Byron Bay, located on the Far North Coast of Regional NSW, Australia is not only known for its spectacular beaches; it’s also known for its creative hub and is home to some of Hollywood’s A-listers. Being a source of inspiration and perspective for many, it’s no wonder so much talent is coming out of this small town, and Daisy Sexton, just 10 years of age – recently accepted into The Australian Ballet School’s 2020 Intra/Interstate and International Training Programme (ITP) – is one of them to watch.
Having started dancing at the age of two, at Brunswick Valley School of Dance in Brunswick Heads NSW, it was her early days as a toddler dancing in the lounge room where this little star was born. With a great grandmother, a former ballerina in Sydney back in her day, it was evident that dancing was in her DNA, and she encouraged Sexton to dance. “Dancing for me is as normal as breathing air,” the young dancer says. “I just couldn’t imagine life without it.”
Compared to large cities and bigger dance schools with full-time programmes, living rurally may pose limits to access and opportunities. But with the talent coming out of various and well-established dance schools in the region, which generate many aspiring dancers, being driven, determined and having the right mindset along with the right guidance, will certainly help overcome such challenges.
“We started to overcome this by travelling to workshops and private coaching lessons in different areas, mainly Brisbane,” Sexton explains. ”Then, by luck, we began to discover that many incredible teachers, choreographers and dancers who are well-known in the dance world like to spend time in our part of the world (Byron Bay). So I have been lucky enough to work with some of the best in the industry when they pass through town.” In addition to this, she has been working hard auditioning for elite extension programmes and travelling interstate to further her training.
So for those passionate in pursuing their dream in dance, but feel limited to location, be inspired. But handiwork is certainly a requirement. Sexton, sharing a snapshot of her training schedule, says, “I train in ballet at the Byron Ballet School mostly five days a week, and I train at DanceForce a couple of afternoons a week in jazz, contemporary and lyrical. I recently began my schooling through Distance Education, which allows me more time to focus on dance, which is around 15 hours a week.”
With ballet at the core of her training, Sexton aspires to one day dance with The Royal Ballet in London. “I love the discipline of ballet, the beauty and the art of it. It is very hard work, but at the same time so rewarding. Ballet can love you one day and hate you the next. It’s the never-ending challenge that makes it so addictive to me, and I just love it.”
Predominantly mentoring her along the way is none other than Claudia Dean, among other incredibly inspiring teachers. “I train with Claudia on a monthly basis, and have been doing so now for a couple of years up in Brisbane,” she states. “She is the most positive person I have ever met, and she has always believed in me despite the highs and lows. She has always encouraged me to always keep going and always look for the positive.” A Brisbane girl herself, Dean was a principal ballet dancer with The Royal Ballet in London who now has her own coaching business in Brisbane. “I hope to follow her footsteps one day”, Sexton exclaims.
So how does one stay positive? “Keep believing in yourself” is the best piece of advice she has been given. “There are always going to be people around you who will try to pull you down or situations that will stand in your way and auditions you weren’t successful at. But if you keep believing in yourself, you can only continue to grow and lift yourself higher toward your goals,” Sexton shares. Adopting this mindset is critical. “I just want it so much! Like more than anything! I remind myself that nothing comes for free; you have to work so hard for this. My parents never have to remind me to do my daily strengthening exercises at the barre or to rehearse or train. It’s not always easy, but I switch it up. Sometimes I’ll do my strength training down at the beach in the sunshine, instead of being inside the studio. I keep it interesting and balanced, as I never want to lose my passion.”
Evidently, her strong mindset and work ethic is paying off. With an incredibly successful year, she recalls her main highlight. “I think winning at Sydney Eisteddfod was my highlight because my great grandmother won there back in 1934,” Sexton reveals. “This was really special for me to be following her footsteps.”
Sydney Eisteddfod Ballet Scholarship, known to be an incredibly prestigious competition, is a perfect platform for serious dancers. “I’ve never competed at Sydney Eisteddfod before, as I didn’t think I was ready, or at the level to take on such a competition until this year,” she explains. “I felt ready and prepared in my training to go down and give it my best shot, and I was delighted with the outcome.”
In addition to winning a first place in Sydney, determined Sexton also won the jazz scholarship at Brisbane Performing Arts Challenge, the Junior Championship at Gold Coast Eisteddfod, Ballet and Modern Championship at Murwillumbah Eisteddfod, Junior Championships for jazz, lyrical and ballet at Lismore Eisteddfod, Highest Overall Champion at Evolution Dance Competition (in her age group), all nine sections and Championship at Future Stars Dance Comp, and National Champion for Ballet (with a black diamond score of 99-100/100) at Get the Beat National Finals. In addition to other achievements, she was also the child soloist as a guest artist with the Victorian State Ballet’s touring productions of Cinderella and The Magic Toyshop. And to top it off, Sexton was accepted into the Dance Prescription 2019 Elite Extension Team, and The Australian Ballet School ITP 2020.
With such a track record to date, this little star will continue to keep training on her strength and technique in order to achieve greater progress in 2020.
So, for those aspiring dancers who can relate, and hoping to follow a similar path, here is some advice and insight to assist you. “Do ballet, ballet and more ballet!” Sexton says. “Even if you don’t want to be a ballerina, you need ballet training to learn the correct technique in order to apply it to all your other genres of dance. Judges always comment that they can see who is and who isn’t taking ballet classes, because ballet gives you such a strong foundation and just gives you the edge!”
By Renata Ogayar of Dance Informa.