Dance Advice

How to succeed in full time dance: Advice from New Zealand School of Dance

By Rebecca Martin of Dance Informa.

So you’ve successfully navigated auditions, selected a full time school, organised your dancewear, possibly moved out of home and are ready to take the next steps towards a career in dance.  Now what?  How do you jeté over hurdles, avoid injuries, stay motivated, and get the most out of your experience?  Here Dance Informa speaks with Gary Trinder and Celia Jenkins of the prestigious New Zealand School of Dance.

What do you expect from your full time students in terms of etiquette, attendance and hard work?

We try to replicate as closely as possible a professional environment. In terms of etiquette, attendance and discipline our expectations are no different from those of mainstream dance companies. Our working week is 35 – 40 hours per week and our students have their own self-directed learning on top of that, so it does require that they have a mature, motivated and highly organised approach to their self-management while studying here.

New Zealand School of Dance

Contemporary tutor Victoria Colombus teaching at the New Zealand School of Dance. Photo by Stephen A’Court

How can a student stand out in class or rehearsal?

The ideal student is conscientious and approaches class or rehearsal in a way that they get the most out of the training without over-extending themselves or requiring too much of the tutor’s time and energy. Therefore our preference is that they don’t stand out, but apply themselves consistently to get the most learning from the opportunities presented to them.

What is your advice for preventing and dealing with injuries?

Listen to your body. We always recommend that students deal with injuries immediately. That includes small niggles. The consequences of not addressing a small easy-to-resolve problem can be manifold down the line. The School stresses the importance of good nutrition and good lifestyle choices e.g. resting the body, good footwear, limiting part-time work. Our students have access to a team of dedicated and specialised health practitioners; these include physiotherapist, Pilates instructors, osteopath, sports medicine doctors, nutritionist, performance psychologist, yoga instructors and personal trainers.

If a student were struggling physically or emotionally with the demands of the course, what would your advice be?

In the first instance students are encouraged to take any concerns to our full-time pastoral care manager. These may need to be directed towards one of our health practitioners or in some instances an off-site specialist. Full-time dance study is not for everybody and many entering the course grapple with injury and doubt. The School does everything it can to make valid suggestions for the student’s future wellbeing. Several of our students have opted out of the course and gone on to lead successful careers as physiotherapists, arts administrators, school teachers and academics.

New Zealand School of Dance

New Zealand School of Dance tutor Nadine Tyson teaching Imogen Sorley and other students of the School, photographed by Stephen A’Court

What do you think a graduating student would wish they had known when they commenced their full time course?

That time is short and they must apply themselves to get the most out of the course. Competition is part of the dance world and a dancer can never afford to be treading water, they must always look to the next goal. Students need to be proactive and initiate opportunities. There are no invitations.

Any other general tips or advice?

The biggest dilemma for all students is that when you enter a dance company nobody takes you by the hand. You need to be self-motivated, self-rewarding and self-administering. The School is a bridge to that world, so students must take ownership of their own education and career in order to flourish. A student needs to come with a young agile body, yet possess a mature and steely resolve.

Last edition Dance Informa spoke with Todd Patrick from Patrick Studios Australia. Check out his golden advice here:

In the next editions we speak with Ev & Bow and The Australian Ballet School.

If you’re interested in full time dance, make sure to check out Dance Informa’s 2013 Full Time Dance & Auditions Guide:

Photo (top): Classical tutor Nadine Tyson teaching at the New Zealand School of Dance. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

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