Three dancers from the Andrea Rowsell Academy of Dance (ARAD) in Taree will continue their training with The Australian Ballet this year, as part of the Intrastate/Interstate/International Training Program.
Jasinta Birchall, 12, from Taree and Wil Hellstedt, 12, from Old Bar head into their third year (level three), while Esther Smith, 11, from Wingham, is heading into her second year (level two).
Re-acceptance into the program is an achievement.
“You audition every time you go there,” said Esther. “They can just go, no”.
“If they like you, you get put up to the next level,” added Wil.
What I like about it is that it’s a good experience for them to tell you what you need to work on.Jasinta Birchall
The three travel to Melbourne for a week during the year and there is also a session in Sydney for about four days in March.
Classes include ballet, classical, character and contemporary as well as creative dance and even psychology.
“What I like about it is that it’s a good experience for them to tell you what you need to work on,” said Jasinta.
“It’s good to meet all the teachers and make new friends. I usually go in September but this year I'm going in April. We usually do it for a week, or five days.”
Esther also enjoys the experience with other teachers.
“They do stuff differently and I can learn new stuff,” she said.
“It pushes me and challenges me and it always gives me a reason to work hard.”
For Wil, one of the highlights is the chance to dance with just boys, to bond with those boys for a week and learn from male teachers.
“Also just getting to relate to other boys and get to talk about boy things. They all understand what you’re going through.
It pushes me and challenges me and it always gives me a reason to work hard.Esther Smith
“The support from the teachers is always positive and all the boys are really encouraging.”
He also likes the push the program gives him to improve.
“I love a good push and to be challenged and it’s a great feeling dancing on a stage and making people happy,” said Wil.
All three feel fortunate for the opportunity.
Jasinta has been dancing since she was four and said it was “amazing” to have been accepted for a third year.
“It’s just unbelievable. I can’t believe I actually got in there. When I got in the first year I cried. I thought I probably wouldn’t get in...I was excited.”
Esther is starting her sixth year of dancing with ARAD an said her favourite style of dance is ballet.
She said she was also excited to be heading back into The Australia Ballet program this year, and was thrilled to be accepted in the first place.
“I was screaming in the car. My mum gave me the letter in the car.”
I love a good push and to be challenged and it’s a great feeling dancing on a stage and making people happy.Wil Hellstedt
Wil started dancing in Wollongong when he was three and became an ARAD student when his family moved to the Manning Valley.
Ballet is his favourite and he said he’s excited to get back into the program.
“I was jumping and so bubbly and excited. I can’t believe I’ve been re-accepted. I’m so excited to see my other friends.”
Dance school principal Andrea Rowsell said all three dancers were talented in their own way and she believes that are getting a lot out of the experience, which includes dancing alongside other elite students.
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