Academy of Dance’s Elite program is part-time after-school training designed to develop young, dedicated and talented dancers to a pre-professional level through specialised and methodical training. Students attend classes in a variety of genres and dance theory topics, all in a focused environment where specialised teachers guide and assist them in a holistic and dedicated manner. It’s an exciting place to be for aspiring dancers and pre-professionals.
This year, auditions will be held via Zoom on Sunday 17 October, and positions are limited for this thrilling training program. Here, we speak with Program Manager Amelia Homes about Academy of Dance’s elite program and what students can expect from the experience.
“So having the elite program, they’re getting a very wholistic, well-grounded program,” Homes says. “So we teach them styles like jazz, ballet, and tap, and we have added vocals this year. We do competitions, but we really have a strong focus on really well-grounded technique. It’s a 50-50 split during their week between practical technical lessons and then performance lessons.”
Clearly, the program is designed to build strong, versatile dancers. However, Homes and team are very conscious to provide not only a rigorous program but also one that is going to promote longevity in a career, with a balance of healthy mental and physical well-being. While students attend core classes in jazz, ballet, strength and conditioning, acrobatics, performance preparation and more, training is conducted over two nights during the week as well as Saturday afternoons, which allow for rest days in between to allow the body to repair itself to minimise injury and avoid burnout.
The elite program is a relatively new one for Academy of Dance. Just a couple of years ago, Homes explains, the Academy was primarily a school with daily class offerings, but then students started to want more and more. So the elite dance program was formed last year, and even despite the COVID pandemic, it has thrived and now trains 70 elite young dancers.
So what has contributed to this success? “We’re a huge family at Academy of Dance,” Homes says, “right from the staff through to the families and the students, and we have a beautiful new building that we all love. Everyone is very welcoming and open. But we also provide a holistic training. So mental health is really important to us. We’re always there to support our dancers. In the classroom, we still do train them hard, but we’re trying to give them as many opportunities as we can.”
The program emphasises correct technique, placement, dynamics and performance quality, and students also cover dance theory including anatomy, nutrition, injury prevention, mechanics of movement, history, stagecraft and music theory. Opportunities throughout the program are provided for the students to undertake practical application of this training through performance work, auditions, competitions and external workshops.
So while Academy of Dance’s elite program will most definitely hone strong, versatile dancers who will become valuable in the industry, Homes says she also wants dancers to achieve the best version of themselves, inside and outside of the studio.
“You know, it’s not just trying to be dancers and professional dancers, which is, of course, the goal, but also just being great people, which is very important in this industry going forward,” she says.
Academy of Dance also offers an extension program – a third weekday evening that can be tailored for Elite Dance students who want to maximise their skill progression. For those students completing their VCE in Year 12, the Academy offers an optional compressed Elite Dance program which is one evening a week and Saturday afternoon. This supports those who are wanting to balance elite dance training with their academic study. Students in Years 10–12 also have the option of adding VCE VET Dance to their program to have their elite training count toward their ATAR score and Certificate II in Dance.
The upcoming audition will be held live via Zoom and will be open to students from anywhere. The audition form can be found here.
“In the audition, they’re going to do some jazz technique, and of course, we’ll look at some ballet technique,” Homes explains. “But we’re looking for dancers who are committed and who are dedicated but also have a huge passion for dance. Because we can train any dancer to have good technique, but if they don’t come open to the room, you’re always fighting an uphill battle. So we’re looking for passionate, dedicated, open dancers.”