| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai Rock Challenge 2010

Rock Challenge saw more than 700 school children take part in the international dance and drama competition

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© ITP Images

What is the Rock Challenge?
It’s an international non-profit event that takes place in countries all over the world. It’s been going for 31 years and is massive where I come from in Australia, with thousands of kids and hundreds of schools taking part each year. Teams of children from each school decide upon a theme that is important to them and then have to put together an eight-minute performance using musical drama as their medium.

That sounds quite easy...
On the surface, yes. But bear in mind the entire production project is the responsibility of the kids themselves. They have to raise money to provide their costumes, learn how to manage the stage production in terms of props, lights and sound, make sure their choreography is up to scratch and devote plenty of their after-school activity time to rehearse.

Phew! So it’s not just a hooley then?

Absolutely not. It’s a community-centred education exercise that not only teaches children about team work and committing themselves to a project, but keeps them beautifully fit in the bargain. The schools get involved and the kids organise cake sales, car washes and jeans days to raise the money they need for their performances.

Other than the drama and dance, what else is involved?

It’s actually not just about performance. There is another serious side to it. The kids decided on a theme that is important to them. For example, the Rock Challenge event in South Africa chose Aids and HIV as their educational theme this year, in Australia they chose anti-drugs, and here in Dubai, they decided upon three; healthy lifestyle, the dangers of smoking and road safety. The kids’ performances were based around those themes, and we also organised professional speakers to talk to them about the subjects they’d chosen. It’s a serious business that’s also a lot of fun. How old do you have to be to get involved? There are two categories. The six to 11 year olds are the junior performers and the 12 to 18 year olds are the senior performers. It’s been a big hit with both these age groups. But, your school has to agree to be involved first before you can volunteer for it as it is primarily a school event.

How long has it been going in Dubai?

This is the fourth year – and we currently have 10 schools involved. Each school enters between 20 and 120 kids and this year we had more than 700 kids taking part. It’s the most amazing fun and at the end of the season [the children prepare for their particular performance for approximately six months] we have a huge event where they are judged by professionals and awarded on their merits for their overall production.

What made you bring it over here?

I’m an artist by trade and I love all things to do with the arts – and anything that encourages kids to express themselves and improve their self esteem. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Rock Challenge and I’ve seen how well children react to it, so I decided to bring it here. I just thought: Why should Dubai’s school kids miss out?

It all sounds amazing! How can more schools get involved in 2011’s event?

Well, sadly, I’m not sure there will be another Rock Challenge in Dubai. We’ve found it very difficult to fund the event because sponsors just haven’t come forward. We’ve knocked on so many doors and it’s getting tougher and tougher each year to get that vital support. The event is non-profit, but it still costs money to put it on. So, we’re a bit stuck.

That’s such a shame! How can people help?

By coming forward and offering to help us further our cause. We are passionate about what we do and we can see how good it is for Dubai’s kids who, by the way, are supremely talented. The Rock Challenge is huge internationally – it’s been going strong for more than 30 years – and it would be such a pity if it could no longer continue, especially as Dubai is the perfect platform for it. We need to get lots more schools involved too because this is for them. It gets them together and it gets the kids competing and it keeps them fit. It’s an absolutely brilliant community event; something this city needs. So, offers anyone?!
For more information on Dubai’s Rock Challenge 2011 pending, contact Aysel Duman on 050 873 3900

By Karen Iley
Time Out Dubai,

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