As a result of my posting yesterday celebrating the glorious Aberdeenshire weather, and how it was good that this year’s Rock Challenge event at the AECC would not be snow-effected as in previous years, there was some kind of inevitability that all that would change! I was not at all surprised, therefore, when at 5 o’clock yesterday evening, it started to snow…and snow it did!!
Despite the weather, I thought that this event was far too good to miss, especially as I was unable to attend last year’s show, and one of my colleagues had to go in my place.
In the end, I am more than convinced that I made the right choice, not only because it was won by one of the teams with which we are involved, but also because the quality of all the performances was so incredibly high, especially in comparison to some of those that I witnessed in the days when the event was run at the Music Hall.
After handing over my money to a licensed bandit in a burger van, I was led to my seat at stage left along with the crowd from Turriff Academy, (who had very kindly donated tickets to our company)! Just before the show was about to begin, we were advise that we could move from seats of restricted visibilty to an area further back and more central. Some of the people around me took up the kind offer and things settled. Unfortunately, to my chagrin, I was then to discover that the location was also an area of limit audibility, as well as visibility, so myself and the other Turriff stalwarts spent the rest of the evening trying desperately hard to listen to the compère, the on-stage school representatives and, more importantly, the judges’ comments, largely to no avail!
This year, as most of you are aware, PomPrint have been involved with 3 of the competing schools, namely Turriff Academy, Westhill Academy and Fraserburgh Academy, where we supply the ‘uniforms’ for the day in the shape of printed and embroidered hoodies and t-shirts. We also make it company policy that, if any of the teams that we supply win the Aberdeen heat, then we sponsor the ‘uniforms’ for the final up to the value already supplied in the heats. Last year, for example, we supplied clothing for Westhill Academy’s Grimsby visit to the northern finals.
For this reason, I am going to concentrate on the performances of the 3 teams that I consider to belong to the ‘PomPrint circle of Friends‘.
Just before the show I had just received a ‘tweet’ stating that a certain Mr. Summers had already won the staff invitation dance competition for Fraserburgh, so things were already looking positive!
Turriff Academy’s piece was entitled “People who mind don’t matter, people who matter don’t mind” – a title that was, along with the school’s name, not exactly on the tip of the tongue for the compère of the show!
Set in the future, a Dictator rules the world. He controls your thought, views and even your sexuality. In this repressive regime some brave couples decide to break free. They learn to accept themselves for who they are because ultimately it matters who you fall in love with.
I felt that this was a very visually pleasing set from Turriff, especially the costume design where we had very clean cut pink female uniforms and blue male uniforms in contrast to the fluffy, no-so-well-defined yellow clothing of the ‘rebels’. The dictator (who’s name I seem to recall as being Callum in real life) gave one of the best performances of the night, in my humble opinion, especially with his ‘tumbling’. The scene where he was pulling invisible strings on one of the ‘rebels’ was extremely powerful and well co-ordinated.
This having been said, I felt that the linear storyline needed a few cameo performances (see my comments on the winners) or stronger visual indications that the scene had shifted. Peterhead achieved this in ‘South’ where, despite having a linear storyline, the changes of scenery told the audience clearly that we had ‘moved on’ to the next part.
Westhill Academy’s piece was entitled “The Discovery of Elemora” – a Jumanji-like game found in an abandoned house. I expected to see Robin Williams in the dance, but I guess that the snow outside did not permit his arrival!
When four children stumble upon an unusual game in an abandoned house, little do they know what lies ahead. Elemora, a game with many secrets, spirals the children on a journey where they are made to face Earth’s natural disasters; an earthquake, hurricane, forest fire and tsunami. Will they make it out before the last roll of the dice?
In sharp contrast to the linear story line taken by most of the other dances (the sole exception being the winning piece from Fraserburgh), this piece was cleverly constructed by having a suite of 4 dance routines on a single theme, within the piece as a whole. The four dances here represented Earth, Air, Fire and Water and the whole dance was designed and choreographed as a vehicle to deliver these elements. I was particularly impressed with the costumes in the ‘Earth’ section, the choreography in the ‘Air’ section, the lighting in the ‘Fire’ section and the scenery in the ‘Water’ section. This was a very well constructed piece and it must have run the Fraserburgh show a very close second. No clever individual performances here – this was pure teamwork!
Fraserburgh Academy’s piece was entitled “Dorothy Decides” – a clever use of a well-known story with well recognised characters to get over a serious message about alcohol and drug abuse and bullying.
Follow Dorothy down the yellow brick road as she faces a choice of paths. Will she conform and allow the evil witch with her peer-pressuring companions determine her path or will she resist these influences and choose her own way, The decision is hers.
Both Westhill and Fraserburgh seemed to hit upon the magic formula for this year’s Rock Challenge by making four cameo dances into the basis of the story. Here we had the Scarecrow, representing alcohol abuse, the Tin man, representing drug abuse, the Cowardly Lion, as the victim of bullying, and the Munchkins as the ‘Good guys’. Each character had their own dance (I particularly enjoyed the Scarecrow), which was contrasting in character to all the others. What made this routine stand out to me was that it had such a cut-and-dried ending. Dorothy made her decision and then invited the ‘bad guys’ to come and join her – an indication, I guess, of her becoming a leader and not a follower.
We, as a company, now look forward to supporting both Fraserburgh and (I believe) Westhill in the Dundee Scottish finals on 13 June!!
I will finish by thanking everyone involved for such a wonderful night, and hope that we get involved with you all again next year.