By Rain Francis of Dance Informa.
If you’re a competition dancer, you already know all about Showcase Nationals. Run by Peter Oxford, it’s the biggest competition in Australasia, touring to around 20 cities in Australia and New Zealand each year before culminating in the incredible national final on the Gold Coast.
This year, for the first time ever, Showcase launched a brand new division; the ProAm Dancer of the Year, to be awarded to a dancer ready to take on the world of professional dance. Dance Informa is excited and proud to be one of the sponsors of this award, alongside J.O. International Productions, Capezio, Broadway Dance Centre and London Dance Programme.
The lucky dancer crowned ProAm Dancer of the Year walks away with a life-changing prize, comprising of a trip to New York City and London. In NYC, the winner gets a 20 class pass to Broadway Dance Center, a meeting with top US talent agent Lakey Wolff from CESD Agency, Capezio gift vouchers and a photoshoot at Capezio’s flagship Capezio store in Manhattan. Next stop, London, where the dancer is treated to two weeks of open classes with London Dance Programme, (including Pineapple Dance Studios, Danceworks and Studio 68), a meeting with a top London agent and career mentoring with Megan Preston from London Dance Programme.
As if that wasn’t enough, the ProAm Dancer of the Year also gets career mentoring with JOIP and Jess Orcsik, an O1 Visa meeting for a USA working visa courtesy of Visapaq, and a fully produced dance video for YouTube, filmed in international locations.
Jess Orcsik is not only a sponsor of the ProAm, but one of the judges as well. No stranger to the world of Showcase, she first attended as a 14 year-old dancer, and it has been a huge part of her life ever since. “In a lot of ways it has helped shape the artist I am today and steer my career path,” says Jess.
After launching her own dance company, Jess spent eight years going to Showcase as a teacher and choreographer, before officially joining the team in 2014. “Peter and the team at Showcase care so much about their dancers and have helped build so many dance careers in this country. Being able to work alongside and continue to build these opportunities for Australian dancers is something I find incredibly rewarding and humbling.”
The ProAm division was launched to fill the gap for 18+ dancers who weren’t working or in full-time training and found themselves without career advice or performance opportunities. The judges had their eyes out for top young talent with a thirst for international training and work, coupled with outstanding dance ability – and it sounds like they found it. “The standard was exceptional,” says Jess. “Our ProAm’s had the standard of seasoned professionals.”
And the first ever three finalists are: twin sisters Teagan and Samantha Rybka, 19, from Debra McCulloch Dance Academy in Perth; and Chelsea Reedman-Hawes, also 19 and currently training at Danceforce on the Gold Coast. We took five minutes with each of these talented young performers, shortly after they were announced as the finalists.
Tell us about the solo you did for the ProAm.
“I choreographed my own lyrical acro routine. As soon as I heard Foot Prints in the Sand by Leona Lewis, I could visualise myself dancing to it on stage; the passion in her voice inspired me to dance and choreograph movement that did her song justice!”
“My choreography to Tears of An Angel was inspired by the music. I felt lyrical was the best style to bring the music to life and to tell a story on stage. The costume was designed by myself and made by my dress maker.”
“It is a dark contemporary piece choreographed by Mitchell Hatton. The best way I can describe the inspiration, is that I’m a robot which has been trying to fight a virus for so long, but there comes a time where it gets the best of me and I no longer can control myself.”
How did it feel to be announced as a finalist?
“It was so exciting! I’ve always wanted to make it to the top 3 of Dancer of the Year.”
“I was so excited and really proud. I can’t believe that I am in the running for the amazing prize and it’s incredible opportunities!”
“It was incredible! The atmosphere in that ballroom was exhilarating, so to get through to the finals with that excitement around you was awesome.”
What is your ultimate dream?
“To perform with my twin sister around the world in front of large audiences for as long as possible. I also want to learn as much as I can from lots of different people so that I can give my future students the best possible training, as we hope to eventually open our own dance school.”
“To perform acro duos around the world with my twin sister or to appear in music videos for stars like Sia and Katy Perry.”
“Just to absolutely love what I’m doing at that time in my life. I study medicine, so at some stage I want to be a doctor, but while I can I would love to take all the opportunities dance offers me.”
What do you love most about dancing?
“Performing to audiences, sharing my passion and hard work to people who appreciate it.”
“Dancing is like being on cloud nine. It has taught me so many life lessons and brought me so many amazing opportunities and experiences that I will never forget. Dance takes me to another place and makes me feel on top of the world.”
“Dancing is amazing; there aren’t many other sports that can teach you as much as it can. Not only do you learn different styles that your body can move in, you build self-confidence and friendships that last a lifetime. It can also be a career! I don’t love one thing about dance, I love that it has many valuable aspects to it.”
When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?
“When I began watching the older girls at comps. They inspired me to work harder on my flexibility and technique.”
“When I started realising that I had to step up my game and work harder and practise more to dance like the dancers I looked up to.”
“Being a dancer has always been one of the careers I would enjoy. I would also love to be a surgeon, so maybe that could be after being a dancer, or even at the same time… keep watching to find out!”
Who is your greatest inspiration?
“I love watching dancers that motivate me to be the best I can be. My first inspiration was my mum because she passed on her passion for dancing and acrobatics and I love to make her proud!”
“My mum, who has always been my home teacher and biggest supporter and is always there for me. I am also inspired by other amazing dancers or artists that I see at competitions or on social media!”
“I have different inspirations for different aspects of my life. For dancing, Hayden Hopkins is definitely a major one. She is so elegant when she dances and let’s be honest here, who wouldn’t love her unbelievable technique!”
Announced shortly after our interviews: The first ever ProAm Dancer of the Year is Teagan Rybka! Congrats Teagan! Dance Informa will speak with Teagan soon, when she’s traveling around New York and London as part of her prize.
To learn more about Showcase National Dance Championships, click here.
Photo (top): The finalists for Showcase National’s ProAm Dancer of the Year: The Rybka twins (Teagan and Samantha Rybka) and Chelsea Reedman-Hawes. Photo courtesy of Showcase.