remove_filter ('the_content', 'wpautop'); Teachersdancetrain magazine | dancetrain magazine

Teachers

A connection with a teacher can be life changing; their validation impacts how you feel about yourself. They encourage you to work through difficulties, when you are filled with doubt. You sweat and sometimes even moan under their increasing demands. They celebrate with you when you achieve your goals. Different teachers connect with you in different ways and in turn help you to understand unique qualities that you had yet to uncover.

When you are younger you rely on your teachers trust and guidance. As you mature and the relationship evolves, greater advancements are made. It is imperative at both stages that your teachers have the knowledge and experience to safely guide you, so that you can achieve your true potential.

For all of these reasons and more, every year, we interview your teachers. Their past experiences often greatly impact how they teach, just as your past experiences have shaped you.

The ‘best’ school is only the ‘best’ school for you, if you can develop connections with your teachers, if they are open to those connections and you are willing to do the work. For a commercial dancer, these connections usually have a direct flow-on affect to your work life, with the majority of commercial teachers still working in the industry. Which means that your full-time training is a very long audition – make every moment count. This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, it means you have to be present. Leave your ego and your device at the door!

Danielle Brown



Bergen Lavelle
Ablaze Dance Academy
ablazedanceacademy.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change, as you grew older?
Emotional and mental support is so important to a young dedicated dancer and I found this side of dancing easier to deal with, as I got older. It is important to provide our young dancers with the tools and knowledge to equip them well for their futures, especially if this involves leaving home for the first time. Mentors and support networks are so valuable to students.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
Being accepted into international schools was definitely a memorable moment and starting my position in Munich was such a highlight.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
A great dancer is born from hard work, patience, resilience and passion. I would encourage parents to work with their teachers in helping their young dancers to understand the importance of these values and seeing the moments that can feel like setbacks as opportunities to grow.

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Hilary Kaplan
Alegria Dance Studio
alegria.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student?
I was lucky in that I could do everything quite easily. The only thing I had to work on was my extensions – getting them above 100 degrees.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
When I was at the Royal Ballet School in 2nd Year, with Pamela May as my teacher, when Rudolph Nuryev, Antoinette Sibley and Anthoney Dowell came in to do class with us.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Because students are continuously accessing youtube and other things, they want to do the tricks and cannot be bothered strengthening the basic technique. I often compare it to a bodybuilder lifting weights or a marathon runner. It doesn’t happen in a few weeks – it is months of focused training. As there is no perfection, we strive for the ideal and this takes absolute focus, dedication and constant motivation. It is a long but rewarding and enjoyable journey with usually some bumps along the way.

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Iohna Loots
Classical Ballet 121
classicalballet121.com
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change, as you grew older?
Although I was a good ‘all-rounder’, my small stature made grand allegro a challenge, and I didn’t appreciate the importance of beautiful port de bras until I was a professional. Through my dancing years at the Royal Ballet I started focusing on all areas of my allegro, doing a lot of strength training in the Pilates studio and making myself get to the end of class as often as possible. I value the grace and beauty of arms greatly, as does Gilly, so we spend a lot of time at CB121 talking about the how, why, and coordination of port de bras!

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
I am lucky enough to have had quite an eventful student life! Competing at the Prix de Lausanne, and subsequently leaving home to go to the Royal Ballet School made a massive imprint on me as a person and dancer. Being lucky enough to be walking the same corridors and watching through the windows, as some of the greatest ballerinas of our time sweated and even sometimes cried is probably my favourite memory! And the luckiest break of all was the chance to be on stage with the company many times as a student in the Royal Ballet’s productions. I love teaching repertoire now to give the students a taste of what is to come if they achieve their dream of dancing professionally one day.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
Understanding that every single person’s journey is their own, and that bodies will mature and strengthen at different times, will save an awful amount of heartache and stress to both students and parents! Artistry is not something that can be taught over a holiday camp, neither is true understanding of classical technique. It takes time for a young dancer to understand their body, become intelligent dancers, and build the tenacity and focus that is required in the dance world.

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Courtney McKeown
The Conlan College
conlancollege.com
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training?
I have hyper-extension and when I was training it was difficult not to sit back into my knees. I had to learn to pull up and out of my legs to protect my knees whilst maintaining a beautiful leg line when not weight bearing.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
My most memorable moment as a student was dancing the Gamzatti variation at the Prix de Lausanne. It was the most amazing experience to dance on that wonderful (yet tricky) stage and it is something I will never forget.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
The art of dance is something that takes patience, persistence and determination. Anything worth having takes time and dedication to achieve and in these days of instant gratification, it is humbling to understand that ballet is so much more rewarding when you know how hard you have worked for it. Ballet delivers life lessons that are otherwise so hard to learn in this day and age, regardless of whether a child goes on to have a career or not. Ballet also is so good at teaching us how to accept failures, learn from them and turn them into success.

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Olivia Jenkins
Danceworks Sydney
danceworkssydney.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change, as you grew older?
Moving overseas is going to be the hardest part of a students life, especially if they are going to a foreign language country. No amount of sweat in the studio or disappointment with a result will compare to what you have to cope with leaving home at such a young age and moving to the other side of the world. I moved to study in Paris and then at l’Ecole Superieure de Danse de Marseille when I was 14, and then to English National Ballet School at 16. It was a tough time because you also have the pressure of the amount of money the training is costing your parents. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to ENBS, otherwise it would have been extremely difficult for my family.
Unfortunately the drop out rate of superbly trained dancers going to pre-professional schools and then not being able to cope and coming home is very, very high. It’s something that needs to be addressed more openly as it’s a traumatic experience stopping dancing at any age but I’m sure it’s far worse for these young dancers as they haven’t even had a career.

I am aiming to prepare students for the reality of auditioning for and then working in a company. It’s important to be realistic and to know that you may have to do many auditions before being accepted into a company. Dreams of joining the Royal Ballet Company are frankly just dreams for most students. Having a career and dancing on some of Europe’s most beautiful stages has given me an amazing life that I want others to experience. Many young dancers don’t get further than a pre-professional school, which is why I am educating my students on how better to cope with that period and to make it through.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
At English National Ballet School I was selected to perform for Queen Elizabeth in an excerpt from Swan Lake for the opening of the Royal Albert Hall after substantial renovations. It was a special experience as I got to shake her hand. In being a ballet dancer you get to have some amazing experiences and meet interesting people that you don’t get to experience nearly as much in most normal careers.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
I would say that if you want everything now ballet is not for you. Ballet is hierarchical which means that even if you are superb you may have to spend 5 years in the corps de ballet waiting to be promoted (as did Misty Copeland). On top of that the reality of being in a company is that there are no competitions to win, and that can be difficult for dancers used to gaining their sense of achievement and passion for ballet from winning. All the glory of trophies and reports ends when you join a company and that can be a shock to some. A career in ballet is only going to work if you are genuinely passionate for dance, so that you miss it when you don’t do it and feel you can’t live without it, to the point where you are willing to sacrifice many things such as living near family. Even though it’s hard I recommend it as a career as once you’re in a company it is so fulfilling and so fun. You get paid to do what you love, that’s a lot better than winning any competition!

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Shannon O’Shea
Ed5 International
ed5international.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
I think I struggled to appreciate what I could learn from my peers. I was very focused but had blinkers on to a degree. This changed once I started teaching more and realised how much you learn by watching.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
I can still feel how sore my entire body was after my first day. I remember thinking. YES! This is awesome.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
Foundations are so important and when implemented correctly they take time. That body needs to last a lifetime. Think about longevity and about what skills are needed for a successful career. Build a solid base of technique. Educate yourselves on the industry and the people in it. Set yourself goals and go about achieving them the right way.

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Alyssa Casey
Lee Academy
leeacademy.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student?
As a student the thing that I struggled with the most was my competitive nature. I was fortunate to have wonderful supportive parents and teachers who encouraged me in a positive way and taught me the skills that I needed to channel this in a way that benefited me. I was taught to persevere until I achieved my goals and to consider myself as my competition and strive to do better in each class that I took.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
I have had so many memorable moments as a Lee Academy student. I am very fortunate that I grew up in such a supportive and positive environment. I was given so many opportunities to develop as an artist and I will forever be grateful to my teacher and Lee Academy Studio Director Jo Cotterill. One of the moments that stands out to me was when I first made the transition from being a student to standing in front of classes as a teacher. I remember feeling so excited and honoured to have the opportunity to impart my knowledge and ideas on to the next generation of students.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
I would like to encourage dancers and parents to consider the reasons why they started dance education in the first place. Dance and performing arts education has so many benefits beyond winning a trophy or moving up through class levels. Dance is the place where young people learn how to be resilient, self-reliant and valued team members. Dance training builds disciplined and organised adults who are creative problem solvers. Dance encourages students to value activity and fitness. All of these lessons are things that cannot be rushed and are a long-term investment.

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Sarah Minol
The McDonald College
mcdonald.nsw.edu.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
One of the things I struggled with most was having confidence in myself and believing in my abilities. Classical Ballet is an art form where you are constantly striving for perfection. Standing in front of a mirror everyday constantly taking constructive feedback and always trying to improve. I often would put myself down and give up if I felt like I was failing. I had wonderful teachers, particularly at the McDonald College that really assisted me in working on having a positive mindset. My family support was also always amazing (I’m very lucky to have the best supportive parents that would do anything for their children).
Now I am older and teaching I have lots of confidence. Being successful in your career and seeing your students succeed really assisted me in developing a greater self esteem and believing in my abilities.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
I had many memorable moments as a student. My most memorable would have to be dancing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London in the Genée final in 1998/1999. This was such a wonderful experience and I feel truly lucky to have been given that amazing opportunity. The theatre inside was absolutely breathtaking and something I will never forget.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
The demand for instant results is in every part of our lives. From the internet to streaming movies, watching live dance performances, ordering an Uber or using apps etc we are conditioned to be able to get what we want instantly. The art of learning dance cannot work this way. Dance is a visual art form that is about the lines created with the body, dynamic energies explored and self-expression, to evoke emotion in an audience through conveying a concept or story or just for dance sake. It requires constant perfecting and work to improve body control, strength, endurance, coordination, flexibility etc. Without a consistent work ethic and the ability to push and drive yourself intrinsically this constant striving for perfection is very hard to achieve. Dancers need to have the ability to be resilient, take on constructive feedback and constantly strive to improve.

The advice I would give to students and parents is: Find a teacher that motivates, mentors and drives you to achieve better. It is also really important that the dancer wants to improve and constantly strive to achieve THEIR best 100% of the time. Be present in ALL lessons – Mindful, focused, attentive. Take all feedback on board. Set and achieve goals. Try to have a positive attitude at all times – Use emotion or times when you feel down as fuel to improve and work harder.
Have fun and be passionate about it

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Timothy Gordon
National College of Dance
nationalcollegeofdance.com
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
Torso strength and poor breathing were together a big one and in some ways only adjusted themselves in my mid twenties when I had left The Australian Ballet and was in Netherlands Dance Theatre. I think Jiri Kylians choreography and the Dutch down to earthiness in the company had a lot to do with it. Strength and breath finally became friends!

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
Slipping on the studio floor alone when practicing, where I literally went for a woosy and fell splat flat on my back and winded myself profusely to the point of gasping for air for several minutes before being able to move and breathe normally again. Warning! Watch out for those unexpected slippery floors. Australia seems to have a surprising amount of them, hiding out in the most unsuspecting places and also surprisingly still in some very high profile competitive and professional situations. (So practicing with a friend is indeed a good and practical idea and you of course can have a lot more fun to boot).

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
Stop them conditioning and brainwashing themselves, on too much 3,4,5G and on sole Internet reliance for their information and lack of conversation. Let them seek out occasionally what they need to learn for themselves by way of a more effortful interaction and engagement with others. Including their teachers, their fellow students, professional dancers, choreographers, friends and family. Work on developing those relationships and learn from those relationships so they have value and then value they will have. The reality of having a career in dance, very often may contradict our original notions. It’s tough to learn that dance is a big bold and bolshy business and will only employ what it can sell, including its dancers, choreographers and productions. Your body is your business; give it tremendous respect in the sense of all that it is capable of. It’s good to get an early grip and perspective on the whole shenanigans of the profession, its positives and negatives. Parents could reflect on expectations they have for their children and over anxiousness about their future in dance. The reality is that the significance and the standard of their training, education and their personal ability to get along and contribute as individual’s in a complex and competitive world is what will determine their acceptance and place into the profession. Once they are out of the nest, they will soon see if they have the physical requirements and discipline, mental and emotional endurance and the capability to go forward into a professional career. Good luck, courage and joy to them for doing so and if it doesn’t work out as expected also good luck, courage and joy to them for doing so. It’s their overall sense of worth, happiness and fulfillment that ultimately matters.

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Rider D. Vierling
Newcastle Ballet Theatre
newcastleballettheatre.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change, as you grew older?
I was not built for classical ballet in terms of flexibility in the hips, and line through the legs and feet – I worked diligently to learn how my body could accomplish proper ballet technique. This has since become a focus for me as a teacher. Proper technique is safe technique you cannot cheat it. Ballet technique however is ultimately designed for the perfect body – open hips, good feet, etc. How can each individual dancer with their own individual physique, apply the proper technique? That is the most important challenge for each dancer, and it is a completely individual experience.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
During my full-time training, I was lucky enough to perform the Principal male role in Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante. Such an amazing ballet! The camaraderie of the boys flying across the stage together, the precision and clarity of the partnering, and the openness, purity, and speed of the choreography was mind blowing to me at 17 – and still is!

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
Every person is on a different path in life; this is no different in dance. Bodies mature at a different rate, ideas make sense at different times, and opportunities come at different points in your development. The consistent thing is your attitude, and how you approach the everyday aspects of your training – being prepared, listening, thinking, applying corrections and being inspired by those around you. Comparing yourself to others can be a good gauge of where you stand in the moment, but it does not define where you will ultimately end up.

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Jason Winters
The Next Step Performing Arts
tnsperformingarts.com
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
What I struggled with most as a student is something that today has been a real positive attribute and driving force behind my entire career. Because I didn’t actually start dancing till I was 17, I always felt that I needed to work harder in order to be as good as the other students who had been training for longer. And eventually, I didn’t just want to be as good as them, I wanted to be better. I truly believe that to be better at something requires knowledge, experience, and wisdom and there is no way to rush any of those things, they take time. So I will always see myself as a student, and I hope to get better and better with age, which I believe will make be a better artist.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
What is one of my most memorable moments as a student is a pretty difficult question because I have so many pivotal chapters in my career. The easiest way to give an answer is probably by explaining how my mind categorizes moments of powerful experience. Basically it’s two categories the first would come from something that makes me feel really awful, and the second from something that really inspires me. It’s funny because some people see those feelings as one bad and one good, however I see them both as having equal value in creating a blue print for how I conduct myself professionally, personally, and artistically. So my advice to students today is ‘don’t shy away from those things that are challenging, scary, or uncomfortable. Instead see if you can find purpose in the moment, and take what you’ve learned with you into your next experience.’ Awesome experiences will resonate with you and can be incorporated in future experiences. You will also discover what you don’t like and hopefully be aware of similar energy to avoid when it comes your way again.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
We are in an era where quite a lot of information is available to us instantly, and that is truly amazing because it is the first time in human history that this is possible. Yet there is a difference between information and experience. As great as having endless information at our fingertips is, we are a living breathing human being built for experience – real experience not digitally created information that represents the real thing. Our minds are very powerful, but an idea or knowledge of an idea is only step one. The next step is to bring it into a real life experience for all the senses to observe. In saying that, dance and any other form of physical expression is to me one of the greatest gifts we are given to help bring forth the spark of creation that is formed in our imagination. To be able to do this, and do it well, takes training, patience, trust, and perseverance. But I truly feel the power that is achieved to move people to tears or cheers through an artists work is well worth the time and effort involved!

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Karen Martins
Redlands Ballet and Dance Academy
redlands.nsw.edu.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training?
Maintaining overall alignment during increasingly complex movement.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
Watching Fonteyn, Nureyev and Baryshnikov.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
The best dance training and learning is incremental and repetitive and requires time. This helps to provide dancers with the solid technical and artistic foundations that are paramount to the art of dance.

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Xanthe Geeves
Sydney College of Dance
sydneycollegeofdance.com
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
As a student, I always gave 100% power, force and energy in my movement thinking this was necessary to achieve a high level of performance virtuosity and show strength to produce great outcomes. I was always given feedback to relax my upper body more but wasn’t brought to the understanding that the tension was because of this unnecessary force and energy output leading to tension.

Later when dancing in a company I was quickly exhausted and I realised that I was working inefficiently with my energy and force. This negatively affected the quality of my movement, producing the unnecessary muscle tension. I discovered how to disperse just the right amount of energy into my movement using only the necessary muscle tension I needed to have the optimal force with less effort. I could still produce the desired dynamics and produce higher quality movement without undue tension. This way I was able to maintain strength, speed and power through long durations of lengthy rehearsals and performances. I wish I could have understood this as a student, and that using less muscle exertion didn’t mean I was trying less. Using less tension in muscles allows you to move with greater velocity and increased stamina. Understanding this allowed me the stamina to endure long performances and be cast in dynamic and demanding principal roles in my career. As they say, “Less is more!”

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
At the age of 17, I moved overseas to start my full-time training at the Palucca University of Dance in Dresden, Germany and was to commence my first formal classes of Pas De Deux. In my first lesson, a Principal Artist of the Dresden Ballet joined our class and I was partnered up with him! I was anxious to be thrown into the most advanced pas de deux class with limited experience and to discover that I would be partnered by this principal dancer was nerve wracking. It turned out to be a wonderful class because this amazing dancer was so generous and kind and it was incredible to be lifted effortlessly and spun around in multiple pirouettes! I had so much fun! This was a most exhilarating and memorable experience being partnered and learning from such an inspiring and experienced dancer.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
Dancing takes patience, persistence and practice. Even for a professional dancer, a daily routine of continued striving to further skills and develop as an artist is required. Advanced skills are not developed overnight and understanding this is sometimes not easy. Discovering the joy in developing in the moment is more fulfilling rather than focusing on a future dream you haven’t yet achieved. It is important to set both short-term goals and long-term goals that are realistic and achievable to appreciate and acknowledge the small steps you make. This will give you motivation and satisfaction on your dance journey. Only seeing your desired future outcome and thinking you are not there yet is demotivating and sometimes frustrating. Find joy in experiencing dance in each fleeting moment!

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Gilli O’Connell
Tanya Pearson Academy
tanyapearsonacademy.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
As a student I remember struggling with chicken wings! Pilates helped to strengthen the muscles in my shoulder girdle and build awareness. Mrs Pearson was all about posture and port de bras and her focus on this helped me tremendously.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
I remember as a student relishing the opportunity to be Ushers for a touring Queensland Ballet Company. We were lucky enough to watch them perform every night and I found it incredibly inspiring.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
I would say what Mrs Pearson reiterated to me as a student:
A/ Focus on Quality not Quantity
B/ Success is like an iceberg – built on many levels and foundations.

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Matt Lee
Village Nation
villagenation.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
Being the only boy. In the early 90’s it wasn’t cool for boys to dance. As I grew up, I began to be presented with work opportunities in TV and Theatre. Being the only boy started to have its benefits. Now the ratio of boys to girls dancing is so much greater and healthier that no boys should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed to dance.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
Getting to work and perform outside the competition circuit. The competition scene has really flourished in Australia over the past 10 years. While it encourages kids to dance at an elite level, it also puts the emphasis on winning. I loved getting the chance to dance and perform outside of a competitive environment, which ultimately for me, was way more rewarding than a trophy.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
Put the phones down. Teach kids that if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Not to give up or have a cry at the first sign of defeat. The reward for hard work and tenacity has way more substance and longevity than insta likes.

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Amanda Bollinger
Amanda Bollinger Dance Academy
vaganova.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
As a student I struggled most with not having naturally flat turnout or loose hips. I had to work very hard to gain more flexibility and strengthen my turnout. The silver lining was that as a professional dancer this extra work made me stronger, and now as a teacher, I have a better understanding of the challenges, which face many of my students who don’t have ‘easy bodies’. I know firsthand that it is not just the body, but also so often the grit and determination which makes a successful dancer!

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
Performing as a child with the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company. To be immersed into a professional company setting at only 9 years of age was an incredible experience. I was able to witness up close the company dancers who I idolised, amazing costumes and sets, a professional orchestra and the maze-like backstage areas of the beautiful Her Majesty’s Theatre in Auckland. The excitement of these performances is something I have never forgotten.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
Parents and students need to understand that clean and pure classical ballet technique takes many years to achieve, physically but also mentally. To fast-track this training there will be gaps in the dancers technique and the chance of injury is much higher, as the necessary muscles and movement pathways have not had sufficient time to really develop. To gain the clarity and strength needed to sustain a long career, slow and steady is the best way! Young dancers today need to be patient, and celebrate in small successes along each step of the way – not want it all straight away. The chance of burning out or becoming bored once they finally do reach a company is too high if they have already danced all the major roles by the time they are 16!

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Heidi Landford
Atelier Australia
facebook.com/atelieraustraliaballet
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change, as you grew older?
My biggest struggle as a student was self-doubt. I was always so sure that I wasn’t good enough. I see a lot of my students struggling with the same thing. It has changed, as I’ve gotten older as I now have the gift of hindsight.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
My late teacher, Prudence Bowen, was an absolutely remarkable person and mentor, so I have many incredible memories. One that stands out occurred whilst I was practicing my Advanced 2 pointe work in a hotel room in Hong Kong, while Miss Bowen, who was bed-ridden with shingles, yelled all my corrections from her bed. It was just a moment of absolute insanity and not at all what I imagined I’d be doing when I decided to pursue a career in ballet.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
Just as walking, talking and fine motor skills are not instantaneous for a toddler, the skills needed to dance correctly will not be mastered overnight. A journey to dance professionally is a marathon, not a sprint, and you will be running the race until the day you hang your shoes up, so you might as well accept it and enjoy the journey.

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Amy Donnelly
Danielle’s Studio of Dance
daniellesstudio.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change, as you grew older?
I struggled with the concept of longevity when I was younger. I understood that taking care of my body was important, which is why I would spend an hour every morning warming up, and spent my breaks conditioning my body. However, I also wouldn’t hesitate to put my muscles at risk in order to achieve the “ideal” lines and extensions (I.E sitting passively in over-splits whilst reading a book because that’s what I thought I should do to improve my grand jetés). As I got older, I learnt that there were healthier ways of attaining those grand jeté dreams.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
I was entering 3rd year of fulltime contemporary training in Winnipeg, Canada. We weren’t supposed to get professional projects until 4th(final) year, but a director asked if I could learn a 10 minute piece at the last minute due to a dancer falling ill. Founder of Canada’s longest running modern company Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, Rachel Brown, originally choreographed the piece. The dance was being remounted and filmed as part of a tribute documentary movie to Rachel’s life. I showed up to my first rehearsal and found out I was also dancing the soloist role! I felt extremely honoured, and it was one of those moments that I thought to myself “I’m living the dream”.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
These days more physical and athletic components are being adopted, which is great, however the art and the discipline must come first. A quadruple pirouette is nothing if your retiré foot is sickled and you aren’t on your full demi pointe/pointe. Good habits take repetition with conscious thinking and thousands of repetitions. This is why it is crucial that you learn how to perform the more complex movements from a teacher, rather than Social media. When you watch that impressive new movement and instantly give it a crack yourself, without a teacher being present, puts you at risk of learning this incorrectly. Relearning something to undo bad habits is much harder.

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Zenia Tatcheva
Queensland Ballet Academy
queenslandballet.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
I found allegro quite challenging as a young student. I am naturally hypermobile, this including having hyperextension within my knee joints. It took time and exploration to find that optimal pelvic alignment which enables correct muscle recruitment and placement of the legs in external rotation, specifically in 5th position. My allegro improved quite rapidly after that, in fact it became one of my strengths.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
I had the privilege of performing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker with one of our Company’s Soloist men. This was both terrifying and thrilling at the same time. I knew I was in safe hands, but I had to meet a high level of expectation.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
I would say that their enjoyment should come from their hard work and effort, rather than achievement. All dancers develop at a different pace and in a different way. There is great pleasure and sense of achievement in knowing that it took time and effort to get to a certain point. The developing process takes time, and failure is a part of that. Be brave, learn from it and stay determined. Have the perseverance to carefully fine tune and mould our art form into something unique.

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Karen Donovan

Queensland National Ballet School

qldnationalballet.com
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older? 

The height of my leg extensions, the flexibility was there, I was strong, but I just couldn’t get my legs to go very far above 90 degrees. However when I was recovering from an injury around the age of 22, I was working with Joan Lawson at the Royal Ballet. She simply told me to ensure my centre line was over the ball of my foot when on one leg with the weight centre more forward and lifted than I was used to. While working on this, a group of us were doing adage in the centre one day in her class and I was standing about halfway back when I happened to see a rather high leg in the mirror. How I wished that leg were mine. As I followed from the foot to the thigh and to the body of that person, I was astonished to see that that leg was in fact attached to ME!

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
The younger student body is continually developing and growing, including their bones, until they’re 18. This affects their strength at various stages, particularly if they have a big growth spurt and the muscles need to catch up. Sometimes it is appropriate to “put things on hold” until their bodies do catch up, and then move forward after that, if injuries or strains are to be avoided.
These days it seems stress reactions and stress fractures are the norm. I find myself asking if it’s because too much is expected of their bodies too soon. If the body is made to stand in a position that it isn’t physically capable of sustaining correctly through muscle use, then other joints and muscles (not designed for that job) take over to try and hold the body in that position. It is likely that this could be the reason for certain injuries.
Another important factor is when the student starts to learn pas de deux. Quite often this is when imperfections in placement and line show up when the girls are being partnered. A miss-timed lift could be potentially dangerous for a boy’s back and so again, it is sometimes discovered that the girls may have to relearn the way they take off for some jumps when partnered.
If a ballet career is honestly what you want more than anything, then take the time to get it right, enjoy learning all the beautiful (and yes sometimes difficult) aspects of this art form, want to perfect everything to the best of your ability and treat your body with the respect it deserves. Remember, we don’t come with spare parts.

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Catherine Wells
Terry Simpson Studios
terrysimpsonstudios.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change, as you grew older?
I struggled a lot with negative perfectionism. Classical ballet technique requires precision, detail, control, and artistry to perform. These characteristics mean that an enormous amount of determination, practice, and awareness goes into being able to execute this technique while still constantly aspiring to improve. What I learned as I got older is that nobody is perfect. And the process of learning, which involves our failures as well as our successes, is meaningful regardless of the outcome. Dancing is about technique but it is also about artistry and what makes an artist is individuality. Individuality would not be present if we were all perfect, if we were all the same. Try to enjoy the journey and to appreciate the uniqueness that only you bring to this art form.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
I was about 12 years old in a pointe class practicing pirouettes and I was off to the side practicing on my own. I kept trying and trying and I kept falling out of it. I took a little break and then absentmindedly went into an en dehor pirouette and calmly turned around 8 times! This was a great lesson for me because it was so clear to me how much our minds impact our bodies. When we are relaxed and not doubting or pushing ourselves, sometimes it just works.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
The importance of dance training lies as much in the process as in the outcome. Dancing is difficult and learning it requires commitment, hard work, and time. It takes years to perfect technique, and even then it’s not perfect. All dancers will forever be students of this art form. This process teaches us to be brave, and vulnerable enough to try and sometimes fail. It teaches us to be determined enough to try again. It teaches us to believe in ourselves. It teaches us to appreciate hard work and where it can take us. And above all, it teaches us to love dancing. We would learn none of these things if we didn’t take to the time to fully invest in the process.

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Kirsty Martin
The Australian Ballet School
australianballetschool.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
I did struggle with allegro for quite some time. It took me a long time to gain the strength in my legs and feet, and to have sustained power and endurance in allegro combinations – especially fast, soubrette movements and batterie were challenging! I was much more of a lyrical/adagio type dancer, so this area of my technique required consistent attention and practice. I would say it wasn’t until my mid twenties that I really started to develop more strength in allegro. With experience, your knowledge grows, so really understanding and refining one’s technique is a long process. I was even still learning, developing and improving my technique in the last days of my career. Even now as a teacher, there is always continued growth.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
I had the privilege of working with so many wonderful teachers throughout my student days, from my very first teacher’s to my last; they were all integral in my learning. I would say one of my most memorable moments was in my third year at The Australian Ballet School, when I was selected to be an extra in The Australian Ballet’s production of La Bayadere. Performing as part of the corps de ballet in the famous ‘Kingdom of the Shades’ (Act II) was absolutely terrifying, but exhilarating, stepping on to that ramp and executing 20 something arabesques down and across the stage! It is one of my most favourite ballets and performing this classic piece of choreography as a student was definitely special. Three years later, I actually performed again in this ballet as a soloist, and had the opportunity to dance the role of ‘Nikiya’, as my first Principal role!

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do help them understand that the art of learning dance can not work this way?
I most definitely agree that learning the Art of Dance is not an instant credential. It is a timely process, and requires absolute dedication, commitment, discipline, passion and PATIENCE!
I think whatever it is we feel passionate or interested about in life, we need to approach with clear focus, and respect for what the process might be in learning that skill, or studying that subject. It might be possible to push and attain something quickly, but are you learning properly, safely, honestly, in a way that makes your learning and achievements sustainable? Achieving things faster doesn’t always mean better – so much can be missed along the way if a learning process is rushed. There are so many options and temptations in the world for children now, which is wonderful, yet it can make it hard to narrow the focus down to allow for a mindful and productive experience, in what ever it is that they want to achieve.
I think learning dance should be enjoyed. Finding the right school, and a teacher that imparts positive and authentic knowledge is important. A teacher that respects the art form, and whom respects the learning and developmental needs of the child is paramount.

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John Sandurski
Conservatoire of Ballet & Melbourne Conservatoire of Ballet
melbourneconservatoire.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
I initially struggled with the transition from after-school dance into full time training – moving from a small beach side town to Melbourne was a bit of a shock, as was the amount of physical work that needed to be done in classes. I’d only done ballet classes before, so I struggled with contemporary dance and got very tangled up in floor-work. Luckily I had a very patient contemporary teacher who gave me time to work things out before pushing me! These days students have a lot of options available with Half Day courses that prepare you for Full-Time training.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
I have a lot of great memories from when I was a student – from inspiring teachers, classes, friendships and performances. Performing on Dancers Company Tour was a great experience as a student as we were able to dance and perform and show what we’d been training so hard for and gave a taste of what company life would be like.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do help them understand that the art of learning dance can not work this way?
Parents need to be aware that students need time to develop physically, mentally and artistically. There are many age appropriate goals and rewards for students and parents to celebrate – from graduating from elastics to ribbons, demi pointes to pointe shoes, exams and progressing through a syllabus, to solos and performing on stage. There’s nothing wrong about being driven and motivated as long as the motivation is placed in the right area. I often use the analogy of a doctor – would you want to be operated on by a 11 yr old student doctor? I’d be more comfortable being operated on by someone with more training and life experience. The same goes for dance – allow students to grow, learn and develop at a sustainable pace.

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Adrian Ricks
Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance
theministryofdance.com.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
Whilst I was training, I found maintaining my turnout in my ballet and technical work quite hard. As I didn’t have a great deal of turnout, I had to make sure that I did my turnout stretch and strengthening exercises in my own time daily before or after class and at home. As I developed and gained a greater body awareness, I did see the progress and increased turnout within my hips. This along with daily classes of ballet helped me sustain and support it.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
As a student there are many memorable moments and milestones to reflect on but one moment that I always look back to is when I was training at VCASS, I was in Year 10 and the school had invited an American choreographer to create the feature work for our Malthouse Season. By chance, my year level had a rehearsal with him first and it wasn’t an audition as such, but at the end of the class I was asked to stay back and learn a separate phrase. Little did I know that I was going to be one of the main characters for the whole work and I was lucky enough to have several solo moments including the opening of the second act in the piece. Once I found out that I landed the role I just remember being very excited, overjoyed and humbled as to me that initial class was just that but as we learn in this industry, choreographers and directors are always assessing and analysing dancers/students who they can create on and lead their pieces.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do we help them understand that the art of learning dance can not work this way?
The beauty of training in dance or any art form is because it’s a craft. You should take pride in the fact that it can’t be rushed. It takes a lot of time and dedication, and because we are all individuals, progress will vary. It is also very important not to compare your development to others, as there are many varying factors that come into play with each dancer’s growth and advancement. If you are truly passionate about dancing then time spent training shouldn’t be a deterrent, it should be a key driving forces for you to keep training harder and smarter within every class. If it were easy, then everyone would be able to have a career in this amazing industry. Embrace your training and don’t wish it away!

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Lee-Anne Di Stefano
Northern College of the Arts & Technology
ncat.vic.edu.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change as you grew older?
Being the hip hop kid at a ballet school and later the ballet dancer in a Hip Hop school!

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
Just training & performing full time, getting to do what you love everyday.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do help them understand that the art of learning dance can not work this way?
Find a good teacher/school, so you don’t waste time learning technique incorrectly as it takes so long to learn and refine, unfortunately students that I teach in high school have been learning years of bad technique that now at age 16 they have to unlearn and re-learn.

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Jayne Smeulders
WAAPA
waapa.ecu.edu.au
What did you struggle with most whilst you were a student training and did this change, as you grew older?
As a student I was very aware that the shape of my legs were not as I would have liked them. I was more muscular and I had bowed legs that required constant work to bring them into the right alignment. As I became a professional dancer I accepted my shape but continued daily to work my body to get the most out of what I had been born with.

What is one of your most memorable moments as a student?
At the age of 17, my ballet teachers took me on a tour of Europe. I had never been out of Australia so it was a huge eye opener for me. We trained in Russia, Germany and Switzerland and I ended up staying in Hamburg training at the school for a year and a half. That led me to getting my first contract with NDT.

In an era where children are being conditioned to want everything right now, how do help them understand that the art of learning dance cannot work this way?
Dance training needs patience and constant guidance. It also needs to be about nurturing young bodies and their minds. We must be careful not to damage students bodies or their minds whilst on their journey to becoming a dancer, dance teacher or whatever they may end up doing. All children are different and develop in different ways. We must always remember this and constantly remind parents too because a lot of the time the pressure is coming from home.

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