New Tanya Pearson Academy directors reposition for the future

Tanya Pearson Academy. Photo courtesy of TPA.
Tanya Pearson Academy. Photo courtesy of TPA.

In a major win for the Sydney arts community, the world-renowned ballet and dance school, Tanya Pearson Academy (TPA), has relocated to purpose-built, state-of-the-art facilities under its new ownership. The opening of the expansive new premises in St Leonards is the first step in an extensive evolution of the Academy by the new Directors Xanthe Geeves and Gregor Thieler, who have privately funded the school’s expansion and evolution, whilst bringing decades of experience to the school.

Both professional dancers, Geeves and Thieler were approached directly by the Pearson family in 2020, to discuss taking over the prestigious school due to the impressive work done through their establishment of the Sydney College of Dance. At the time, TPA was facing multiple issues – COVID had shut down in-person teaching; TPA’s existing premises were due for demolition, and with the passing of the school’s iconic namesake, the pair responded to the huge challenges hanging over one of Australia’s most prestigious dance academies.

Bringing their extensive professional dance and college management experience to TPA, the partners immediately focused on continuing the legacy of the school whilst revolutionising the delivery of professional dance education through virtual classes, mental health support and even online masterclasses with some of the world’s greatest principal dancers. Geeves and Thieler have also introduced a holistic approach to dance that ensures students enjoy a focus on receiving individual guidance, something that the Sydney College of Dance was renowned for, with the aim of providing dancers an education that reflects the expectations of today’s culture and international professional ballet organisations.

Creating a state-of-the-art environment was priority one, and the custom-built new premises is modelled after New York’s School of American Ballet. Flowing over two levels, there are seven dance studios as well as educational and exercise spaces and a rehabilitation/physiotherapy room, creating the ultimate location for dancers to learn, particularly those seeking to become professionals in the field. Planned by Inkarchitects and Colebrook Developments, the new facility was constructed by Belmadar and Harlequin with the purpose to create the most optimal and healthy training environment for young dancers in Australia. Unlike the old TPA studios, the new facilities in St Leonards have been fitted with purpose-built sprung floors, something considered vital to optimising dancer comfort and minimising the risk of injury.

Thieler says of the design, “Dancers are training like elite sports athletes, and in the sports world, athletes are surrounded by a team of sport psychologists, nutritionists, mentors and physiotherapists. I always thought that this aspect was missing in the dance world — utilising optimal support from different experts to really focus on the individual and their development as a unique artist.’

Since taking the helm at the Academy, Geeves and Thieler have also used their extensive and global networks to create a roster of visiting elite guest dancers from some of the world’s most respected ballet companies. Providing priceless experiences and opportunities, some of these guest dancers performed with academy students at last year’s first ever Sydney International Ballet Gala, a world-class production conceived by Geeves and Thieler. Since taking the helm, the duo also coordinated professional auditions with some of the world’s best artists and directors for students of TPA. Upcoming auditions and workshops will be hosted by Olivier Vercoutere, ballet master of the Bavarian Junior Ballet Company, Munich. In addition, the new owners set about establishing  synergistic partnerships, including with the Sydney Youth Orchestra which resulted in the production of a full-length ballet with a complete live orchestra in 2022, and this year with Ausdance to support emerging Australian choreographers by providing rehearsal space within the new Tanya Pearson Arts Centre.

Local MP Mr Tim James, recently visited the new TPA premises and was so impressed he went on to discuss the school in parliament, stating, “I had the great pleasure to visit [the Tanya Pearson Arts Centre’s] new home, and witness the talented ballerinas and dancers perform. This new state-of-the-art arts centre is an impressive purpose-built facility boasting seven studios. The new facilities will ensure that generations of students continue to learn and flourish. I congratulate Xanthe Geeves and Gregor Thieler on realising this vision. I am grateful for the wonderful contribution the Tanya Pearson Academy makes to our cultural life.”

To Top