Misty Copeland is fast becoming a household name.She took her first ballet class when she was 13. After just 3 short months she was en pointe. By the age of 14, Copeland was the winner of a national ballet contest and won her first solo role.Since then she has worked steadily to become the only African-American woman soloist in the dance company for the American Ballet Theatre.Earlier this year in March, Copeland’s autobiography Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina was released which led her into an even brighter spotlight. This inspiring story is one I am looking forward to reading. Her upbringing had her in court in the middle of custody battles between her mother & ballet teachers (who were acting as her guardians). Nowadays Misty has numerous endorsements – the most recent being for Under Armour which reportedly paid her more to model for their campaign than her dance career.For more info on Misty Copeland check out her website here.If you feel inspired to channel your inner ballerina, join us Monday nights for a very special adult beginner ballet workshop with Rhiain Fernie.
This Audrey Hepburn look-alike is currently on a short break in Australia before moving back to the United States to further her career. Rhiain shares her story here…
How old were you when you started to dance? I actually started with rhythmic gymnastics when I was 5 then changed to ballet when I was 8.
Do you have a first dance memory? My first memory is of getting the studio trophy for “Dancer of the Month” when I was the new kid in the school & I would wear my mum’s old ballet leotard from when she was a young girl!
Where have you been trained? Carolyn Gibbs Academy of Dance, The Hills Dance Factory, Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching Academy, The Ballet School Australia, Joffrey Ballet School New York. And casual classes with Vicki Attard, Prudence Bowen & Gina Brescianini at Sydney Dance Company.
Was it hard to get into Joffrey Ballet School? I did an open audition at Sydney Dance Company with the director of Joffrey ballet School. It was a full class with about 60 applicants. JBS had open auditions in all major cities around the world including Russia. Only 50 students get picked per year, so I was quite excited when I received my acceptance letter. Was it always your goal to study at Joffrey Ballet School? My goal is just to be the best that I can be, no matter where that takes me or where I end up.
What is the best thing about living in NYC? New York City is definitely the place to be for artists & performers! There is so much creativity & excitement within the whole city. It’s quite normal to see a group of boys doing back-flips on the subway at 7am! I often saw films sets on the streets (Spider Man & The Carrie Diaries), which was cool. Manhattan is also the home of the American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera House which I loved seeing more than anything! The opportunities are endless & one thing’s for sure, it’s impossible to get bored in the city that never sleeps!What do you miss most about Australia when living in NYC? VEGEMITE!! Haha. Of course I miss my family & friends. I also miss my 2 adorable cats A LOT!! I miss the open spaces, quietness & the wildlife. (NYC is just full of pigeons!) I miss being able to put my groceries into a car & not having to carry them 5 blocks & up to the 6th floor of a walk-up!
Any famous ballerina’s or choreographers whose work you admire? Misty Copeland has come up in the media recently & I’ve always had an admiration for her work. Reading more about her story has given me an extra drive of determination. She is going to be an inspiration to so many dancers in the generations to come, for sure!
I was actually fortunate enough to work with Josie Walsh from San Francisco in my first year at Joffrey. Josie cast me as one of her lead dancers in her contemporary ballet “Urban Angels”. Her choreography is so creative & inspiring. When you know the story behind the movement it’s just surreal. I absolutely loved every minute performing Josie’s choreography.Any memorable stage outfits you have worn in the past? My most prized possession is probably my hand made $600 tutu (above) that I actually got second hand!! A fun costume was with the Sydney City Youth Ballet when we were doing a production of “The Polar Express” we had these giant wings that were bigger than me! They had lots of heavy wire in them & we had to pirouette whilst wearing them, it was so hard to dance whilst getting whipped in the face or pulled in the opposite direction by these giant wings!!
What do you love most about dance? Dance is a form of expression through movement. I’ve always found myself being able to escape into another “world” when I’m dancing… I can forget about the worries of the real world for that moment & just enjoy being able to move to the most beautiful music. I love being able to act different characters & pretend to be something else, it’s great fun. I also love performing on stage in glamorous costumes! What has been your greatest dance achievement so far? There have been quite a few I don’t know if one is better than another! Being asked to perform at the World Youth Day vigil in 2008 for the Pope was an exciting honour! Before I left for New York I was awarded Highly Commended in the City of Sydney’s Senior Ballet Championship, competing against dancers all over Australia. I was very grateful for my teacher Neroli Moore for her amazing choreography & coaching.
Favourite dance TV show? Tv series “Dance Academy”, hands down! Haha. (I was a regular extra in all 3 series). Are there any dance bloopers or embarrassing moments? Haha oh so many! It’s fun to laugh at yourself! My hair has fallen out in a group dance when everyone else had a neat bun…I got in so much trouble! Another time I was chaine-ing (turning) off stage when the lights blinded me, I hit a prop near the wing & my foot tripped on a cord on the floor, you guessed it, I staked it! Hit my face on the light stand on the way down. I don’t know if the audience saw it but they most probably heard it!! Also – a few years ago I was at the studio rehearsing my eisteddfod solo on our day off when I slipped & broke my wrist! (& I have this on video!). I had another production around the same time & managed to find a costume with sleeves to cover up my cast so I quickly learnt the choreography for that dance a week before the show!
What are your future dancing goals? I would love to have a professional contract & to be performing on stage with a company, touring Europe & the US. I also want to have my own dance school one day as I love teaching. How often do you train? Full time training is 8-10 hours a day, 6 days a week. I get a few holidays like 2 weeks over Xmas & the months of June & July for “summer break”. I enjoy coming back to Sydney during this time & I do a few classes a week, pilates twice a week & stretch at home every day.
Who has helped or encouraged you to reach where you are today? I have so many people to thank for helping & encouraging me. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for my mum as my biggest supporter & my early ballet teachers, Miss Jan Megna, Miss Neroli Moore & more. I am so thankful for my sponsor who has asked to remain anonymous & for all the amazing people who donated to my fundraising campaign on Pozible last year so that I could finish my training at Joffrey. Words can’t express how grateful I am for the opportunities that I have been so lucky to experience. What is next in-store for you now that you have finished up studying? I will always be learning more every day. That’s the art of dance, we strive for perfection & once you reach one goal, it only gets bigger! In September I will be starting a traineeship with Christian ballet company “Ballet Magnificat!” which is located in Jackson, the capitol city of Mississippi. As a trainee I am not paid but it is the first step into a paid position. At the end of this 9 month traineeship I hope to receive a professional contract with their touring company. Do you have a weekly health, fitness & dance routine – any tips you can share? Usually during full time training, I get all I need in the program. Afternoon home time is for feet in ice buckets & heat packs on my lower back. I also use a lot of voltaren & deep heat creams on my muscles! If I am struggling with an injury it is nessesary however to do the extra physiotherapy excersises required as well as your daily training & monitoring it carefully. You really have to know your body well. I can’t start my day if I haven’t warmed up properly for about 45 minutes, you need to wake up every muscle & get your body ready for the crazy stuff you’re about to do!! I find doing pilates twice a week helps me become more aware of my body as it is more subtle than the vigorous regime of full time ballet. Swimming is also great on dancers joints as we’re constantly putting stress & pressure through our joints & muscles. I try to swim during my holidays.
Any tips for young, aspiring dancers wanting to improve & make a career in ballet? A big tip for dancers & any athlete is eating well before exercise! If you don’t eat, your body can’t perform. Don’t push your body too far over your limits, if you feel it’s too much you could sustain an injury that could have been avoided. Respect for your body & do what YOU feel is right for you. Don’t judge yourself next to another dancer, only try to be better than yourself, I look to other dancers merely for inspiration, motivation & to learn what to do & what not to do. Having realistic goals that constantly but slowly get bigger is easier on your mental state than expecting yourself to do 68 fouettes by lunch time just because someone else can!! Have there been any obstacles where you thought to give up? Absolutely! Many times I am faced with challenges & struggle to stay positive, professional ballet is a very competitive & harsh world, so you must have a huge self belief system to pull yourself up time & time again when the industry tries so hard to push you down. I’ve learnt that I can’t rely on teachers & other people to tell me I’m a good dancer because when they are not there all you have is yourself. When I was 16 I fell over at school & broke my left knee. The ACL ligament stretched & snapped the top of the tibia bone & the meniscus was torn. I didn’t know then that I would spend 2 years recovering with a course of 3 surgeries & metal wires inserted in my knee. I knew then & there when dance was taken away from me that I could never live without it. It’s the thing that drives me & I know that if I can overcome a broken knee I can overcome anything.
What do you have in store for the next few weeks of ballet workshops with Just Dance? We have already learnt the basic arm & leg positions plus lots of different pirouettes (turns) & jumps. I want to improve these skills even further & widen their knowledge of ballet repertoire & vocabulary. Knowing the anatomy of your body is also an important key to being able to execute specific movements. I encourage everyone & anyone to give ballet class a go, you never know until you’ve tried! More than anything, I want my students to be able to experience the joy I get when dancing!
Join us on Mondays at 7.45pm to learn the basics of ballet with this amazing teacher Rhiain.
On a day like today it’s easy to forget it is winter in Australia.
With cloudless blue skies, sunshine & barely a sweater needed – it’s pretty hard to comprehend that I’m going skiing this weekend & will be surrounded by snow.
However I’m not one to limit my beach visits just to the summer. There is something so refreshing about being rugged up and walking along a beach when a gale is blowing with the waves that are stormy & wild. Most weekends you will find me at the beach…rain, hail or shine.
I remember as a kid running along the sand and doing split leaps in the air. Something about that wide expanse that just makes you want to break out in a run & leap & twirl & move.
I might get some strange looks if I did that these days but isn’t it true that we should dance like no-one’s watching?
If you are a fan of ballet why not join us for a Ballet Workshop with professional ballerina Rhiain Fernie. She is in Australia after completing training in New York before she heading back to the US to join the America’s premier Christian ballet company, “Ballet Magnificat!”
We have just 2 weeks left to learn from this amazing ballet teacher -adults & teens of all levels welcome – Mondays 7.45pm at Balcombe Heights (Baulkham Hills).
We also have a Dance Photography Competition running so start clicking & send your entries in to win some great prizes.
Bradley Dunlap (above), 26, Corps de Ballet member, with the Miami City Ballet. From September through May his schedule consists of 6-hour rehearsal days and four performance weekends, six days a week.
She is on a short break in Sydney before commencing at America’s premier Christian ballet company ‘Ballet Magnificat’ and wants to share her ballet skill, experience and love of dance with you.Our 4 week Intro to Ballet course will teach you the ballet basics – arm and leg positions and ballet tricks – grand jetes and pirouettes. Intro to Ballet is for anyone starting out in dance, keen to learn this beautiful dance style OR wishing to dust off their ballet shoes.Build your dancers body learning ballet technique, strengthening your legs and core and developing flexibility and balance. You will learn a unique ballet routine and have the privilege of watching Rhiain perform a professional ballet piece in one of her amazing costumes.Don’t miss this amazing opportunity so contact us NOW for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hayden Hopkins having just turned 17, has developed a cult following online. With more than 13,000 Facebook followers & an overwhelming number of fan pages she is fast becoming a house-hold name. She is incredibly bendy and oh-so talented.Alongside fellow dance superstar friend, 11 year old Sophia Lucia, there are countless, beautiful dance images of her all over the internet.“People see pictures of me and think I have this perfect life,” Hayden says. Despite the pretty pictures, though, Hayden hasn’t always had it easy, and the past few years have proven especially difficult.Hayden started dancing at the age of 2 in her home state of Washington, US. She was a regular in the competition scene early, but by age 13 she decided it wasn’t for her. “I wanted to get away and work on my training,” she says. Plus, things at home were taking a turn for the worse: family finances became a struggle, especially with Hayden’s sister, Lennox, pursuing a competitive rhythmic gymnastic career. So Hayden, who is home-schooled & lives with her sister & their mum in Puyallup, WA, took her training into her own hands. She takes classes at local studios when possible (mostly Westlake Dance Center in Seattle), travels with conventions when she’s awarded scholarships & watches YouTube videos in her living room to learn barre & centre-work exercises. She attends 10 to 12 conventions each year independently (including JUMP, NUVO and West Coast Dance Explosion) in an effort to meet as many choreographers as she can. The relentless networking has paid off. At WCDE’s Las Vegas Nationals in 2010, Hayden met the owners of an Australian studio. They had seen her on YouTube first, and offered to fly her to Australia to act as a guest teacher and choreographer. Hayden has since been back for another visit to work with the Perth-based studio & also won the Dance Spirit Cover Model Search competition in 2013. “I love meeting people who recognize me from the internet,” she says. “I don’t know why people started to follow me, but hopefully it’s because they see something positive I’m putting out there”Things you didn’t know about Hayden……..Birthday: July 5, 1997Most-played on her iPod: Lana Del ReyWho would play her in a movie: Troian Bellisario, who plays Spencer on “Pretty Little Liars.” “I think she looks like me!”
Favorite actor: Leonardo DiCaprio Dance goals: “I just want to be the person who’s always travelling. I always want to be in a different state or a different country.” Favorite dancers of all time: Stacey Tookey, Nick Lazzarini, Travis Wall and Jason Parsons Strangest thing in her dance bag: “A rotten orange I keep forgetting to take out”Favorite meal: Spaghetti and garlic breadFavorite movie: Garden State Must-see TV shows: “Pretty Little Liars” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” “Kourtney’s my favorite.” Here is one of her performances from earlier this year…
Some people say I look like Jennifer Grey.
They even go so far that they call me ‘Baby‘ and quote me lines like ‘I helped carry a watermelon’.
As if that wasn’t enough – I can recall in high school having this obsession with going home at lunch & study breaks to watch re-runs of the dance scenes.
And I would listen to a cassette of the soundtrack every night.
And I admit – I’ve even tried ‘The Lift’.
Some people might call me a fan.
So you can imagine my surprise when at our JUST DANCE Bella Vista hip-hop class last week when the words ‘spaghetti arms‘ were used to describe a dance move – my shock at all the blank faces in the room.
So I thought it only appropriate to educate you on my favourite dance movie of all time.
Directed by Emile Ardolino & released in 1987, Jennifer Grey stars as Frances “Baby” Houseman.
Set in the summer of 1963 ‘Baby’ who is daddy’s golden girl who is on a family vacation where she meets & befriends the grungy dance crew – Patrick Swayze who plays his iconic role of Johnny Castle.
Also referred to as ‘Miss Fix it’ she offers to help cover a dance show at a nearby hotel which means she needs to learn how to dance.
The movie is a gorgeous summer romance of dancing lessons in lofty sunlight rooms, nearby forests & lakes.
It’s a must-watch film for anyone who loves to dance.
‘Me? I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.’
This week’s dancer is JUST DANCE guest teacher Cassie Hoare. At just 18 she is well on her way to having a promising career in dance. She shares some of her tips for young dancers here….
How old were you when you started to dance? …….I did ballet for a year when I was 3 and then started again when I was 6.
Is there a first dance memory you can recall? ……..I remember my very old school ballet teacher (who was terrifying!) attaching chiffon wings to our arms and we had to run around being butterflies.
What styles have you been trained in? …….Jazz, tap, classical, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop and acro/strength.
Do you have a favourite style? ……..My favourite style of dance is lyrical or contemporary.
Current favourite song to dance to? ……..I’m finding myself dancing in front of the mirror in my house to “On my own” from Les Miserables a lot at the moment!
Any famous dancer’s or choreographer’s whose work you admire?……..I admire Hayden Hopkins a lot, she is a young American dancer and is absolutely incredible.
What has been your greatest dance moment to date? …..Last year I completed major 1 and 2 of my jazz exams with ADAP and received Honours and Honours with distinction. I also received the “most outstanding dancer” award at my dance school last year, which was an incredible feeling.
Any crazy dance costumes you have worn in the past? ……I think this one from back in 2006 was definitely pretty out there haha!
What do you love most about dance? I love the ability of free expression and how everyone has their own interpretation of what certain movements or choreography mean. Also I think dance is so special in the way that a dancer needs as much strength as an athlete and the ability to turn it into a beautiful art form.
Where have you trained? ……..I have trained at Julie Melrose School of Dance my whole life.
Favourite dance movie?……Nothing beats the show Dance Moms! And the movie Centre Stage is my favourite movie.
What are your future dancing goals? ………I’d love to have my own studio one day, which is my main goal. I’d also like to keep performing and possibly get some work as a dancer in the next couple of years because I love to perform.
When choreographing a dance to teach – where do you get your inspiration from? I take the students’ abilities and strengths into consideration. I also tend to just put the music on and see what comes naturally or pops into my mind.
How often do you train?…….This year I am currently teaching and dancing at least 4 days a week.
What is your go-to store for dance clothing?……..For anything dance related I go straight to Bloch, I could spend hours in that shop!
Do you have a weekly health, fitness & dance routine?……I stretch every day even if its just doing a quick minute of splits on each leg, if I’m not doing any classes that day. I also do some core strength exercises before I go to bed (plank, sit ups, leg raises etc.) My biggest tip would be to stretch at home even if it’s just when you’re watching tv. I also stretch a lot with the help of my mum at home, such as having her push my leg back when I’m lying on my back or other stretches that can be done with others are great to improve flexibility at home.
Any tips for aspiring dancers wanting to improve & perhaps make a career of dancing?…….Definitely make sure your stretching at home and always ask your teachers questions during class. Get into watching other dancers on you tube, this allows you to discover new moves that you may not have seen before. Also use the Internet to look up tutorials for technique. Lastly don’t be afraid to try new things like entering competitions and getting yourself out in the open to build up your experience, this is also great to help improve your performance qualities and will do wonders for improving your confidence.