Dance Advice

The journey to ballerina

Indiana Scott.
Indiana Scott.

Two dancers and their mothers share their stories of gaining entry into two of the world’s most prestigious ballet schools.

Indiana Scott and Brianna Scotford are two young dancers who have recently left the comforts of home to pursue their dreams of becoming professional ballerinas. They have both gained entry into two of the world’s most prestigious ballet training facilities. Brianna, from Perth, WA, is now training at the English National Ballet School in London, England, and Indiana, also from Perth, WA, has moved to Melbourne, Australia, to train at The Australian Ballet School. Here, Dance Informa asks them, and also their mothers, what their journey to become a professional ballerina looks like.

When did ballet training begin to go from something many little girls do to a potential career choice?

Brianna

Brianna Scotford. Photo by Kathryn Harris.
Brianna Scotford. Photo by Kathryn Harris.

“From my very first class and all through my years of after school dance, I received a lot of encouragement from my ballet teachers. This feedback kept me questioning if I did want to pursue classical ballet in the future. The main deciding factor for me came when I tried other dance styles and rhythmic gymnastics. I had a lot of fun and still enjoy other forms of dance, but nothing ever made me as happy as I was in ballet class.”

Indiana 

“I was wanting to go into musical theatre, so when I was 10 years old, my mum booked me into an hour ballet class, once a week. During the second and third year, my dance teacher had approached my mum a couple of times, suggesting I consider pursuing serious ballet training at a specialised ballet school, as she saw potential in me. By this stage, I was very captivated by ballet and watched it online every spare minute I got. I believe that is when the seed was sown.”

Mothers, when you realised that ballet could be a career choice, how did you feel?

Brianna’s mother, Charissa

“I had very mixed feelings, as I knew it would be a dream come true for Brianna and something she had worked toward for many years but was also bittersweet in the fact that she would potentially move away from home at a young age.”

Indiana’s mother, Kendal

“I would describe my response more of curiosity and excitement with some hesitation. The arts have played a big part in our family; however, the ballet industry was quite foreign to us, so we wanted to become as informed as possible.”

How many days did you train each week, and for how long before gaining entry into your full-time ballet school?

Indiana

Indiana Scott. Photo by Debbie Hughes.
Indiana Scott. Photo by Debbie Hughes.

“When I was 13 years old, I began training 16 hours a week, three afternoons a week. Once I turned 15, I began full-time training. This was Monday to Friday, from 9am to 4pm, and Saturday afternoons. A year later, I was accepted to study at The Australian Ballet School. It was just over two-and-a-half years of intense ballet focus and training.”

Brianna 

“I began partial full-time training in 2015, at The Perth School of Ballet, with just two mornings a week. Over the last five years, I’ve gradually added in more classes and have been dancing full time (five full days plus a half a day on Saturday) for the last two years, leading up to this September and moving way to the UK.”

Mothers, what was the sacrifice and/or commitment for you throughout your daughter’s childhood in order for ballet to take priority?

Kendal

“Ballet requires hours of preparation for both the child and parent (moreso for the child); however, we always felt it was important to continue to prioritise a healthy balance of family life and sibling interests and commitments.”

Charissa

“I think of three things: money, time and siblings. There is no doubt that it takes a lot of money to pursue ballet as a hobby and even more to pursue it as a profession! We have been incredibly blessed to have family support, which has enabled Brianna to pursue ballet to this level. Ballet also takes a lot of time, and her siblings have been very gracious.”

What was it like to receive the news, ‘You’re accepted into the ballet program’?

Brianna

Brianna Scotford. Photo by Des Lewis Photographer.
Brianna Scotford. Photo by Des Lewis Photographer.

“This was a moment I had dreamed about for a long time, but if I’m completely honest, it didn’t happen how I had expected it to at all! I had flown home from my audition tour the day before and woke up to an email saying I had been accepted! Of course, I was excited at the time, but there have been countless moments since when the reality has sunk in which are more memorable.”

Indiana

“I was absolutely elated. My mum received an envelope in the mail and drove straight to my ballet school so that I could open it immediately. I was crying with joy because it was exactly what I wanted.”

Mothers, what did it feel like when your daughter gained entry into her ballet school?

Charissa

“I was elated! I remember reading the email when I finished work and said to a friend, ‘My life will never be the same again!’”

Kendal 

“For me, I had been processing (and at times grieving) for a year that Indiana may have to move away to go into elite training and a ballet career. When she got into The Australian Ballet School, we celebrated her achievement, although we felt the pain of the realisation that she would be moving.”

What have you had to say goodbye to in order to pursue your dream of dance training full time?

Indiana

“I’ve had to say goodbye to my family, my friends and my whole life in Perth, Western Australia. I have said goodbye to the average teenage life to pursue my dream. I actually don’t see myself saying ‘goodbye’ to a lot of things, but I see it as ‘see you soon’ because I’ve maintained the close bond with my family and close friends.”

Brianna

“Personally, I couldn’t ask for anything more and wouldn’t want my life to be any other way. Ballet does require an insane amount of discipline and long hours of training. I’ve spent a lot of my weekends and holidays in the studio rehearsing when ‘normal’ kids would be out doing other things, but I feel like I’ve found a balance of work and fun, and I never felt like I was missing out.”

Mothers, what was saying goodbye like when your daughter left for full-time training?

Kendal 

“My goodbye was at The Australian Ballet School when I had to leave to return to Perth. It was a beautiful and joyous occasion where we reflected on our gratitude for the privilege and incredible opportunity that lay before her. I had cried many tears privately the two days leading up to leaving, but we felt that this needed to be a wonderful moment for Indiana.”

Charissa

“Obviously, that hug goodbye was covered in lots of tears, but once we’d hopped in the car to the airport, I actually felt a sense of relief and excitement for her. I knew she was going to be okay and had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ahead of her, so it was time to focus on the positive! That doesn’t mean I don’t still find my heart pouring out of my eyes sometimes.”

What has the first week/year been like in a new city, as well as in a new dance training environment?

Indiana

Indiana Scott. Photo by Debbie Hughes.
Indiana Scott. Photo by Debbie Hughes.

“Initially, it was a little bit uncomfortable getting familiar with my surroundings and getting to places via public transport. I have had to adjust to the weather in Melbourne, and I have had to learn to live more independently. The challenge has been exciting, and training at The Australian Ballet School is so amazing!”

Brianna

“I’ve been in London for just over 10 weeks now, which blows my mind! My life here is incredibly different from the one I had at home, but I’m so grateful for that because it is growing me as a person, not just a dancer. I have very quickly had to learn how to be independent and stand up for myself. I’ve had so much support from my family and friends at home, as well as everyone at the school, which has made the transition very easy.”

Mothers, how do you continue to be ‘mum’ now with a daughter overseas or across the country? 

Kendal

“Your relationship seems to transition into one that represents the parent and adult-child relationship. We listen, support and give advice where necessary. We always want Indiana to feel unconditional love and support from home, and our relationship has continued to grow deeper through the distance.”


Charissa

“Oh, the joys of FaceTime! Bri and I talk every day, and she usually sends me an update before she goes to bed each night. I don’t really feel like much has changed in our relationship, but I have certainly seen her grow and mature very quickly, which I’m incredibly proud of.”

What has been the biggest challenge of starting full-time training away from home? 

Brianna

“Initially, I was quite homesick and craved the comforts of home. I took not having to food shop, getting driven everywhere and being given home-cooked meals for granted, so I really had to adjust as I settled in. Now my biggest challenge is finding the balance of wanting to improve and make myself better without becoming over critical and self-deprecating. I have to pick my days when I need more uplifting self-talk and when I need to push myself further.”

Indiana

“The biggest challenge has been remaining confident and secure in my abilities. I have had to remind myself about the fact that I still have so much growth and learning to do and what possibilities will open up to me in the future. I have valued my family’s support and advice when I have needed encouragement. The teachers are also very encouraging.”

Mothers, how old is your daughter (now and when they left), and what is your biggest challenge with them being so far away?

Charissa

“Brianna turned 17 four days after we left her in London! I think the biggest challenge is not being able to physically be with her – to hug her, help her work through practicalities like food shopping, accommodation, and not to be able to go and watch her ballet performances.”

Kendal

“Indi left when she was 16-and-a-half, and she is now 17-and-a-half. My biggest challenge with her being away is not having her presence in our home or seeing and hearing Indiana and her brother together every day. We miss the togetherness at the dinner table, although we often video call at that time. I miss watching ballet with her and our chats in the evenings on my bed.”

What do you know now that you didn’t before you started full-time dance training?

Indiana

“The workload is harder than I expected, but it didn’t shock me. I have loved the hard work. I have been surprised at how small the ballet community is. It’s been great to see how supportive the people in this community are and that we are all generally very self-motivated and hard-working.”

Brianna

“I don’t think I understood how truly rewarding it is to come in and work your body really hard every day. Being the perfectionist I am, spending hours correcting my technique and little technical details is something I love to do. I have a much greater understanding of my body and mind now and can clearly feel a difference if I have more than three days off training.”

What is the dream from here?

Brianna

“A lot can change in three years, but currently, I’m working toward gaining a contract in a professional company. I have a love for both classical ballet and contemporary dance so would love to join a company that includes both in their repertoire.”

Indiana

“My dream is to continue to become the best I can be in my dance and ideally end up dancing with The Australian Ballet company.”

What does a day in your life look like now?

Indiana

“I leave the boarding house at 7:10am and catch a tram to the Ballet Centre in South Bank. An example of one of my days is a morning ballet class, conditioning class and then Victorian College of Arts Secondary School (VCASS) for two to three hours. VCASS is where I am studying four Year 11 subjects. I then return to The Australian Ballet School for a contemporary class. I finish at around 5:30pm. I often go to the gym for some extra training at the end of the day.”

Brianna

“I arrive at school just before 8am most mornings and warm myself up with Pilates exercises and stretching. Our daily ballet class starts at 8:30am and finishes between 10 and 10:30am, depending on the day. We then have a mixture of academic and dancing classes that run until roughly 5pm. After school, I often go to the shops to ensure I have healthy, fresh food to eat. I do homework from school and reflect on any feedback I received from my teachers that day. I spend my evening catching up with everyone from home.”

By Lara Bianca Pilcher of Dance Informa. 

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