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Transit High School Academy: A high school for dancers

Transit High School Academy students on stage in BPM. Photo by Paul Malek.
Transit High School Academy students on stage in BPM. Photo by Paul Malek.

If you could dream of your ideal schooling environment, it would be dancing around the clock, right? Transit High School Academy is the secondary schooling alternative for exceptional dance artists from Year 9 to 12. Specialising in professional development for contemporary dance and the performing arts, Transit Dance has built the infrastructure of a school environment to ensure a bright academic future and a fast-tracked career in the arts. 

Under the creative direction of Jayden Hicks and the academic coordination of Carly Doctor, this course is tailored to dance-minded students engaging in the crucial years of their education.

Transit High School Academy students in class. Photo by Chris Curran.
Transit High School Academy students in class. Photo by Chris Curran.

“We saw there were a lot of people wanting to drop their secondary education because they felt like black sheep in the mainstream schooling system,” says Hicks. “Their career goals and what they wanted to do with themselves post education were pushed to the side and not acknowledged.”

Transit’s primary focus was to ethically create a program that made space for young people and harnessed their passion with a well-rounded understanding of what a realistic career in the performing arts industry could look like. 

Transit High School Academy’s course structure encompasses an equal focus between academics and movement. The daily schedule begins with a fitness warm-up — cardio, yoga, Pilates — to awaken the body and mind, followed by a technique class (classical ballet, jazz and contemporary foundations). In the middle of the day, students work on the academic component that aligns with the Victorian Education Curriculum. Lastly, students wind down with a creative workshop, guest masterclass or choreographic rehearsals. 

Transit High School Academy student Lily Rose Munivrana. Photo by Paul Malek.
Transit High School Academy student Lily Rose Munivrana. Photo by Paul Malek.

“Students get to rest and recover after a full school day rather than going home and doing another four hours of dance at their studio,” Hicks adds.

Transit celebrates an exceptional lineup of tutors who come from all realms of the professional dance industry and are of the highest calibre. 

Artistic Director Paul Malek, a notable television choreographer (So You Think You Can Dance Australia, Dancing with the Stars Australia), explains how Transit’s approach to dance training is one of the unique things on offer.

“At Transit, we don’t just teach dance,” Malek says. “We teach young artists how to create a sustainable career in their chosen art form. We focus on each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and help them develop into the kind of dancer that fits their own unique personality. This is one reason why so many of our students go on to be successful in their fields.”

Transit High School Academy students celebrate at Graduation. Photo by Paul Malek.
Transit High School Academy students celebrate at Graduation. Photo by Paul Malek.

The academic component of the course is delivered online by Virtual School Victoria (VSV), based in Coburg. The students learn in the one classroom at Transit but undertake subjects relating to their own education under the guidance of an online subject tutor. VSV provides a learning advisor to help give the students a pathway to academic success and acts as a bridge between the education portal and Transit High School Academy. 

While striving for academic excellence is a priority, it is also about providing a sanctuary for students who can feel empowered to develop and excel without the social pressures that mainstream schooling can present.

Foundational Transit High School Academy student Grace Gemmel studied with the Academy for three years, receiving the VSV Academic Award for two consecutive years. Gemmel says she is thankful for the life-changing journey at Transit, which led to her studying acting at the prestigious WAAPA. “My time in the Transit Academy was life changing. I went from tolerating school to absolutely loving it, as Transit quickly became my second home. Every single day, I would wake up feeling incredibly excited, as every day held something new in store. The friendships I made and the lessons I learnt through dance, performances and school are something I will always hold dear to me.”

Transit High School Academy students heading to class. Photo by Chris Curran.
Transit High School Academy students heading to class. Photo by Chris Curran.

The students are guided to stay engaged in their studies by Academic Director Carly Doctor. She provides pastoral care for the students and acts as a role model for them, establishing connections to the students in meaningful ways.

“Carly was a dancer herself and did full time training, but she suffered a terrible fall and injured her knee, which stopped her career in her tracks,” Hicks explains. “She went back to university to become a school teacher. I think that the students knowing that Carly was a dancer but had to rely on her education is an invigorating approach for them to realise that a career in the arts is not just limited to dance performance.”

Applications for next year’s intake are already open with places filling fast. To apply or learn more about this program, visit www.transitdance.net/academy.

By Jessica Poulter.

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