To many ballet dancers, the Australian Ballet School is synonymous with prestige, excellence and achievement. Indeed, it is the perfect gateway to its parent company, The Australian Ballet. But those who aspire to become professional ballet dancers understand that only a select few are ever lucky enough to get chosen for this elite troupe.
The talent among the Australian Ballet School is phenomenal, and in order to showcase what the school has on offer they hold performances throughout the year. As part of the Arts Centre’s Morning Melodies series, these young dancers will be performing a repertoire on Tuesday May 29 at the State Theatre.
The performance will showcase a number of classical and contemporary works, including Les Sylphides, a romantic white ballet performed by Level Seven and Eight students and choreographed by Michael Fokine, Grande Tarantelle, an energetic and lively piece choreographed by Leigh Rowles, and Symphony in D choreographed by Jiří Kylián.
The students have been working towards the performance for several months, but Senior Ballet Master Dale Baker says it has not been an easy journey. Like any performing art, the issue of injury is always of concern. There have been a few injuries that have occurred in rehearsals, which have created some complication, but nothing that could not be overcome.
19-year-old Nicholas Shoesmith is a graduate student with the Australian Ballet School, who will be performing in Jiří Kylián’s Symphony in D. This piece is a comedy ballet, based on the idea that ballet and war are very similar in their regimentation, discipline and strictness.
Shoesmith has now been in 14 performances with the school, but his dancing career started much earlier. At the age of seven, Shoesmith started as a tap and jazz student at a little dance school in Coburg, before moving to Sierra Dance Centrepointe in Rosanna. He then prepared for an audition for Level One at the Australian Ballet School, and was accepted at the age of only 10.
When asked what advice he has for junior dancers who wish to pursue ballet professionally, Shoesmith emphasised the importance of setting goals for which dance school you aspire to. Different schools offer different training and opportunities, he says, but you should be looking for schools that offer certificates.
But how does a young dancer in training balance studies and private life with dancing? Shoesmith says the full-time program at the Australian Ballet School links academics into the training. Students don’t get huge amounts of homework in comparison to other schools, and are able to keep a healthy balance. This is part of the school’s mission “to guide students to develop into well-balanced human beings, with a strong ethical sense — well fed in body, mind and spirit.”
Pursuing dancing, and ensuring you have the energy and dedication each day, not only requires self-motivation but some sort of reward to maintain your focus. In Shoesmith’s view, the most rewarding aspect of dancing is “the feeling of everyday coming in and accomplishing something you didn’t the day before or months before. Some different things take different amounts of time to change. Seeing that change in the mirror months on is very rewarding.” But the most challenging part of his training, he says, is having the patience to wait for that change to occur. Mastering the technique involved in ballet is not an overnight accomplishment, but rather a work in progress.
Once the Morning Melodies performance is done, Shoesmith will get no time to rest. As he is in his graduate year, he will perform in around 30 shows in 2012. The next big show for the Ballet School, Don Quixote, will be touring New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria across six weeks.
With nine years of experience at the Australian Ballet School behind him, Nicholas is a very talented dancer, but he is only one of the many talents that will be performing in Morning Melodies. If you are a ballet aficionado, be sure to catch the upcoming repertoire or one of their other shows later in the year. It is an experience you are sure to enjoy.
The Australian Ballet School will be performing at Morning Melodies on Tuesday May 29 at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. For tickets or further information, visit artscentremelbourne.com.au.