For dancers who demonstrate a high level of achievement and commitment to their art from a young age, it can be difficult to juggle the rigours of normal schooling with an extensive after-school dance schedule. Performing arts schools are a fantastic option for those who want to dedicate a portion of their school week to dance, and APGS – the Australian Performing Arts Grammar School – offers a rounded curriculum focused on both academic and performing arts excellence. Prospective students have the opportunity to enter the school via various scholarships, including dance scholarships, which are awarded to gifted dancers who display talent and dedication to their craft.
“We are a school that acknowledges and celebrates individual talents,” shares Eunice Chung Lee, Head of School Operations. “We offer a range of part to full scholarships into the school, which students can apply for from March. And when students come into the school, where they can really flourish as a dancer and creative artist, they also have the freedom to explore other creative forms such as music, drama and visual arts. If they are passionate about dance we will harness that and award those students for their hard work and their talent.”
Entry to APGS with a dance scholarship is considered on a case-by-case basis, unlike the school bursaries which are solely means-tested – although a student can receive both if applicable. In addition to demonstrating talent as a dancer, prospective scholarship students do need to demonstrate some aptitude in academia too. “As a dance scholarship student, the requirement within the academic realm is a high level of focus and commitment to that,” explains Chung Lee. “In regards to the performing arts, the requirement is that they continue to take on dance as their major stream. Usually they take on at least two dance class electives out of their four blocks. For the remaining blocks, we want them to expand and explore other avenues.”
The dance classes at APGS offer valuable industry connections and the chance for students to work with some of New South Wales’ most prolific teachers. Students can study contemporary ballet with Talia Fowler, Hip-Hop with Robert Mejica, and jazz with Lauren Elton, to name a few. “At APGS, yes we are looking at the rigor of the academics, but we really pride ourselves in being able to expose the dancers to industry professionals on a weekly basis,” Chung Lee describes. “During school hours they have access to teachers who they may not have been able to learn from externally. It’s quite unique that within the context of a school setting they’re able to get that level of specialized technical and conceptual training.”
Chung Lee describes Dr Maya Gavish’ “Self Devised” class as one of the most popular class choices. This class crosses into the more conceptual development of dance, which builds the students’ skills for the requirements of HSC Dance in years 11 and 12. “I think a lot of people think of dance as quite commercialised, and that you just need really great technique,” Chung Lee says. “However, when you’re sitting HSC Dance somebody else is dancing your piece for you, so it’s very much about how sophisticated and mature you can be in putting together choreography and concepts. This is a dedicated class that really focuses on building the students’ ability to do that. We really pride ourselves in offering classes that are carefully crafted to supplement the students’ usual dance classes, and are a little bit different.”
HSC Dance is an important qualification for the students to achieve, and APGS encourages their junior students to learn through interaction with the year 11 and 12 HSC students. Junior students are relied on heavily for the HSC core performances. “We really encourage that cross-collaboration between different groups,” Chung Lee explains. “It’s an invaluable experience for the junior dancers to be involved in an HSC dance examination, because in a few years’ time they will have to do the same thing. The beauty of the school is that yes, they are in their age groups for academic classes, but within performing arts they are streamed according to ability. They dance with other students of different ages, different backgrounds, and different experiences, and they can draw so much quality learning that way. It tends to be that a junior dancer will have a chance to perform at HSC level more than once during their time at the school. The high frequency of these experiences is just phenomenal for the junior students.”
It’s clear that the APGS dance scholarships allow students who have a real passion for dance to develop their craft beyond good technique. “APGS is about empowering creativity,” Chung Lee shares. “For the dancers, it’s not just being able to replicate something really well. It’s about understanding the journey of concept to creation. It’s about ideas, and learning about movement alongside stage positioning and execution, because all of these things are required to create a piece. And students need to develop that skill set to be a well-rounded dancer.”
APGS’ dance scholarships are currently open for application, and there’s a simple four-step entry process. After completing the online application form, students will be contacted by APGS Admissions to book an audition date, and will then complete an entrance examination, audition and interview. Within a few weeks of this audition process, scholarship outcomes will be sent out.
Those who wish to be considered for a dance scholarship at APGS need to submit their application by May 31. The online application form can be found here.
Dance electives currently offered at APGS include:
- Hip-Hop – Robert Mejica
- Musical Theatre – Rose Shannon-Duhigg, Annabelle Rosewarne
- Self Devised – Dr Maya Gavish
- Contemporary Ballet – Talia Fowler
- Jazz – Lauren Elton
- Contemporary – Emma Harrison
- Acro – Michael Hughes
For more information on the Australian Performing Arts Grammar School, visit their website here.
Article by Emily Newton-Smith of Dance Informa.