15-year-old Wingham based dancer, Lauren Deegenaars, has just been accepted into Brent Street Dance Academy in Sydney for 2013. Her successful audition into the well known dance school means Lauren and her mother, Annette, will relocate to Sydney, as Lauren pursues her dream to become a world-class dancer.
How long have you been dancing, and what inspired your initial love of dance?
I have been dancing for nearly 12 years, as I started dancing when I was four years old. Mum says that I was dancing before I could walk! Apparently I used to get so excited whenever I heard music and just started bouncing up and down, so I guess I have always loved it and was destined to be a dancer. Once I started dance classes, there was no stopping me!
Who is your local dance teacher, and what are the most invaluable things your teacher has imparted to you about becoming an accomplished dancer?
I attend Sherrianne Christie Dance and Talent Academy in Taree three days a week, and I am taught by Sherrianne and Vanessa Gill. Vanessa is an ex-student of the school and as a young child, I always looked up to her. She has had much success as a dancer, and I am grateful to now be able to learn from her, not only about dance technique, but also performance skills, attitude and work ethic.
Vanessa is a wonderful role model to all of her students and works hard to encourage us to be the best that we can be. I think the most invaluable things that she has imparted to me are to always strive to do your best, to work hard to achieve your goals, to not be afraid to give everything a go and always be willing to learn and further your craft.
What is your most loved dance genre?
I study Classical Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Bollywood and Cabaret and enjoy all of them, but my favourite styles are Commercial Jazz, Hip Hop and Contemporary. As these styles are less disciplined, they allow me to add my own individuality to my performances, which I love. I enjoy the energy and pace of Jazz and Hip Hop, and I love how Contemporary Dance is such an expression of the music and is open to interpretation by the dancer and audience.
Is there an element of dance which you don’t enjoy?
I am so passionate about dance and performing in general, that there is very little that I don’t enjoy! Even though your muscles get sore and tired, I love to work on my strength and flexibility, because it is such a great feeling when you all of a sudden get that little bit lower in a split or can do 10 more pushups than the last time. I guess the only things I don’t enjoy are the ingrown toenails and blisters on my feet!
Which dancers do you most admire and why?
I have been fortunate to have been taught by many of my dance idols this year when I attended the Brent Street Summer and Winter Camps. I greatly admire Morgan Choice and Renee Ritchie, who I would describe as fierce dancers because of the way they attack the choreography of any dance they perform.
I also think that former Brent Street students, Samm Hagen and Mitchell Woodcock, are very inspirational. Apart from being talented performers, they have worked really hard to achieve their dreams, and at a young age are experiencing the success that I hope to attain one day.
The one dancer that I admire the most is a current Brent Street Academy student named Michael Dameski. He is amazingly talented, and his dedication to his craft is so inspirational. I also love American choreographers Mia Michaels, Sonya Tayeh and Tabitha and Napoleon, as they are all so passionate, creative and talented.
You recently successfully auditioned for Brent Street in Sydney and commence training at the school in Sydney in 2013 – congratulations! For the audition you were required to dance, sing and perform a dramatic piece … Tell us about the audition process and how you got through it?
The audition is quite an involved process. Although they conducted a group audition, I was invited to audition privately, along with other students from across NSW and interstate, in July. On the morning of the audition, I was given a tour of the studios and got to watch a class rehearsing for a show. I then went into one of the empty studios to warmup, until they called for me.
I had to perform for a panel of five Brent Street Artistic Council members, including Cameron Mitchell, who is the Artistic Director. They were very friendly and made me feel at ease. I performed my song first, which was Show Me from My Fair Lady, and then I performed a dramatic monologue from the film, Dogma. I then performed three dance routines – a Jazz, a Lyrical and a Tap. After that, I was interviewed by the panel, who asked me questions such as, “Why would you like to be a student at Brent Street Academy?” and, “What will you do about moving to Sydney if you get in?”
They explained how much work it would be and wanted to make sure that I was prepared for that and able to handle it. I was really nervous the night before the audition, but on the day I just felt really excited. I love Brent Street, and it was my ultimate goal to be able to study there. Even though there are lots of great performing arts schools, Brent Street was the number one choice for me. I felt confident when I walked out of the room, but I really had no idea whether I had a chance of getting in or not. I just went in with the attitude that I would give it my best, be myself, be confident, show them how passionate I am about dance and performing and how much I wanted to be a student there.
At the very least, I was happy to gain experience in an audition process.
Do you consider making it into Brent Street as being the first rung on the ladder to a successful career in dance?
Absolutely. A career in dance is all I have ever wanted, so being able to attend the Brent Street Performing Arts Academy is a dream come true. So many successful commercial dancers and musical theatre performers have trained there, before going on to great success in the industry.
The training that Brent Street provides not only promotes strong, skilled performers in dance, vocal and acting, but also instills in its students the personal attributes required to succeed. The teachers and staff at Brent Street, while pushing you to excel and work really hard, promote a very supportive atmosphere.
I am so excited about starting there next year and becoming a part of the Brent Street family. Dance is such a competitive industry, so this will give me a huge leg-up for sure.
What advice do you have for other young aspiring dancers?
I think that dance is a wonderful way to keep fit and have fun for anyone. It can help build self confidence, self discipline and social skills. For those who are serious about a dancing career and have that passion for performing, I think that the best advice I can give is to work really hard, push yourself to achieve beyond where you think you can and don’t give up.
Always listen to your teachers, be enthusiastic in class and be prepared to give everything a go – you never know what you may be capable of! Dream big and most of all, love what you do.
Interview by Karen Farrell.
This story was published in issue 67 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus