Dancing through the regions

An outreach program to teach kids ballet has been twirling through SA’s regional towns, inspiring the next generation of dancers and theatregoers.

Jun 28, 2024, updated Jun 28, 2024
Hundreds of students from eight regional schools across three states have the opportunity to learn more about classical dance through this program. Photo: Tony Lewis

Hundreds of students from eight regional schools across three states have the opportunity to learn more about classical dance through this program. Photo: Tony Lewis

Called Let’s Dance, the program visits schools in Renmark, Tanunda, Port Pirie and Whyalla before moving on to towns in Victoria and New South Wales.

The students participate in ballet lessons from distinguished teachers and get backstage access to watch the Australian Ballet’s touring dancers rehearse and perform Sleeping Beauty Act III and other works.

Australian Ballet spokesperson and repetiteur Paul Knobloch said they’re hoping to “culturally enrich the next generation of theatregoers” through the program.

“Whether they ended up pursuing it as a career, or hopefully just come and see the performing arts in their regions, or in the theatres in the towns they live in,” he said.

“Not everybody can come to bigger cities to witness elite performances as what the Australian Ballet is offering, so the fact that we can come to their home and perform in their home theatres is super important.”

After learning the fundamentals in their own lessons, the young dancers get to enjoy the show. Photo: Tony Lewis

Knobloch said he hopes they’re inspiring a new generation of dancers and theatregoers as the Australian Ballet tour and Let’s Dance program is making traditional classical dance more accessible for those that might not be exposed to it.

“I didn’t even know that dance could be a career until I was 16, that might be naive of me but it would be something like this that kind of sparked that in me,” he said.

Children participating in the Let’s Dance program, which is presented by Telstra and the Australian Ballet, are aged eight to 12.

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“We have had a few younger ones in the class, but I think that’s beautiful and they’ve really kept up with what we’ve been delivering for them,” Knobloch said.

“At the end of the class, the kids are kind of bouncing off the walls and practising the new steps that they’ve learned and it really creates and fosters social interaction.

“We had one little girl that was as shy as anything and the mum said she’s never seen her speak so much, or talk so much within the class, it was very cute so yeah, hopefully, we’re sparking something in these young children and encouraging them to dream big.”

Graduates from the Australian Ballet School are part of the touring company that the kids get to watch rehearse and perform Sleeping Beauty, helping them gain experience on the road early in their careers. Photo: Tony Lewis

One dancer from each country school will be chosen to attend an immersive experience at the Australian Ballet Centre in Melbourne where they will see the day in the life of a professional dancer, including wardrobe, physiotherapy, rehearsals and performance.

“There is a discipline in the arts, but I think it fosters a lifelong learning whether you end up performing, you learned so many skills, life skills, that in any place in the workforce, it kind of stands you in good stead because you have this dedication, you have this wonderful mindset,” Knobloch said.

The program marks a 40-year partnership between Telstra and the Australian Ballet, which Australian Ballet Artistic Director David Hallberg said is “integral” to their mission to bring live performance to the broadest possible audiences.

Let’s Dance will be at D’Faces of Youth Arts school in Whyalla this Saturday, before continuing the tour in Bendigo, Goulburn, Newcastle and Wagga Wagga throughout July.

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