Dream just out of reach

22:38, Nov 23 2013
Stephanie Watson
THIS CLOSE: Dancer Stephanie Watson may not be able to take her place at the NZ School of Dance.

If single mother Morag Watson can't come up with $24,000 in two months, her daughter's hard-earned place at the prestigious New Zealand School of Dance will be lost.

Her sons are living in the garage and she shares a bed with her daughter, Stephanie Watson. The two remaining rooms in their house are rented to boarders to help pay the bills.

Stephanie has been dancing since she was four. Now 16, she is the only contempory dancer in the South Island to be accepted into the dance school for next year. Applicants audition from all over the world for the 17 places available.

The school is based in Wellington and attendance will mean Stephanie living in a hostel by herself. While Studylink covers course fees of $6500, living costs, equipment, physio and all other costs must be met by the Watsons.

Stephanie auditioned for the school in August, having been given the nod by the school's head of contempory dance.

That same month, Morag was made redundant and during her eight-week job hunt, burned through her savings trying to feed her kids and pay the bills.


She has been employed again full-time for the last month.

"It's very hard financially for us, as it is, " she said. "We're still playing catch-up."

All up, Morag has worked out it will cost $400 a week for Stephanie to attend the course and live in Wellington. It is full-time, and then some, and the likelihood of her getting a job paying well enough to cover her costs is slim-to-none.

Stephanie will be attending rigorous classes five or six days a week, nine hours a day. Students are also expected to perform in local shows such at the World of Wearable Arts, and rehearsal times are haphazard.

On top of that, she will be cooking her own meals and doing Level 3 NCEA by correspondence, having already passed Levels 1 and 2 with excellence.

"I'm doing everything I can, " Morag said. "She's worked her butt off for this, and me trying to come up with $400 a week is pretty impossible.

"I just want her dream to come true, and it's just so awful I can't make it happen for her."

Stephanie's course starts in January and is a two-year programme, costing $24,000 a year. The best students are invited back for a third year. It is a pathway into a career as a contempory dancer and will give her the qualification needed to work overseas.

"Obviously, she's so young to be doing this, but she's so mature for her age, " Morag said. "As a parent, it's a pretty big deal to let her go up there by herself.

"But she's going to be amazing.

"It would just break my heart to see her miss out on this."

To donate to Stephanie's cause, visit: givealittle.co.nz/cause/nzschooldancecontemporary or email: morag.kids@xtra.co.nz.


The Press