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Meet the Stars of Stage Challenge!

Stage Challenge is a dance, drama and design spectacle where schools go head-to-head as part of a global event. The competition’s popularity is rapidly growing with six of our local high schools battling it out on stage this month. Anna Henvest caught up with the leaders of each high school to get the scoop for Channel.

Picture this: 500-odd excited, passionate and loud teenagers all in one place, all dancing, singing, laughing and of course, the number of ‘selfies’ taken at the Aotea Centre took a record high. And no, this isn’t the filming of an episode of Glee. This kind of organised chaos  goes by the name of Stage Challenge and takes place right through the country in the coming weeks. 

The nationwide competition has some pretty impressive stats to it’s name with a whopping 16,000 participants over 13 venues, performing to a crowd of over 25,000 people. The shows are a chance to get students working together to create an on-stage masterpiece with an overarching theme of the school’s choice. These chosen themes reflect the personalities, concerns and interests of young people and the Auckland heats which I headed along to saw some pretty incredible examples of this. Of our North Shore competitors, the themes ranged from piracy to genetic modification, growing concerns of social media use and overfishing.
The North Shore’s Westlake Girls High School, Long Bay College, Takapuna Grammar, Carmel College, Northcote College and Rangitoto College were all involved in the shows, with each performance running between five and eight minutes, set to a medley of published and recorded music tracks.
With their performance “Is This Me?” Rangitoto College took out the second night of the Auckland competition, winning over 13 other Auckland schools. 18-year-old Rangitoto College student Emma Barnes explained how Rangitoto have translated their concerns over social media into a convincing performance. “Our performance is about how you can create a false image of yourself on social media. and how it isn’t the true image of yourself”. With the growing use of social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, she believes that the process of ‘untagging’ yourself from photos and adding filters is superficial and is something that needs to be addressed. “It’s a problem and you need to be aware of it.  We chose the theme because of it’s relevance. Especially with the Year Nines coming through, it’s just so relevant to them. Everything is based on social media now,” says fellow leader, Mikaela Foy. “If it’s you becoming someone else, then that’s an issue. It’s a bit weird when you think about it”.
Carmel College students Liana Gainsford and Georgia Habgood also spoke to me about the importance they think Stage Challenge holds within their school. Gainsford, 18, said: “I think it’s important for the girls to do it. It’s a good chance for them to get out on stage and do something different. This is a really good way for them to get out and show their talents”. The two Year 13 students say that their theme of ‘Miss Pretence’ is highlighting the social pressures and expectations that women undergo in today’s society. Habgood explains that Beyonce’s ‘Pretty Hurts’ music video was a big influence, and that their ‘Pageant-style’ performance was chosen to convey this theme. “We chose this because of how relatable it is. Being at an all-girls school, trying to fit in and look perfect is a really big deal, so we can relate. We’re really passionate about it.”
Trying to get the attention and awareness of the audience seemed to be a big theme for all schools involved in the competition. Nicky Ingram and Henry Merton of Northcote College, said that trying to appeal to all ages of the audience was a primary focus for them. “The idea that no matter where you are in life, you don’t have to feel like you’re tied down to the thing you’re in, like if you feel like doing something else, you can always change and be successful somewhere else,” says Merton on their performance of ‘Pathways’. The theme chosen by the students of Northcote College is designed to excite and inspire, says Ingram.  “We’re trying to capture a sense of excitement about all the possibilities that are out there and that you’re not limited to one thing anymore in this sort of decade. Life is short so you should just go for it and do as much as you can.”
For 17-Year-old Long Bay College student, Jed McKinny, Stage Challenge is so much more than just a dance and drama performance. “I remember when I was in year 9, I was quite shy socially, a bit of a loner, and so going into Stage Challenge helped me to develop a lot of self-confidence.”  When asked about why he thinks that Stage Challenge was important for high school students to get involved with, he said: “It develops self-confidence and introduces them into this whole new area. I strongly support the performing arts because I think it’s such a cool way to develop someone’s personality and their social skills as well.”  For the Year 13 student, a highlight has been seeing the strengthened relationships across the year levels. “And Stage Challenge is one of those things where you don’t have to be the top in anything to get in, you don’t have to be popular or perfect and you can still get in and have fun and develop those skills where you can meet new people and it’s just a really cool, safe environment.”
It’s fair to say that these students are creative and they’ve got an opinion to voice. This event is a way to unify students in a 100% tobacco, alcohol and drug-free environment. Whether a competitive performer or a rookie on stage, it seems that Stage Challenge really is for everyone and this certainly won’t be the last you’ll hear of it.

by Anna Henvest

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