Creative spirit feeds the soul

Tony Ray-Ray from De La Salle College Ashfield

Young actor Tony Ray-Ray: I have a sense of achievement when I perform.

Getting involved in Performing Arts programs run by CaSPA has had a positive effect on the wellbeing of three Sydney Catholic school students.

Jordan Vilas, in Year 11 at Holy Spirit Catholic College Lakemba, has been part of CaSPA’s Inner West Dance Workshop since he was in Year 7. The group meets each week for 10 weeks across two terms at Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College Burwood.

Since those early days when he was initially reluctant to join in, Jordan has become an integral part of the group and the dance sessions have become a highlight of his school program.

“I feel free when I dance,” says Jordan, “and it’s the perfect way to escape everything else.”

Jordan is part of a group of up to 10 students with diverse learning needs who take part in the sessions led by professional dance teacher Sarah Stollery.

Each session includes a warm-up and stretches and learning a range of dance moves and choreography.

Jordan Vilas, Year 11 student at Holy Spirit Catholic College Lakema with dance teacher Sarah Stollery.

“I feel free when I dance.” says Jordan Vilas with teacher Sarah Stollery.

Jordan says he feels really bored and stuck in one place when he doesn’t get that weekly release.

“Dancing is a way to express our emotions and I feel happier and enthusiastic when I dance.

– Jordan Vilas, Holy Spirit College Lakemba

It’s human nature to want to move and music makes me want to move.”

Kim Cassam, Learning Support Officer at Holy Spirit College, says while Jordan was very shy at the beginning he is now the first one up every time.

“Sometimes we all get a bit sad but on Tuesdays when I take Jordi to CaSPA he has a big smile on his face!”

As well as enjoying the outlet, Jordan says his dancing has improved over the years.

“It’s good exercise and I get to hang out with friends and Sarah, our teacher is cool.”

For Olivia Denis, in Year 11 at St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove, being part of Goodjarga, Sydney Catholic Schools Indigenous dance and cultural group, has changed her life.

Olivia Denis from St Ursula's College Kingsgrove and member of Goodjarga.

Cultural pride: Olivia Denis from St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove.

Set up in 2001, Goodjarga provides opportunities for teachers and students to develop their connection to culture through storytelling, dance, drama and music.

“Ever since Goodjarga I’ve become more proud of my heritage,” says Olivia. “I always look into it and love when my Dad tells me stories about my Nan and how he grew up.

“Being part of Goodjarga has changed me into a new person. I’ve gained more experience with leadership skills as well as dancing skills. I feel much more confident when leading a school assembly or getting up to talk in front of a school community or a community in general.”

‘Being part of Goodjarga, Sydney Catholic Schools Indigenous dance and cultural group, has changed my life.

– Olivia Denis, St Ursula’s College Kingsgrove

Goodjarga includes workshops, cultural days, a performance ensemble and a range of special performances. It also opens up opportunities for students to be selected in dance extension programs like the NAISDA Dance Camp, which Olivia was selected for in 2015 and again in 2016.

“They were amazing experiences,” says Olivia. “Being involved allowed me to experience my culture further – spiritually and physically. I also made new friends from across NSW and seeing the older kids from NAISDA do their dance routines was amazing.”

Elizabeth Mullane, CaSPA Secondary Coordinator, says Olivia has been part of the ‘Growing in Culture’ ensemble since 2015.

“When she started she had a strong desire to learn more about her culture and in just a short time, she has grown exponentially in her personal qualities, confidence and in the pride she holds for her culture.”

For Tony Ray-Ray, in Year 7 at De La Salle College Ashfield, discovering an interest and ability to act has had a positive effect on all aspects of his life including becoming more focused in his academic classes.

“If you do something you love, it flows on to other subjects,” says Tony.

Tony first discovered he liked acting when he was 7 when he had a part in The Wizard of Oz. But it wasn’t until CaSPA arrived at his Primary school, St Joseph’s Enfield, that his acting talent took off.

He was selected for the lead role in a school-devised show and at the end of the year he auditioned for the CaSPA Junior Theatreworks production of The Legend of Orpheus.

He gained the secondary leading role and was a driven and energetic performer in the week of touring performances undertaken by the troupe of 16 students.

He is now a regular member at the CaSPA Junior Drama Ensemble and is member of the joint De La Salle and Bethlehem Colleges’ junior Drama group.

“CaSPA drama teachers are so professional and they are really good at what they do so I learn a lot of new skills.

– Tony Ray-Ray, De La Salle College Ashfield

“I really like becoming someone else when I act on the stage and have a sense of achievement when I perform and a feeling like I did something good for myself.

“It’s a great way of expressing yourself and along the way make friends.”

Breakout: “Dancing is a way to express our emotions and I feel happier and enthusiastic when I dance.”

Breakout: “Ever since Goodjarga I’ve become more proud of my heritage.”

Breakout: “I have a sense of achievement when I perform…”

The CaSPA carefactor

The rationale of CaSPA, Sydney Catholic Schools Performing Arts unit, is a core belief in the transforming power of the performing arts. The programs traverse the range of learning needs, empower the social and expressive self and through kinaesthetic learning, and nurtures the overall creative spirit.

Since 2000 when CaSPA was set up thousands of students have taken part in workshops, ensembles and performances in voice, dance, drama and musical instruments. In 2016, CaSPA undertook a pre-and-post participation survey with students and their parents, who are part of the dance, drama, voice and orchestra ensembles.

“We wanted to see how we were going with looking after the wellbeing of the vast number of students who are entrusted to our care for a large chunk of the year in the student ensemble programs,” said Elizabeth Mullane, CaSPA Secondary Coordinator.

Called the CaSPA Carefactor, the comments show that as well as developing their skills in Performing Arts, the students have increased confidence in performing in front of an audience and in making friends with students from other schools.

They comment that they are more confident in talking to people they don’t know, have made new friends, feel accepted and respected in their various groups, and are more comfortable collaborating with other students.

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