National Theatre Ballet School offers a peek behind its curtains

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Eka Mastrangelo, 19 was one of the leading dancers in the school’s mid-year gala.

Eka Mastrangelo, 19 was one of the leading dancers in the school’s mid-year gala.

By Kanika Sood

For one day, the National Theatre Ballet School opened its doors to the public, offering parents and future students a look inside the world of ballerinas.

The school’s annual open day began with a ballet workshop led by the dance school’s artistic director Beverly Jane Fry.

Ms Fry lined up the school’s senior class of full-time ballet students in their practice costumes to explain placement, stage terminology, lighting, and auditorium layout to a small crowd of attentive parents and children.

The sixteen students later changed into golden tutus and makeup to perform Paquita, a famous two-act ballet.

The school’s students took visitors on walking tours of the 97-year old building, stopping to show them ballet classes in session.

Ms Fry said she had no doubt people were still interested in ballet but suggested that its purpose may have changed.

“It seems to have come close to gymnastics. To want to be a ballet dancer is similar to want to be a gymnast but I think ballet will always be something that a little girl dreams about . . . I know I did!” she said.

Ms Fry is an acclaimed ballerina and has taught at the St Kilda school for seventeen years.

She said children could learn many things from ballet.

“It doesn’t matter if they want to be a dancer for their career . . . parents send their children to dance because it gives them so much more, it gives them team work, meeting people that they wouldn’t meet in their normal school.

“I like all the work and the effort that goes into it and the result that comes out at the end. I think that’s really nice,” Nicole Lowther, 19 said

“I like all the work and the effort that goes into it and the result that comes out at the end. I think that’s really nice,” Nicole Lowther, 19 said

“If you want your child to do something with discipline and poise and want them to have good posture for the rest of their life, for only those reasons it is a good idea,” she said.

The school’s youngest students are only three years old.

Part-time students train for four to five hours a week whereas full-time students put in 35 to 40 hours each week.

The school attracts students from many cultures.

Ms Fry’s assistant and ballet choreographer Mathew Thomson said the school’s diversity was “a testimony to what a universal language ballet is”.

Mr Thomson said dance shows like ‘Dancing with the Stars’ had made dance popular.

“Whether that has equalled a surge in ballet training, that’s really hard to quantify but I would say that there is mindset in the society that is much embracing of dance now,” he said.

Despite the acceptance, stiff competition awaits the graduating ballerinas.

Nicole Lowther, 19 has been studying ballet since her mother took her to a ballet class when she was six.

“I think the best thing I like about dancing is the final product when you are on the stage and you perform . . . I like all the work and the effort that goes into it and the result that comes out at the end. I think that’s really nice,” she said.

She gets her advanced diploma next year and plans to “just audition everywhere and hopefully get somewhere”.

“Definitely the competition side of it (is the hardest part) and there are so many people who want the same thing as you. So got to stand out above the crowd and then just try to be the best you can be really,” she said.

Last year two of the school’s graduates were hired by Western Australian Ballet.

The school has 500 ballet and drama students and employs 65 teachers. A full-time semester costs $2200.

National Theatre Ballet School’s senior class in the final scene of Paquita performed on the school’s open day. Photo: Kanika Sood

National Theatre Ballet School’s senior class in the final scene of Paquita performed on the school’s open day. Photo: Kanika Sood

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