After graduating from The Royal Ballet School and being one of only six Australian dancers to achieve the honour of being offered a contract with The Royal Ballet, Queensland dancer Claudia Dean had the world at her feet. Whilst still a corps de ballet dancer with the Royal, Dean was performing principal and soloist roles and living the dream of a million young dancers around the world.
In 2014, however, Dean retired from The Royal Ballet and returned to Queensland to be with her family and to embark on what she termed “a normal life” away from the studio and the stage. She joined the real estate business and dappled in corporate gear and nine-to-five before being lured back into the world of dance. Dean is now Brand Ambassador for Bloch, and she guest teaches, adjudicates, and owns Claudia Dean Coaching, where she coaches the next crop of dance stars and shares her knowledge and experience with dance students.
Dean spoke with Dance Informa about her new new life and the transition from ballerina to ballet coach.
You commenced your dance training in Queensland before joining the prestigious Royal Ballet School at the age of 16. Why did you choose to train overseas instead of in Australia?
“Ever since I can remember, it was always my dream to be a part of The Royal Ballet company. I saw the school as the best stepping stone to get to where I wanted to be. Being offered a position at such a prestigious institution was something I couldn’t pass up. I knew I had to be there to make my dreams a reality!”
Not only did you graduate from The Royal Ballet School but you landed a position with The Royal Ballet and were performing principal roles and being featured in videos and performances. What was it like to experience that success and fulfil your dreams?
“It was always mind-blowing that I was living my dream. I tried to appreciate every moment and opportunity that came my way because I was no stranger to hard work and knock-backs. In my formative training years, I was told that I didn’t have the right feet or legs for a professional career in ballet. I got to where I was through sheer determination and a teacher who offered the right guidance and training to turn my path around, so I never took a moment for granted whilst I was in The Royal Ballet School and company.”
With the dance world at your feet, what made you walk away from The Royal Ballet and return home to Brisbane?
“Sometimes in life, you realise that your dreams are changing direction as you grow as a person, and I realised I wanted different things. I always follow my instincts and knew it was my time for new experiences. I had performed such a variety of roles at such a young age, which normally take dancers years to experience, so I felt that I left the company comfortable with what I had achieved and knowing it was the right time to look for my next challenge.”
Upon your return to Australia, you embarked on a career in real estate with your family. How different was it working nine to five in an office, compared with being a dancer?
“The demands of a dancer are a lot — rehearsing up to five ballets during the day, then performing a different ballet that same night, finishing at 10:30pm, was physically exhausting. Returning home to a nine-to-five job was a breath of fresh air, but it had its own set of challenges. Deciding to go into real estate with my family and completing my business qualification was the perfect stepping stone for me to know how to run my own business today. I definitely needed those 10 months to find my feet again and work out what really made me happy.”
What was the hardest thing about adjusting to ‘normal’ life?
“Learning how to drive. Wow, what an experience that was…. Even at 21!”
What was the best thing?
“Family is everything to me. Being home for the small things, even roast dinner on a Sunday night, which I had become accustomed to experiencing over Skype, was truly amazing.”
You’ve been lured back to the dance world as a Bloch Brand Ambassador and also as a dance coach with your business, Claudia Dean Coaching. Tell us about your new roles in those areas and what attracted you to coaching.
“Stepping out onto stage was always such an adrenaline rush. After leaving the company, I was yet to find something that emotionally fulfilled me as much as that, until I taught my first ballet class. Claudia Dean Coaching was inspired by the fact I gained so much invaluable knowledge from the private lessons, first as a student and later with world renowned ballet coaches in The Royal Ballet. I knew that these experiences made what I could offer to ballet students truly unique, and I knew that my passion to pass on all these tips to the next generation was my calling.
I now coach dancers from all over Australia and teach at numerous ballet schools throughout the year. Becoming the Bloch Brand Ambassador was such an honour for me, as I have always believed in their products as a dancer, and it opens a window of opportunity for me to recommend quality products that I believe in to the students I work with. Together, Bloch and myself have recently collaborated and produced Class With Claudia, my coaching DVD, which is sold worldwide through my website and Bloch stores Australia-wide. My hope is that through this DVD, I can make invaluable techniques and quality coaching more accessible to young dancers around the world.”
What do you have planned for the future?
“I am constantly creating and evolving unique ideas, which I am confident will benefit the younger generation. When these ideas become reality, they are usually very exciting. Stay tuned on the Claudia Dean Coaching Instagram and Facebook pages!”
To learn more about Claudia Dean Coaching, visit www.claudiadeancoaching.com.
By Rebecca Martin of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): Claudia Dean with students for Claudia Dean Coaching. Photo courtesy of Dean.