Older News  » School Spectacular 2009

Last updated 10:55 AM on 15 September 2011

For NSW public schools the Schools Spectacular is the greatest show on earth.

A Year 2 boy is riding his bike on a Sunday afternoon when he sees his neighbour and school dance teacher, Karlie Chalker.

"What time do we go to Koori dance on Monday? Do I wake up at 2:00?" he yells.

The young boy tells Ms Chalker he has been practising all night for the audition of the biggest night of his life - the Schools Spectacular. His troupe, the Darlington Public Koori Dancers in Years 2 to 6, hopes to become part of the show's Aboriginal dance ensemble.

"I feel excited for them," says Ms Chalker, also a former dancer in the Schools Spectacular. "They're just keen - that's my favourite part."

Scenes like this are being played out across NSW - from Leeton in the Riverina to Willyama in Western NSW as students from about 250 schools nervously attend auditions, rehearse their steps and don colourful costumes to take their place among the cast of thousands that make up the largest performing arts event on the NSW public schools' calendar.

Each year since 1984 students, teachers, mums and dads and production staff have gathered under the dazzling lights of Sydney's Entertainment Centre to take part in the two-hour extravaganza.

Schools Spectacular director Peter Cook, who has taken the helm from the legendary Mary Lopez after 25 years, says this year's theme "Reaching Out" carries on the traditions and values the 26-year-old show has always espoused.

"Reaching out is a concept that encourages us to look in all directions; it's an invitation to acknowledge who we are and to recognise what we have," Mr Cook says. "It also allows us to make statements about connection and inclusivity, respect and gratitude, tolerance and understanding."

While the spotlight will beam brightly on the 3,000 performers, behind the scenes it's the passion and dedication of hundreds of staff and volunteers - bus drivers, sequin sewers, choreographers, fundraising sausage sizzlers and siblings - that run the "Spec's" engine room, Mr Cook says.

"There is a whole community of people who get behind the Schools Spectacular and who behind the scenes makes sure this show comes to life."

Mr Cook says teachers in particular deserve a standing ovation.

"Often they're placed in positions where they're asked to learn new skills or thrown in the deep end and extend beyond what they normally do," he says.

Peter Hayward, music teacher at Sir Joseph Banks High in Sydney's south west, says the Schools Spectacular has been part of his life since he was in Kindergarten. Mr Hayward says he's done everything from waving pompoms to dressing up in foam kangaroo suits since he made his debut in 1989. As one of two conductors leading the 1,200-strong choir, Mr Hayward is busily ensuring students across the state are all singing from the same music sheets.

And, while he may be a "Spec" veteran, he says it's still a nerve-wracking experience on the night.

"All these shining lights and these kids looking at you to lead them - it's daunting but it's great, I wouldn't change it for the world."

Schools Spectacular runs November 27-28 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Visit the Schools Spectacular 2009 website for details.

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