Schools’ show brings ballroom to stage

Partner up . . . Otago Boys' High School and Otago Girls' High School pupils, including Elijah McDonald and Robyn Sparg, rehearse for Strictly Ballroom, which will hit the stage next week. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

Two Dunedin high schools are bringing an Australian film to the stage.

Otago Boys’ High School and Otago Girls’ High School have joined forces for the musical production of the 1992 film Strictly Ballroom

The story follows dancer Scott Hastings, played by Elijah McDonald (16), and Fran, played by Robyn Sparg (16), as they prepare compete in the Pan-Pacific Championships.

Director Nick Tipa said the film was one of his favourites and it would translate well on the stage.

“We have really got a great crew of kids this year, so we wanted to try something more interesting and potentially challenging,” he said.

“Everything is larger than life, over-the-top.”

Learning ballroom dancing was a challenge but many of the cast members had a background in dance – jazz, contemporary or hip-hop – which helped, he said.

“We have a group of very talented choreographers working with us this year.

“Learning those new skills and those new techniques has been a big challenge but the kids have really risen to it and they’re doing some really awesome work.

Tipa, a ballroom dancer, has directed two of the schools’ previous productions.

Previously, the cast had been large – about 70 and 50 people respectively – which was difficult, so he wanted a smaller cast for this year’s show.

“This cast is a really good size for the stage we’re working with and for the sort of show because .. every ensemble actor gets to have a couple of dances that they can call their own

There were more dances with 10-12 people than full-cast dances, he said.

The production was a mixture of teenage angst and the glitz and glamour that went with ballroom.

“It’s shaping up pretty well.”