Dance News Australia

A Scholarship to Keep Your Dance Dream Alive as Long as You Are

Applications are now open for the Deborah Searle Scholarship with Adelaide’s Move Through Life, closing 20 May 2014. 

By Ben Marton.

It could be said that the movements of a dance are analogous to the myriad paths we forge through life. The aptness of this metaphor would not have been lost on Move Through Life’s Monica Wensing as she watched the full company and band come together for the first full rehearsal of what would be an acclaimed, sell-out performance, Soul Night at the Cinnamon Lounge. Beneath the staccato flash of lighting cues, the ransacking of dressing rooms for wayward costume fragments, the gesticulating limbs and eye-rolling and laughter at some shared, private joke, she could sense the culmination of something magical.

“My experiences with Move Through Life’s scholarship program kicked me back into ‘dancing mode’,” says Wensing, a recipient of an inaugural Deborah Searle Scholarship in 2013. “I have spent the past decade teaching, so it has been exciting to actually get back into performing.”

For this graduate of both the National Capital Ballet School in Canberra and the Queensland University of Technology (where she was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Dance), the opportunity to take part in public performance provided an extra jolt of artistic frisson the moment she realized that her husband would be seeing her perform for the first time. For Wensing, participation in the scholarship program ignited a sense of fulfillment that radiated to encompass those about her.

Dancers Monica Wessing, Alice Wagstaff and Kirsty Duncan perform in 'Soul Night at the Cinnamon Lounge.' Photo by Ryan Crowley.

Dancers Monica Wensing, Alice Wagstaff and Kirsty Duncan perform in ‘Soul Night at the Cinnamon Lounge.’ Photo by Ryan Crowley.

And she wasn’t alone. For Sarah Williams, another scholarship recipient who has not ceased dancing in some way or another since she was three, it was about it “all coming together.” Since the very first rehearsal, the palpable sensation of truly being part of a company had not left her. But reveling in the unalloyed joy of shared enterprise was just one outcome of her involvement. “The best thing,” maintains Williams, “has been supporting the technical side of my dancing. Regular classes have been beneficial in building specific skills.”

No stranger to the rigours of focused, committed training, Williams has evolved from distinction-level ballet student to dance polymath, engaging with jazz, contemporary and tap styles, as well as studying musical theatre, resulting in the attainment of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama from Flinders University. To the uninitiated she would seem to be bearing down on the outskirts of “all there is to know” territory, but it is in keeping with Move Through Life’s ethos that she acknowledges dance training as a lifelong prospect.

The integration of dance, it’s synchronicity with the ebb and flow of one’s personal life, is a sentiment echoed also by Georgia Wright. Quite simply, Move Through Life granted her “the means to dance.” For her, dance had long been a dream, and one she had not prioritized. Wright had been concerned that she would be insufficiently confident to take it up again later in life. As the recipient of the Beginner Level scholarship, however, she found that it was instrumental in “increasing my desire to dance. Now I am prioritizing it.”

Move Through Life dance classes

Dancers enjoy class at Move Through Life. Photo by Cat Leonard.

Immersion in music and movement has never strayed too far from Wright’s sphere of experience. She took lessons in ballroom and modern dance as a teenager, and later she even segued into hip-hop classes. But like many of us, she has found that the challenges of building a life for herself and her family have carried the imperative of keeping a great number of plates spinning. Move Through Life has represented the opportunity not only to address this balance, but also to share her joy with the people she loves. “Don’t get me wrong,” she hastens to add, “my family is still important, of course. But now they see how happy this dance scholarship has made me.”

All three of these ladies, along with fellow recipients Tessa Barge and Nicole Griffiths, were provided with the opportunity in 2013 to participate in regular classes and the choreography and performance of Soul Night at the Cinnamon Lounge as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival. All of this was made possible by the Deborah Searle Scholarship Program, an initiative named for one of the founding dancers of the Move Through Life company, and the creator and managing editor of Dance Informa. The program continues this year, with a significantly higher dollar value attached and an expanded intake.

Move Through Life Soul Night Cinnamon Lounge

Dancers Louise Durrans, Kelly Moritz and Nicole Griffiths of Move Through Life perform in ‘Soul Night at the Cinnamon Lounge’. Photo by Ryan Crowley.

For the Deborah Searle Scholarship Program in 2014, three categories are being offered for participants; the pre-existing Advanced and Beginner levels, with the new addition of Intermediate. This constitutes three full scholarships, but as was the case last year, a larger number of applicants of high standard may result of the awarding of half-scholarships, effectively doubling the probability of placement.

Dancers in all three categories will have the opportunity to train with Move Through Life for 12 months, attending regular classes and receiving instruction from experienced teachers Simon Vaughan, Katrina Lazaroff, Larissa McGowan, Tammy Arjona Wheeler, Billie Cook and Leigh Hodgkiss. Most of these teachers have danced or choreographed at a national and international level with leading dance companies and festivals in Australia, Europe and the U.S. Move Through Life’s jazz, contemporary and ballet classes are a chance for participants to interact with other adult dancers in an environment of fun and social inclusivity.

In addition, recipients in the Advanced category will participate in Move Through Life’s company workshops, be granted membership in the C Club (a monthly think-tank and peer support group for choreographers), and be invited to choreograph and perform in 2015’s Illuminate season. In all, this year’s expanded Deborah Searle Scholarship represents $8,100 in value; a total that has more than doubled.

And the program continues to grow, with future potential for incentives such as free classes to promote inclusive practices among those suffering financial hardship, funding for childcare, transport or accommodation, and the addressing of special needs cases, such as dancers with disabilities. Move Through Life’s foundational principle continues to be the drawing together of those with a passion for dance, regardless of age, gender, race, lifestyle or socio-economic status. As always, it is about inclusive and accessible lifelong dance for all.

Applications for the Deborah Searle Scholarship close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Further information about the program and how to apply can be found at www.movethroughlife.org.au/scholarship.htm.

Photo (top): Monica Wensing, centre, and dancers of Move Through Life perform in Soul Night at the Cinnamon Lounge. Photo by Sasha Pazeski (www.sashapazeski.com)

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