Bright Young Things
Palmerston North dance teacher Dean McKerras is thrilled that three of his senior students have successfully auditioned for tertiary dance study in Wellington and Sydney.
Taryn Baxter, 17, has won a place on the Whitireia Diploma of Performing Arts Dance programme, while David Mock, 17, and Connor Allen, 18, are heading to Sydney - David to the Brent Street Studio to do a diploma of musical theatre, and Connor to Ettingshausens to do a certificate 4 in dance.
Mr McKerras says they put in hours of practice to achieve this success.
"They each have different strengths," he says. "As a teacher you can provide them with the work to do but it's up to them to lift that standard and achieve. It's absolutely fantastic. I get much pleasure out of seeing them achieve throughout the year so this is a complete bonus."
Taryn has been dancing for more than six years, starting off with jazz, hip-hop and tap, but says jazz and hip-hop were the styles she stuck with.
"Dancing's something I love doing and I lose myself in the movements and the music," she says. "It clicks for me. It's not an option - it's something I want to do, it's part of my life. Jazz is very stylish and unique and it makes me feel so much happier and quirkier and likeable on stage."
David has been dancing for about eight years and says his first experience of dance was ballet. He thought it would be fun but soon found the type of dancing at the Dean McKerras School of Dance was more his style.
"Dean catered for us, and jazz struck me as a lot of fun and with him I did jazz, hip-hop, tap and classical. I like putting lots of energy into dance. When Dean does something jazzy, funky and energetic, I could dance for hours and hours. I love them all evenly and through him I learned the rhythms and the beats and with tap how to make music with your feet so it's more than the visual. With jazz I love the funk and the expression and the movements and how varied it can be."
David has appeared in some Palmerston North musical theatre productions, including Hairspray last year, and says it's an area of dance he'd like to focus on.
"It's something I just do," says David. "You can't stop dancing when you're a dancer. It's an unstable industry; you do it because you have to . . . some guys like guns or running or sports but for me I feel really alive on stage."
Connor has tried all styles of dance - jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, funk, ballet and modern dance. He applied to three dance schools and was accepted by all of them.
"I did weigh them up," he says. "I'm more into dance - I'm not a great singer or actor, so I want to focus on the dance side."
Connor is looking forward to going on to tertiary study, particularly continuing with what he has been doing part time.
"I'm just going to put my energy into dance now. I'm moving on from what I've been doing for the last 13 years and I get to share a lot of time with people who've got similar dreams. At the end of the day it's a great way to relax and blow off steam and it's a great way to express yourself."
A few years ago another student of the school, Kieran van Bunnick, went on to study dance in Sydney and David says he was inspired by his success.
Mr McKerras says everything is more accessible to dance students today because of the internet.
"Young performers realise they can do anything. They have access to anything and they can see what other people are doing. That's the way it happens today and it means the competition is higher. David did a video for his audition and put it on YouTube, which is a pretty amazing way of doing it."
All three credit Mr McKerras with helping them do so well.
"Dean empowers us; he is full of life and when he's dancing we're full of life too," says David.
- © Fairfax NZ News