After 25 years of helping define dance performance and culture through Kiwi high schools, the organisers have pulled the pin on Stage Challenge and its younger sibling J Rock.
The owners say that rising costs of putting the event on across the country mean they are not in a position to continue. Ticket sales for the performances – 25,000 watched Stage Challenge shows last year – and the almost $270,000 annual contribution from the Ministry of Education aren’t enough to keep it rocking.
This will be a major disappointment to the more than 16,000 students in 200 high schools who were planning to be part of Stage Challenge this year. The eight-minute student-designed and choreographed performances, drawing on months of preparation, rehearsals and comfort zone suppression, became for thousands around the country a genuine high school rite of passage.
And there were roles in Stage Challenge for all, designers, costume makers, make up artists as well as performers all being part of teams which could be up to 140 strong.
The high point of many high school careers
For many of the 500,000 students who have taken part since 1992 , Stage Challenge represented the high point of their school days. Friendships were formed, talents were unearthed and for some, careers were launched.
Journalist Kirstin Hall summed up the ethos and value of her 5 years of Stage Challenge in The Spinoff: ‘with its focus on teamwork, leadership and the ever elusive Spirit award, Stage Challenge was the pastime for kids who didn’t want the ball but still wanted to be part of the team’. We can all relate to this.
Local versions of Stage Challenge may appear
Already some schools and teachers are talking about keeping the concept of Stage Challenge alive, talking about running more local events rather than local leading to national events.
There are also calls for the government or Ministry to step up and keep the concept alive, despite the Stage Challenge owners advising schools that they cannot use the name or imagery. This is a strange stance – the registered charity is folding up the nationwide event while looking to keep control of the event assets which schools have grown for 25 years.
Let’s hope something can emerge that keeps Stage Challenge’s many social, cultural and personal positives alive.