A big­ger stage beck­ons

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - CARLY THOMAS

A Palmer­ston North man on the cusp of a danc­ing ca­reer says tour­ing with the Royal New Zealand Bal­let is help­ing make his dream be­come a re­al­ity.

Luke Cooper, 18, is in his third and fi­nal year at the New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) and he is one of four stu­dents from the school who are danc­ing in The Wiz­ard of Oz.

He said it was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘It is very cool. It’s been me at the RNZB 24/7, my whole life has shifted up here. We are to­tally part of it.’’

The bal­let is tour­ing for six weeks and has four casts.

Cooper per­forms the mati­nees and school per­for­mances and dances the parts of a fly­ing mon­key and an Emer­ald City dancer.

The fly­ing mon­key role has been par­tic­u­larly tricky for Cooper, who has to wear a long skirt and a black hood that present a chal­lenge.

‘‘It is dif­fi­cult, but I am lucky be­cause I share with some­body from the first cast and he is a lit­tle bit shorter than I am so it is a lit­tle bit fur­ther off the floor. The mask is an added com­pli­ca­tion but it’s good. Chal­lenge is good.’’

Cooper started danc­ing when he was five with Amy MacDonald and then moved to Michelle Robin­son in his fi­nal years as prepa­ra­tion for the NZSD.

‘‘It was re­ally good to have them both, it gave me so much more hav­ing had two dif­fer­ent teach­ers. Amy gave me my ba­sis and Michelle re­ally got me ready to au­di­tion for school.’’

He danced with the RNZB last year in Don Quixote and said he would love to join the com­pany when he grad­u­ates.

But he un­der­stands that it de­pends on what the com­pany is look­ing for at the time.

‘‘I would love to travel around with the RNZB. I re­ally like this com­pany. I’d re­ally like to work with them but it may not be on the cards.

‘‘Hope­fully there is a bal­let com­pany some­where for me.’’

The RNZB’s artis­tic direc­tor Francesco Ven­triglia has been de­vel­op­ing the re­la­tion­ship with the com­pany and the school since he came on board in 2014 and he said hav­ing stu­dents on stage is real on the job train­ing.

‘‘Af­ter they grad­u­ate it means they will be ready to dance with us and that is an in­cred­i­bly good thing and that is some­thing that we have to take care of.’’

The RNZB’s tour of The Wiz­ard of Oz runs un­til June 16 with a per­for­mance at Palmer­ston North’s Re­gent on Broad­way on June 9.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Palmer­ston North dancer Luke Cooper in re­hearsal for the Royal New Zealand Bal­let’s pro­duc­tion of The Wiz­ard of Oz.

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