Camp Cypress changes guard as Moorambilla welcomes the high school energy of MAXed Out Company. Their mood is upbeat, excited and keen. The pace is fast and the artists that have come together to work with the students are ready to make them work harder than ever this year.
TaikOz percussionists Anton Lock and Graham Hilgendorf have come into Baradine Town Hall to work with the students on Japanese taiko drumming and to incorporate movement and percussion into the performance.
Anton has worked with MAXed Out for several years and relates to their age group and background. “I know what these kids are going through, for example feeling isolated if they are into music. I grew up in a small country town. My brother learnt classical guitar and used to get beaten up for playing it. I was okay because I played drums and that was cool.”
Anton says that the Moorambilla workshops are an intense opportunity to shape the work collaboratively with the other artists, and with the students themselves. “You have to think on your feet at Moorambilla,” he says.
He decides on the spur of the moment to teach the children movement inspired by Japanese sword dance using broom sticks instead of swords. This is also inspired by the artwork that Frank Wright has been doing. “I heard Frank saying that there were 21 spears thrown into the Echnida in the Biggi Billa story, so my dance became about a spear and a sword – or a symbol of both. That has been a real connection for me – I am even thinking about calling the dance 21 Spears. There is common ground there.”
“Taiko doesn’t speak to everyone,” says Anton, “but I think it speaks equally to boys and girls. These kids have such an enormous amount of energy, and if they don’t realize they have that, it can be thrown out in all sorts of different ways and not channeled into anything. Taiko can really channel that energy. When you get everyone all doing one beat together it is so powerful.”
Graham is an experienced educator and says that while drums and percussion take a great deal of skill and work to become a great performer, the students can get a great sound quickly. “It’s like singing in that way” he says. “I really do believe that everyone can sing, can dance and can play a drum.”
“Taiko also teaches them a unique sense of discipline,” says Anton. “I really identified with this when I was 14 – 15 when I started watching martial arts movies – I really responded to the physical discipline – and these kids are like that too.”
“I hope they will take away from this permission to do what ever they like – I am not here to get them to practice taiko drums for two hours a day, but maybe they will see how hard we work because we really enjoy what we are doing. Maybe their thing is motocross or soccer, but they might chose to do that and work hard at it.”
Graham says he notices a powerful camaraderie amongst the students. “I’m aware that this is my first-time with MAXed Out Company, but I really sense that I am a stranger walking into a strong and existing community. I have never seen that before. It could be that the students are so keen to work – they are really taking the ball and running with it. It could also come from the kids who have been here before, who know that the artistic expectations are high.”
Thank you to Suzanne Blythin, Jacqui Smith and Lliane Clarke for photographs.