SOTY 2014: Importance of art for Student of the Year

SOTY 2014: Importance of art for Student of the Year

The South China Morning Post Student of the Year awards aren't just about maths and science - the arts are important, too

Bright lights, a wide stage and all eyes on you. For some people, this sounds like a nightmare, but for those who love the performing arts, this is where they shine.

There are important life lessons and skills to be learned from the stage, and true performers are willing put in the hard work that this intense, nerve-wracking discipline requires.

The Student of the Year Performing Artist award seeks to recognise this dedication, skill and talent, whether it is in music, acting, dancing or another form.

Awards and recognition carry most of the weight - a whopping 80 per cent - when it comes to assessing contestants, but there's more to it than just the number of prizes on your mantle.

Director of Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts Adrian Walter, who is also a Student of the Year (Performing Artist) judge, explains: "[Awards] tell you something, surely, but they don't tell you everything."

While technical performance might win a competition, there are other underlying qualities that will help the judges identify the really exceptional performers.

What really makes a winner stand out, according to executive director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival Tisa Ho, is "a real love of the form, and the ability to express a personal understanding of it".

Ho is looking for artists who have an intimate understanding of their role, and are able to give it meaning. This will shine through in a performance, making it more accessible to the audience.

And understanding, as Ho says, starts with a love that goes beyond winning awards or passing exams, and extends into something deeper.

"It's more than just having a talent," Walter continues. "Clearly that's important, but it's also to have the commitment to your art. That's important." It's the level of commitment that will make the winner of the Performing Artist award stand out above the rest.

"You're looking for people who have embedded their art practice into their lives," says Walter. He's referring to the community service component, something that accounts for 20 per cent of the judging criteria. Walter feels that by giving back to their communities, whether local or on a larger scale, contestants can further demonstrate their passion and dedication to the performing arts.

"They have to give back," Walter says of the contestants. "They don't see the arts as a selfish act - 'for me' - but as something you share. And that's where the arts really excel, when you share them with people."

Giving back also has a direct effect on those unquantifiable qualities that the judges are looking for. Ho explains: "The most wonderful performers that I have ever met are also wonderful people: warm, open, generous at heart and in spirit, in addition to being phenomenally talented and skilful."

Walter agrees. "This quality of giving back, that generosity of spirit, also shines through when they actually perform for an audience," he says.

By opening themselves up and wanting to connect with people around them through their art and their performances, candidates show an important trait.

The judges are looking for well-rounded students, ones that have learned from the arts, and who apply these lessons to other areas of their lives. Contestants should show that their performing experience has taught them skills in team building, time management, presentation, and critical thinking. "You can move these skills into a whole range of career paths," says Walter.

It's important not to rely solely on exam results and recognition to impress the judges though; showing passion and dedication through the personal statement and interview is crucial as well.

"Learn to understand yourself, your values and who you are," Ho urges, "because this will all impact your performance. Just copying the moves will result in performances that may look good but will be empty inside, and the audience will feel it."

Perhaps the most important piece of advice from the judges will come as no surprise to anyone: practise. "Work hard, practise as much as you can," says Ho, "but be sure you enjoy it. Because that will mean you will be able to keep going, learning, and improving."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Take a bow for the judges

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