For many young children, dance and singing lessons are enticing hobbies. But it’s a practice that takes great discipline and, as exams get more demanding and the lure of other pastimes becomes tougher to resist, lessons can often fall by the wayside in favour of part-time jobs, stricter study schedules or simply trying something different.
It’s becoming less and less common for children who start dance or singing lessons at a young age to continue right through to adulthood – and hence become experts at their craft – but at North Queensland Performing Arts (NQPA), students are encouraged to find a balance between exploring different performance styles and achieving mastery of the genre they like the best.
NQPA recently celebrated the high school graduations of five of its longest serving students: Casey Feltham, Mackenzie Hocking, Callysta Morris, Tiarna Riley and Lauren Tierney; most of whom have been taking lessons at NQPA since they were just four years old. Casey, who aspires to a career in musical theatre, said she had enjoyed the opportunity to try many different styles of song and dance over the past 13 years.
“There are a lot of places you can only sing pop, or you can only sing classical,” said Casey. “But with [NQPA owner and singing instructor] Sharon Ransom I’ve been able to do pretty much everything from classical to pop to musical theatre. No matter how I’m feeling, Sharon’s helped me be able to sing whatever I want, whenever I want.”
Under Sharon’s tutelage, Casey has been taught essential techniques from an expert in all three genres and been able to improve her musical theatre skills through complementary dance and acting lessons.
Tiarna discovered her love for hip-hop when it was added to NQPA’s offerings in 2012.
“I like that hip-hop is a bit more free than other genres,” Tiarna said. “It focuses more on how you move to express yourself rather than making sure your foot is at the right angle or your back is up straight. I’d seen hip-hop movies and hip-hop videos before and I thought it was pretty interesting. So I got into it, loved it and have stuck with it ever since.”
Now Tiarna is on track to teach the next generation of local hip-hop dancers, working on her Certificate IV in Dance Training and Management before she had finished high school.
“I’m working as a student teacher alongside some of the hip-hop teachers at NQPA and just getting an insight into how to teach and hopefully I can continue on with that,” she said.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Callysta who would also like to pursue a career teaching dance.
“I love working with little kids and I’d love to teach them and show them what I learnt from my teachers,” Callysta said.
The students have had some of their teachers the entire time they’ve been dancing, leading to a close bond and the confidence to try new things.
“It’s great to have the same teacher for so long,” said Mackenzie. “They know how we work, they know your strengths and your weaknesses, they become like a Dance Mum. Every time we come to class it’s like ‘oh, we’re back!’”
It’s plain to see that NQPA has given their long-term students much more than a hobby: they’ve made life-long friends, a performing arts family and meaningful steps towards a career in the industry while also learning the patience and persistence required to achieve their long-term goals.
Of course, they’ve become great performers, too: “I’ve learned technique, strength and knowledge of my body and movement,” said Lauren.
It’s a lot to gain all before graduating high