Lifelong love of teaching ballet
An early experience with snobby ballerinas convinced Deborah Hale her career needed to celebrate everybody’s talent.
Whitby resident Hale, 57, is celebrating 40 years as a dance teacher.
She was 17 when she took over her studio from Valerie Scanlon, her own dance teacher.
The Deborah Hale School of Dance started under the Canopies but now serves 60 pupils at Pataka as Dance Plus Performance Studio.
She is also a dance examiner and serves on the New Zealand Association of Modern Dance executive committee.
When Hale was 12, her parents scraped together the money to send her to a summer ballet school. The experience convinced her she wanted to be a teacher, not a dancer.
‘‘I found the ballet dancers not nice to the younger generation, and snobby, and thought, ‘I don’t want to be like that. I want to support and embrace everyone’s talent, whether they’re good or bad,’’’ she said.
Children gained confidence and goalsetting skills from dance, and it was not
their necessary for children to be great dancers to profit, Hale said.
In fact, often the more determined students found success more easily than the naturally talented, she said.
‘‘Some parents think you have to be good at it. You just have to love it.’’
One of Hale’s most successful protegees is Rebecca Sutherland, who now collaborates with lyricist Tim Rice in London’s West End.
‘‘She’s amazing. I’m so proud of her, but I’m proud of all of them,’’ she said.
Sharn Te Pou and Jared Pallesen are also successful former students, as is Hale’s son Landen, 18. At 11 he earned a two-year run as Billy Elliot in Melbourne.
All Hale’s children – Landen, Joel, 31, and Allie, 22 – developed independence early on, cooking dinner for themselves while their mother taught late into the evening.
The family often danced in local productions or at community events, Hale said.
‘‘We’ve had a lot of fun over the years, performing for the community.’’
She said that over 40 years children had become more assertive about their lessons, and that in 1973 they pretty well did what they were told.
‘‘The pretty dress was enough,’’ Hale said.
‘‘These days everyone makes children think a lot more.
‘‘ You’ve got to capture passion first of all.’’
Hale watches TV to make sure she keeps up with the latest dance styles and hip-hop moves. ‘‘You’ve got to keep up to date.’’ The toughest year of her career was 2003, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She said she remembered having to teach a jazz class right after a chemotherapy session.
‘‘You have to keep your business going, that’s life.’’
Now cancer- free, she said the experience gave her a new lease on life.
‘‘It wakes you up. I feel very lucky to have survived it.’’
Beautiful Dreamer, Dance Plus Performance Studio’s end- of- year production, Pop-Up Porirua Little Theatre, 4 Lydney Place, December 6, 7pm; December 7 and December 8, 3pm. Adults $20, children $15. Tickets at the door or contact 021 216 7195.
Kapi-Mana News has a double pass to give away for the December 6 night show. Email firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm Wednesday, December 4 with ‘‘Hale’’ in the message line.
Many memories: Deborah Hale, who is celebrating four decades of teaching dance in Porirua. pictured with her pupils Lyla Suter, 5, left, Corri Katene, 4, and Tamsin Smith, 4.