Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Melbourne City of Dance

Photo © The Australian Ballet Studios

Since arriving in Australia, the last three weeks have flown by and I have settled into life in Melbourne. Melbourne is a really cool city, very clean, easy to navigate and arty. But the biggest thing I have noticed is that there is a massive dance scene here. There are adult classes in everything from ballroom to hip-hop to ballet, and a good range of levels.  

Obviously, I’ve come to Australia for my placement in costume department at the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia, gaining industry experience for when I graduate. But that hasn’t stopped me from taking the opportunity to take class out here; because of course it is important to take class to keep good form.

The first dance class I took part in was actually a Salsa class at The Salsa Foundation. I was invited to join in by a guy I met on my flight to Melbourne from Hong Kong.  Having touched the basics of Salsa whilst on holiday in Cuba three years ago, I was a little apprehensive as to whether I would be able to keep up with the class. Especially as I took part in a Level 1.5 class – focussing on teaching partner work, lots of turns and cross body leads – so the basic steps are essential!

The class was extremely busy, there was a surprising male turn out, but as to be expected women dominated the class.  

They split the group into three lines of men and women. The excess women were spaced in-between couples, so at points you would dance by yourself, as the women would rotate and change partners roughly every 5 minutes or so. I feel this is a good way to learn the steps as you’re not always with the same partner. I also think it is great that rather than some women learning the male steps you really had a chance to get the female steps ingrained into your mind. It was a fun evening, I managed to keep up and it was enjoyable to let my body move loosely and freely for a change. Rather relaxing. The class cost $15, which I think is pretty reasonable, as the instructors are really informative and entertaining. The beginner’s class is also free. 

Following this, I have taken a few weekly ballet classes, repertoire classes and pointe classes. The classes I have attended are at the Australian Ballet Studios and City Dance Centre in Armadale (south Melbourne).

The Australian Ballet Studios is a great option when looking for classes in the city centre of Melbourne, they offer Pilates, Jazz, Contemporary, Ballet and Repertoire.  They also have a fantastic set of teachers – incredibly knowledgeable professionals. You really are getting your moneys worth here. When you register to take classes, your first week with them is absolutely free, which is why I took the opportunity to get involved in so many classes after that each class has a set price. A ballet class is $28, but you can buy class passes, which work out cheaper in the long run.

To take part in repertoire class you have to take a Level 2 or Level 3 ballet class beforehand – this is important so that you obviously warm up, but also so that you can keep up with learning the choreography.  I’ve been taking the level 2 classes, which is the equivalent of an intermediate class. Technically challenging but not too overwhelming. Like in any class you start at the barre with plies and tendus, grand battements and frappes too, amongst other steps.  After the barre, we then move into the centre and do a lovely port de bras, a variation of turns and jumps. The truly wonderful thing about the classes here is that there is a live piano accompaniment – something I haven’t experienced much, so that really has given me the opportunity to work on my musicality.

The teachers I’ve had for repertoire and ballet have been Jessica Thompson, Justine Miles and Roland Cox. In repertoire with Justine Miles we have been learning Balanchine’s Serenade and with Jessica Thompson we have been learning Seguidilla from Don Quixote. Both are very challenging pieces but fun to learn.

On a Saturdays, I have been attending ballet class and pointe class at City Dance Centre. The classes cost $20 for ballet and $10 for pointe (this however is the student price, a full price list is available here). The classes are taught by Sakura Shimizu who has danced with the Hamburg Ballet and Singapore Dance Theatre to name a few. Ballet class again as to be expected starts with barre and works into the centre with a variety of travelling sequences.

Pointe class has been particularly enjoyable for me and I feel I have made a lot of progress. I only started doing pointe in November, doing only 10 minutes at the end of class, so I feel rather pleased that I am able to keep up with a 30-minute class.  We start pointe facing the barre with tendus working our intrinsic muscles and getting our feet warm. Then rises and relevsés in first and second position, followed by échappés and rises in fifth.  Next we pas de boureé with the foot coming to sur le cou-de-pied (Not necessarily the correct name for the step – but that was the only way I could think of how to describe it!). We then turn side on to the barre and pique to retire travelling forward three times. On the final piqué  we come up to arabesque. Following this we move into the centre and do rises in first and échappés again – this I find particularly challenging without the barre but I feel I am making progress and getting stronger. We have then been doing preparation for pique turns and courus across the floor. I really love doing the courus as I feel so elegant and dainty, like a fairy (despite the loud noise my Grishko's make).

There are many other dance schools in Melbourne that offer ballet classes, but as I don’t have a lot of money and I like repetition, I have happily settled into taking the classes at the Australian Ballet Studios and City Dance Centre.

With just a week and a half left in Melbourne I will be sad to leave these classes behind. I’m also incredibly sad that my placement with the Australian Ballet is coming to a close at the end of this week. I have loved every minute working with the wonderful wardrobe department, gaining incredible experience, which I will value for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, although I would love to be able to share what costumes I have been working on for the ballet, I am not publicly allowed to do so. I would hope that you as readers would respect and understand this. 

Most importantly, I hope that this post will give you a good insight into the dance scene in Melbourne.

Amelia x

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