Teen to transform into prince
Three years of fulltime dance study at a Michigan arts academy leaves Blenheim dancer Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson ready for more.
But before he returns to the United States to start a four-year degree at Juilliard School in New York, he will dance as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake with the Marlborough Dance Centre.
Ninety-five of its dancers, aged from 4 to 30, are being directed by Jeannie Mark for the classic ballet production. Joshua, 17, is looking forward to joining them in the final rehearsals as everyone prepares for the show, starting on July 6.
Much of his childhood was spent in Blenheim and his grandparents, Barbara and Mike Guillemot, still live here. Joshua and his mother, Dee, were at their house last Friday and he had time for a half-hour chat before racing off to be a judge at the weekend's Blenheim dance competitions.
Competitions help young dancers grow, says Joshua, whose own career started when he was 4. A brief infatuation with ballroom dancing was followed by 10 years of tap before he started learning ballet.
Ballet offered more long-term career opportunities than tap, he says. And a year after he had switched codes, he won a scholarship to study at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Traverse City, northern Michigan.
For three years he followed its timetable: academic studies in the morning, five hours of dance classes in the afternoon. Then, conscious his ballet training was eight or 10 years behind his contemporaries, Joshua did extra dance training in the evenings.
His efforts paid off and last month he graduated from the academy with its "most outstanding citizen award". He also won an award for English, received the 10th highest mark for French in the United States and was accepted into the Juilliard School in New York. He goes there in August to start a four-year fine arts degree in dance.
A scholarship covers Joshua's tuition fees but he still has to find a way of financing day-to-day living costs.
A Juilliard degree is seen as a "gold ticket" for dancers, though, with graduates enjoying a 100 per cent employment rate, Joshua says.
With the wide horizons of youth, his career ambitions include joining the Netherlands Dance Theatre - one of the best groups he has seen perform - or if he returns home, the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Then, as he ages and younger dancers compete for lead roles, he sees choreography or teaching dance as likely career options.
In the meantime, there are steps to perfect for his role in Swan Lake and he is looking forward to working with Jeannie Mark, her daughter, Gabrielle, who will dance as the White Swan, and Kelly Webster, the Black Swan.
Swan Lake is one of the most famous ballets in the world and also one of the most difficult, the young dancer reckons.
Swan Lake will be performed at 6.30pm on Friday, July 5, and Saturday, July 6, then 2pm on Sunday, July 8, at the Floor Pride Civic Theatre, Blenheim.
The Marlborough Express