For serious dance students like Queensland Ballet Academy’s Samuel Macpherson, the school holidays offer time away from the usual school-to-studio run to focus on core aspects of dance training. “I just thought it would be a really good thing to do to for my career,” he says. These July holidays proved particularly special for Macpherson — to his delight, the young dancer was awarded a special feature in Dance Informa as part of an Early Bird giveaway for those who bought tickets early to International Ballet Workshops (IBW).
IBW brings elite guest teachers to Australia and New Zealand each January and July school holiday, offering up not only world-class training and expertise but also further international opportunities for exceptional students. This year’s guest teacher was none other than US superstar Dusty Button, one of Macpherson’s favourite dancers. “I always thought that she was such an amazing dancer,” he shares. “I look at her Instagram, and I just really, really admire the way she moves. I love that she’s not only such a good ballet dancer but also a really good contemporary dancer. I just admire her a lot for all the creative energy that she gives out.”
Just as Button did before him, Macpherson has been working hard for the past six years to lay the foundation for his own dance career. Discovering his passion for dance at around the age of 10 at a small dance school in Bulimba, it wasn’t long before he switched to the Australian Dance Performance Institute (ADPI) to access more of the classical ballet training he craved. “We used to drive from Bulimba to Albion every single afternoon for ballet there,” he recalls. He later trained part-time there, dancing all day on Fridays while juggling dance with regular high school on the other weekdays, and also participated in the Australian Ballet’s ITP programme as an invitee. At the Queensland Ballet Academy, Macpherson is working toward his dream of one day working in a company in Australia or overseas. “I would not care which company I got into, as long as I could do something that I loved every day and make the most of my career,” he says.
For Macpherson, who continues to juggle school commitments at Kelvin Grove State College with the demands of a full-time dance programme at the Queensland Ballet Academy, the IBW workshops with Button have provided a lifeline. “She was in our position not so long ago, dancing pretty much every afternoon and doing full-time, just trying to be the best that she could be and take on these corrections while performing her hardest,” he explains. “I could really relate to her, and I felt like she could relate to me. When she was giving corrections, she was really positive about it and made sure we understood exactly what she was saying.”
He was particularly inspired by Button’s belief that dancers truly need to push themselves in order to get better. “She told us that when you’re in the studio, if they ask for five pirouettes, do six,” he says. “In the studio, don’t be afraid to make mistakes because you want to use that time wisely. You only need to be perfect when you’re on stage.” Macpherson’s current training goal is simple: “My focus is to just get better at pretty much everything overall in order to be the best that I can be.”
Unlike many young dancers, Macpherson admits that he is not all that interested in watching dance videos because “I feel like when I’m watching them, I’m just critiquing the dancers.” Instead, he prefers to just dance. “I love the feeling that you get while you’re performing, just this tingling in my stomach. It’s just such a great feeling when people applaud you after you’ve performed, just the whole feeling of being on stage and entertaining the audience through my dancing.”
Taking the lessons he has learned from Button and his fellow dancers at the IBW workshop, Macpherson is more determined than ever to face the challenges of full-time dance training head on. “When something challenges you, you don’t just give up,” he says. “You keep on trying to do it until you get better at it. [The workshop] has really helped me to come out of my shell and perform.”
While those challenges may be overcome in a few years, however, it’s experiences and lessons like these which will last a lifetime.
By Grace Gassin of Dance Informa.