Full time? Of course.

With competition in the dance world getting more intense, full time study is more important than ever.

By Paul Ransom.

Ever get the impression the world is speeding up and things are getting more competitive? Would it surprise you to learn that the same is true in the world of dance?

Whereas once you might have been able to ‘succeed’ without completing a rigorous full time study regime, the young hopefuls of 2011 know they have no choice. The bar has been raised and if you want to dance on the big stage (or at least have a career of some sort) then the unanimous industry opinion suggests that you enrol now.

Todd Patrick, whose academy Patrick Studios Australia, has an enviable graduate placement record, is passionate about full time dance. “The full time study question is something that’s been asked for a long time but I think over the last five years people have started to think that it is now necessary,” he begins. “What’s required of dancers these days is very different from what it was years ago. It’s now expected that the kids coming out of schools are artistic athletes.” To underline his point, he quickly adds, “They need to be contortionists, singers, actors and have great classical technique. People just want more. We’ve been weaned on So You Think You Can Dance and kids are just doing the most athletically incredible things now.”

William Forsythe, Owner/Artistic Director of ED5International in Sydney agrees that full time training is essential for industry success. “Working extensively overseas as a choreographer I meet hundreds of performers every year and the thing I come across again and again is that almost every overseas performer has studied full time for up to 3 years which gives them an amazing springboard from which to leap into the industry at full speed. I wanted this same opportunity of choice for Australian performers so we developed a 2 year Diploma in Performing Arts to allow young singers, dancers and actors a wider field of training experiences and choice. There are so many great courses in Australia at the moment, young performers need to do their research and see which institution is going to offer the right course for them depending on what type of career they wish to pursue.”

Full time study is, if nothing else, a huge commitment; a commitment that mirrors the intensity of a dance industry career. For Cameron Mitchell, Artistic Director at one of the country’s most renowned studios, (Brent Street in Sydney), a full time course is about a lot more than learning technique. “Most young performers have a limited knowledge of the industry they want to enter,” he explains. “A full time course can teach so much, not just as a dancer, a singer or actor, but as a person in the business. It gives them so many extra tools for longevity.” Trish Squire-Rogers of Spectrum Dance in Melbourne agrees saying, “full time dance not only equips the dancer with the skills to be a well rounded artist but also prepares them mentally for an industry in which one is constantly criticised. Dancers are forever hearing that they are not good enough and that they are not right for the job. Everyday is an audition, where you are judged on the way you look and behave as well as perform. Dancers are endlessly putting themselves on the line and more often than not are met with a ‘no’. Full time dance prepares the students for this mentally taxing day to day lifestyle so that they can maintain a healthy state of mind in the face of constant adversity.”

According to Jackie Hallahan, who created an accredited course for Year 11 & 12 students in the ACT as far back as 2000 and who runs the Canberra Dance Development Centre (CDDC), a full time course “inspires everyone to work towards excellence.” However, a good course will do much more than simply engender enthusiasm. “It’s work experience for a career in dance,” she adds. “Dancers are able to receive quality technical performance training and career guidance in a supportive environment and culture at an elite level, enabling the dancer to be the very best they can be.”

As anyone in the performance arts will tell you, surviving on the boards involves enormous self-discipline and no small amount of office politics. As Todd Patrick bluntly states, “for the industry at large, to have people coming up who are well mannered and who know what the industry is like because they’ve done their grounding is a big advantage.”

Esteemed industry veteran Tanya Pearson, who runs a classical coaching academy and youth ballet in Sydney, takes the point even further. “Students get familiar working to a routine of dancing all day,” she tells me. “Their bodies and minds become prepared for a life as a dancer. It’s important to note that when students are ready to audition for professional contracts they will be up against stiff competition from dancers who have had full time training. They need to be up to a certain standard and level of training and maturity, and have awareness of their mind and bodies.”

Since dance is generally a young person’s career, the training usually reaches its pitch in the mid to late teens, thereby allowing graduates more peak fitness years to explore their trade. All of which makes you wonder what level younger dancers need to attain before they are ready for a full time slog. Jackie Hallahan from CDDC suggests that it is important for candidates to possess a solid grounding before taking on a full time course. “Ideally, the student has had a graduated training program and has achieved [something like] the CDDC’s Intermediate level,” she advises. Tanya Pearson concurs, adding, “we consider more the potential of the student as well as their physical and mental attributes. Students generally should be at a minimum of Intermediate standard. However, this varies from syllabus to syllabus.” For performing arts courses Marcus Pearce of Brisbane’s Conroy Performing Arts College advises that auditioning students “should have a good level of skill in at least one genre of performing, and the physical facility that will lend itself to other styles. They also need to be prepared to participate intensively in all the styles they are not experienced at – yet! The aim of a full time course should be to graduate every student with a high level of training in every subject, not just the skills they began with.”

Importantly, Pearson urges that young dancers maintain a sense of reality. “I recommend that all students continue their academic studies through the Department of Distance Education,” she advises. “I find that our full time students cope well with their full time ballet studies and their academic studies.” Jackie Hallahan adds, “students need to develop time management skills to be able to maintain all their commitments, as well as cope with the rigours of full time.”

Whilst this all sounds like a clear pathway, the parents of aspiring dancers will doubtless be wondering about costs. Study has long since ceased to be free and the best privately run academies are, of course, business operations. Costs vary from school to school but there are partly subsidised options (like CDCC) for around $5000 a year, with other courses on the market for anywhere from approximately $7000 a year up. Most schools will offer a payment plan system, with some institutions even allowing a small number of students in special circumstances to defray hard costs by doing work around the campus. And as Marcus Pearce points out “the cost of full training may seem a lot to some parents, but it needs to be kept in mind that this is a performers’ equivalent to university (a much larger financial investment!).”

At this juncture the obvious question is: what about part time? While there is broad consensus that part time is less than ideal, highly experienced professionals like Tanya Pearson recognise that great talent does not always reside in an ideal world. “For students that cannot afford it or have other commitments I recommend that they attend as many holiday school programmes or workshops as they can. I always offer the opportunity for external students to come and attend a day or two of our full time course to gain experience, even if they are not enrolled full time in our course.” Ashley Killar of Ecole Ballet and Dance Theater who has directed companies including the Royal New Zealand Ballet adds, “there are numerous advantages to full-time training, not least training the body through the day in the correct manner to achieve strong technique, rather than in evenings after long days at school. However, while no dancer joins a professional company from a part time course, the time at which a student begins full time training should be very carefully considered by all concerned.”

Even with a range of scholarship, private tuition and part time options available, the bottom line remains: there is no free ride to a career in dance. Indeed, even exceptional raw talent will most likely need serious training in order to maintain themselves in the industry. As Brent Street’s Cameron Mitchell concludes, “Some kids get lucky; but it’s a lot more competitive than it used to be. There are more courses and more dancers fighting it out. Good training both in body and mind is invaluable.”


New South Wales

Certificate IV in Performing Arts
Location: 101 Bent Street, The Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park NSW
Contact: 1300 013 708


Full Time Dancers Course (1 -3 yrs)
Pre Professional Course
Teachers Course
Part Time Program (Tiny Tots to Advanced Levels)
Location:  75 Chandos St. St. Leonards NSW
Contact: +61 2 94394424, Fax +61 2 9439 5352


Full time performing arts 1 year & 2 year programs
Location: Tuggerah, NSW
Contact: 02 43 58 15 28


Certificate IV Performing Arts Course- Fully accredited 1 year full time Triple Threat Development. Dance|Sing|Act
Performance Courses – 6 month Youth and Adult Elite Dance Crews.
Scholarship Program – Advanced training with Industry professionals, the only scholarship program of it’s kind in Australia. 6 month or 1 year commitment.
Location: 39 Greek Street, Glebe 2037 NSW
Contact: 02 9571 7099  


Certificate IV in Performing Arts – (NTIS Course Code: 91375NSW)
Diploma in Performing Arts – (NTIS Course Code: 91513NSW)
Location: Bakehouse Lane, 9 George St, North Strathfield NSW
Contact: 02 9746 0848


Part-time Course for exam and Pre-Professional training ( Beginners to Advanced 2)
HSC Dance Preliminary and Full Course
Vocational (full time) pre-professional ballet and dance training courses
re-commencing 2012
Teacher training workshops, Teacher training courses re-commencing 2012
Location: Lindfield, N. Shore, Sydney
Contact:02 9416 8961



Vocational full and part time dance course registered with the Board of Secondary Studies
Location: Mount Rogers Community Centre, Crofts Crescent Spence ACT
Contact:02 6259 1550


South Australia


TAFE SA Adelaide College of the Arts
Bachelor of Dance Performance
Location: 39 Light Square, Adelaide SA 5000
Contact: 08 8463 5000



2 year comprehensive full time dance program with leading Brisbane teachers and Interstate teachers flown up on a weekly basis.
During study and after graduation, students may be offered representation with ‘Rachelle Conroy Management’.
Location: Brisbane, QLD
Contact: 07 3205 7717


Advanced Diploma of Art (Classical and Contemporary Dance) or
(Musical Theatre and Commercial Dance) 30822 QLD
Diploma of Art (Classical and Contemporary Dance) or
(Musical Theatre and Commercial Dance) 30821QLD
Certificate III in Performing Arts 30879QLD (1 day per week)
Location: 31-33 Collingwood Street, Albion
Contact: 07 3262 2277




Full time Professional Development: Performing Arts
Full time Professional Development: Musical Theatre
Senior Elite, Intermediate Elite, Junior Elite
Intermediate Elite Preparation, Junior Elite Preparation
Location: 4/40 Green Street, Prahran VIC
Contact: 03 9529 8221


Full time dance & performing arts course
Location: Burwood, Melbourne
Contact: 0433 733 187


Advanced Associate in Fine Arts (Dance Performance)
Associate in Applied Dance (Techniques & Performance)
Foundation Course in Applied Dance
Advanced Associate in Music Theatre
Associate in Music Theatre
Advanced Associate in Dramatic Arts
Specialised training in area of interests.
Location: 295 Bank Street South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Contact: 03 9696 2943



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