communities and using the arts as a vehicle for creative expression to inspire change and to confront social issues of concern.

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In the lead up to the performance at the Sydney Opera House, on Tuesday 19 November, Gerard Veltre and members of Phunktional will host a series of performances and events at NSW Parliament House to raise awareness of youth incarceration, just weeks before Attorneys-General meet to discuss raising the age that children can be locked up in prison from ten to at least fourteen.

The program will include a screening of a short documentary of the project’s creation; a performance by a boys’ dance group from Redfern Community Centre with dancers Hans Ahwang and Glen Thomas. There will also be a Q&A panel featuring Lola Forester (Black Chat, Koori Radio) and artists from Beyond the Walls with Joel Clark from Amnesty International Australia, who will facilitate for parliamentarians in attendance.

“At Phunktional we are passionate about creating art that enables a greater diversity of human perspectives and experiences to be heard here in Australia and internationally. Working with young people, and in this case with young people in youth detention, provides them with the skills and support required to experience positive things in their life and affect real change.

It is also an opportunity for us as a society to have conversations about whether we continue to lock up children and what the alternatives might be. New and innovative approaches are needed to engage and support young people who are at risk of incarceration” concluded Gerard.

“The talent, dedication and creativity in portraying the voices and truth of the young people was truly fantastic. WELL DONE!” Redfern Community Centre Patron following the sold-out show

Beyond The Walls Event Details:

Date: Venue: Tickets: Bookings:

7pm, Tuesday 10 December
Sydney Opera House, Studio
$45 full price, $25 concession, Children $10, Groups $20