By Renata Ogayar.
Dance Academy Season Three starts Monday, July 8 on ABC3! With a huge following in Australia and internationally, audiences have been hotly anticipating the return of the teen drama. Here Dance Informa speaks with Dance Academy star Isabel Durant who plays Grace Whitney.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you undertake your ballet and acting training?
I started as a serious dancer when I was at Loreto Kirribilli High School. I would dance every day after school at Brent St and then Ecole Ballet Studios, where I eventually did full-time classical ballet. From there I got the role on Dance Academy. I learned a lot on the job and learned a lot from my acting coaches. After that I went to the Atlantic Theatre Company, in New York, which was basically my cross over into acting. After Season Two of Dance Academy I spent a full year over in New York before I came back for Season Three.
What made you start dancing and how old were you when you started?
I always feel cliché about how I started. Dad is a musician, but when I was tiny, when I was two and three, I would always dance and I always loved ballet. I didn’t start full-time ballet until I was 15 years old, but as a child I was very dedicated to dancing everyday. When I was 15, I really needed to choose a style and I did contemporary and loved that I could incorporate all styles into it. However, my teachers always stressed that it was important to have a grounded classical technique.
Which teachers have impacted you most as a dancer?
Kit Lethby at Ecole Ballet Studios was one of my favourites. He had the best sense of humour. But also, Sarah Boulter, who taught me at Ecole when I was there part-time and also at Ev and Bow and Sydney Dance Company, where I did her Saturday morning classes that were really inspiring.
What was it about dancing that made you keep going when you were faced with major challenges?
By the time I graduated from full-time ballet, I was feeling a little unsure about things. I really wanted to audition for companies in Europe. A lot of self-doubt crept in. I kind of looked around and compared myself to other people, but I learned that such feelings come with anything that an individual wants to do and it’s important to have a plan. Then something happens – for instance, getting injured. But I learned to stop and assess my options. The main drive for me was that I can’t dance forever, but I can do it now.
I always had great support from my family and teachers, and dancing is what I really wanted to do. When I got offered the role on Dance Academy, I started taking acting lessons and my plan to go over to a European company changed. That was a really big decision for me. However, I am so glad I took that opportunity because now I really love acting and I am really happy with where I am right now.
How did you win the gig on Dance Academy?
I appeared on So You Think You Can Dance (S3) – that gave me even more exposure and I ended up getting an agent through it. They had told me about the open auditions for Dance Academy and I just thought, “Ok, I’ll go for it.” I didn’t expect to get the role. I just thought I’d do the audition. So, that was a bit of fun!
What were your first impressions whilst filming on set?
Well, with Season Two I was absolutely terrified. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes. Everyone has a special job, and it’s a huge job, and just trying to remember everyone’s names and production lingo was really daunting. But it was great because a month before shooting we did boot camp which comprised of training, dancing and acting workshops and it was a great bonding session with the cast.
I was new, so other cast members who had been in Season One were really helpful with preparing and playing out scenes. Everyone was so great, and we could speak to the writing and script team easily to find the best result.
Did you ever think you would end up dancing on TV?
I never thought I would end up dancing on TV – never in a million years! I was really shy, especially with my voice, when I was younger. But I was never shy with dancing. I never did acting at school because speaking in front of people made me nervous. This is a total surprise!
What sets Season Three of Dance Academy apart from Season One and Two?
I think Season Three is a step up in maturity across 13 jam-packed episodes, unlike Season Two, which was 26 episodes in total. The story art in the writing is so intricate and amazing. All the characters have a new look on life and a new level of maturity, especially after Sammy’s death. After this event everyone comes back knowing what they want and knowing how far he or she will go to get it. They are all after one thing in Third Year – a company contract after graduation. It’s a fine balance between competition and family. For all the characters it is a new stage of the self-discovery journey and it deals with some really big issues. It is beautifully done and I think it really speaks to young adults or those going through their HSC and who are about to make some big critical life choices.
What has been your most memorable moment whilst on Dance Academy Season Three?
Ah, it is so hard! I always think back to Season Three when we went on tour. I love all the scenes where we are all together. The dynamics and the group are just crazy. It was just so magical as we have such great relationships on and off set. It’s a memory I will never forget.
Do you have any helpful tips for those aspiring to follow in your footsteps?
Give everything you can to what you love, be it dancing or acting, or anything else. For me, I would say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Always know if something happens, you as a person are worth more than just one thing and to discover other passions is an amazing thing.
For everything Dance Academy, go to www.abc.net.au/abc3/danceacademy.
Photo (top): Isabel Durant who plays Grace on Dance Academy. Photo by Ian Barry.