SPRUNG Youth Dance

A contemporary dance program that provided opportunities for young local dancers to explore, develop, create and communicate through self-devised dance experiences.
Two people hold a cardboard sign that reads ‘dance carwash this way’ with an arrow pointing to the left. They are standing in front of petrol station, the sky is blue and the sun is bright. One person is wearing sunglasses.

For over a decade, Incite Arts fostered the development of grassroots programs through partnerships with schools, youth sector organisations, dance groups and individual artists, to provide inclusive opportunities to engage young people in dance activities. 

The SPRUNG Youth Dance project began in 2012 as an initiative of Incite, Dusty Feet Dance Collective and Artistic Director Miriam Nicholls. The project was supported also by JUMP, the Australia Council’s National Mentoring Program, through which Miriam was mentored as a director by Lee Pemberton, Artistic Director of NSW-based fLiNg Physical Theatre. 

The project was based on the belief that young people are artists in their own right, with the potential to express and communicate complex ideas and issues through the body in the form of dance. The aim of the group was to extend beyond dance training, into the development of creative and collaborative work. SPRUNG was part of a national network of youth dance companies and was made up of an auditioned ensemble of dancers aged 15-26. 

SPRUNG was dedicated to developing thoughtful and challenging youth dance work relevant to the community of Alice Springs that inspired and informed audiences and provided young people with meaningful arts experiences. 

 SPRUNG went on to create site-specific works: Graffiti – Make Your Mark and Living on The Line to great community acclaim. 

Graffiti – Make Your Mark was presented as part of the Alice Desert Festival at the Alice Springs Skate Park. Miriam with choreographers Jordan VanderSchuit, Melissa Kerl, James Loveday and Hayley Michener, and the dancers explored how they each came to this place and what it means for them to live here.  

SPRUNG also had the opportunity to work with Melbourne-based 2nd Toe Dance Collective and create a short work: Maps as part of the Collective’s Artist In Residence Program and presentation of Alice Can Dance at the Araluen Arts Centre. 

For Youth Week 2013 the group responded to the theme of Be Active, Be Happy, Be You, by creating and performing a 6-minute dance piece that looked at the issue of youth depression and presented some ways to pick yourself up when you’re stuck in a slump. This activity allowed young people to use the language of dance and the performing arts to effectively communicate to their peers about youth issues. 

The major production for the year was Living on the Line; a site-specific performance work that was staged at the iconic Connellan Airways Hagar in December 2013. Following the 100-year journey of travel and technology from the construction of the overland telegraph line, to present-day Alice Springs, the work looked at themes of place, isolation, connectedness and process through hip-hop, contemporary dance and physical theatre.  

The video Big Smoke Big Red originated from a question put to the artists and participants of SPRUNG Youth Dance, June 2014 Dance Holiday Program.  

The project also brought in an influx of new SPRUNG Youth Dance members, continuing on in another week-long program of workshops during the October school holidays with many young dancers going on to take part in a public performance at the Alice Springs Night Markets in November 2014. 

The question was “Where do you think is better to live, a major city or a regional area?” The responses were thoughtful and insightful and led to a discussion on the pros and cons of each. The group decided Alice Springs is a unique place that in many ways features the best of city and regional, so‘Big Smoke Big Red developed as a celebration of this, their hometown. 

2015 saw the creation of more site-specific works; one for the Incite’s Arts program launch and the other for Unbroken Land. The SPRUNG participants embraced the challenges of working in outdoor locations at night, by developing and translating dance pieces from the studio to the park. 

In 2016, Incite partnered with Dusty Feet Dance Collective to work with Dusty Feet Kids, Dusty Feet adult classes and SPRUNG Youth Dance dancers to join the international dancing phenomena of Big Dance and create a video and live performance responses to Big Dance.  

 SPRUNG alumni and VCA Dance School student, Ben Hurley, worked closely with Miriam and a group of young SPRUNG Dancers to create the video version of Big Dance. Together with the live performers, this became a dynamic part of the Unbroken Land. 

Alice Springs’ Big Dance Pledge offered an opportunity for everyone to take part in a unifying performance and creative process with other groups across the globe. The choreography explored a number of themes and ideas including identity, journey and migration; connection, human ritual and spirituality; hope, aspiration and achievement. 

On the experience of the 2013 production ‘Living on the Line’

“I was amazed that it all came together. It was a real challenge to have no offstage and having to perform all the time. It was great learning about and being a part of a really different, non-linear way of creating dance. My dad loved it and he usually hates art!”

Evie Oster


On the 2012 production ‘Graffiti – Make Your Mark’

“I do look forward to seeing the future develop for SPRUNG, great solid foundations to build a truly unique and creative company with strong artistic leadership and the drive and enthusiasm of young people. And a very strong and unique first show to display the evident talent of young dancers in Alice Springs. Great use of the site. I think site specific works are a great direction for SPRUNG to keep heading down to keep it relevant to Alice Springs.”

Joe Pickett

Alice Desert Festival Manager 2012–13