Multi-talented artist and street dancer Feras Shaheen was not expecting to add ‘Telstra Emerging Choreographer Award recipient’ to his resume, but in 2021 he did exactly that.
The Australian Ballet’s Principal Partner Telstra has created various initiatives for young dancers and artists for 37 years. In May 2021, Telstra and The Australian Ballet co-launched the inaugural Telstra Emerging Choreographer Award, offering a cash prize of $10,000 to support the development of their work as well as have the opportunity to be selected as part of the company’s 2022 Bodytorque program.
When Feras discovered he was TEC Finalist he said, “I wasn’t expecting much. The person who gave me the push was Nick Power, who is a mentor of mine—he is a breaker and choreographer. He sent me an email saying that this would be really fitting. I went for it and I’m very happy with the outcome. It was a nice surprise.”
Abiding by the theme “Joy of dance” for the TEC Award application, Feras flipped the creative process on its head by using street dance movement and adding in the music afterwards.
“I wanted to see what street dance would look like if it wasn’t based from the music because street dance is known to be created from music,” he said. “I muted the music on the video on my first draft and worked with my composer to create the music to that movement. I wanted to see what his representation was based on what he is seeing, not what he is hearing.”
Born in Dubai from Palestinian parents, Feras is well versed in many aspects of the performing and creative arts. He has worked as a performer, teacher, choreographer and digital artist. Graduating from Western Sydney University with a Bachelor of Design, Feras has been able to accomplish a fusion of passions that intersect with his cultural background.
“I’d love to connect with my cultural background, especially because my mother loves dance. She used to be part of a Dubke group. It’s very energetic and has a lot of experiences than movement—it is about the atmosphere. I think that’s why I’m attracted to street dance because it is influenced by your surroundings.”
The four finalists up for the award included Feras Shaheen, Aimee Schollum, Mathilda Ballantyne and Geoffrey Watson. These finalists received a budget of $2,500 to create a work of four to six minutes. Their works were reviewed by the TEC 2021 Judging Panel, including: The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David Hallberg and judges, including Damian Smith (Artistic Director of The National Theatre Ballet School) and Lucy Guerin AO (Lucy Guerin Inc).