Teach­ing dance a life­long pas­sion

The Tribune (NZ) - - WHAT'S ON - BOB WATSON

Pass­ing on the pas­sion and the love of dance has been Mau­reen Ax’s life­long am­bi­tion, and this pas­sion was recog­nised in this year’s Queens Birth­day Hon­ours when Mau­reen was made a Mem­ber of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit (MNZM) for her ser­vices to youth and dance.

At the in­vesti­ture last month, Mau­reen was given the fur­ther hon­our of din­ing with Gov­er­nor Gen­eral Dame Patsy Reddy.

‘‘This was a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence to be hon­oured in this way and one I’ll never for­get.’’

Mau­reen’s pas­sion for dance be­gan as a 7-year old when she first be­gan learn­ing bal­let and while she loved to dance she had a deeper de­sire.

‘‘I al­ways wanted to teach, even as a young girl I would play the part of danc­ing teacher to my other friends and when I was 15 the op­por­tu­nity came up to be an ap­pren­tice dance teacher. This was in 1962 and in 1964 I went out on my own and started my own dance stu­dio.

‘‘The beauty of dance is that it teaches im­por­tant life skills in­clud­ing both men­tal and phys­i­cal dis­ci­pline, co­or­di­na­tion and the most valu­able les­son of all; a love of dance and the en­joy­ment you can get out of danc­ing.’’

The Mau­reen Ax School of Dance teaches all forms of dance in­clud­ing bal­let, jazz, con­tem­po­rary, hip hop and tap. Mau­reen en­cour­ages her stu­dents to start on bal­let as she says this pro­vides the ba­sis for all other forms of dance. After learn­ing the ba­sics, stu­dents can then add other dance forms to their reper­toire.

‘‘I have a large num­ber of stu­dents who will be in­volved in two or three dif­fer­ent styles of dance and some would be here ev­ery day of the week if they could. I en­cour­age my stu­dents to sit the dance ex­ams as it gives them some­thing to work to­wards and some­thing to achieve. Sim­i­larly with com­pe­ti­tions, as they pro­vide the stu­dents with a chal­lenge and it doesn’t mat­ter nec­es­sar­ily where they come in a com­pe­ti­tion so long as they have done the best they can, and given their best per­for­mance. Both com­pe­ti­tions and ex­ams also help stu­dents to learn how to con­trol their nerves and as a friend once said to me: ‘Get all those but­ter­flies fly­ing in the same di­rec­tion’.’’

Stu­dents have plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to per­form at both re­gional and na­tional com­pe­ti­tions and, with the Rus­sian Bal- let in town last week, 38 of Mau­reen’s stu­dents had the once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity to ac­tu­ally dance on stage along­side the pro­fes­sional dancers.

‘‘The more op­por­tu­ni­ties that stu­dents get to per­form then the greater their con­fi­dence. We re­cently took a small group to Dis­ney­land where the stu­dents not only got to per­form on stage but were also taken through an au­di­tion which was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.’’

All Mau­reen’s stu­dents, from the 4 year olds to the late teens, will be in­volved in their an­nual pro­duc­tion which is on De­cem­ber 3 and 4 at the Re­gent on Broad­way. ’’This is called a Dance Ex­trav­a­ganza and will in­clude all forms of dance plus a spe­cial fea­ture called ‘Down the Rab­bit Hole’. The pub­lic are wel­come es­pe­cially all as­pir­ing young dancers.’’

Dance classes run Mon­day to Fri­day from 3.30pm with ju­niors un­til late evening for the se­nior dancers and Satur­days 9am un­til 1.30pm. For more in­for­ma­tion on classes, timeta­bles and fees give Mau­reen a call on 0274448483 or visit her web­site www.mau­reenax­dance.co.nz.

With such an out­stand­ing ca­reer, Mau­reen has a long list of ac­co­lades but she takes most pride in what her stu­dents have achieved, whether it is sim­ply the life skills and love of dance or those stu­dents who have pur­sued ca­reers in dance, ei­ther as pro­fes­sional bal­let dancers, work­ing in mu­si­cal the­atre or be­com­ing dance teach­ers like her­self. Her goal has al­ways been for stu­dents to learn the love of dance in a car­ing and pro­fes­sional en­vi­ron­ment.

Mau­reen Ax School of Dance stu­dents per­form What Do You Mean? a fi­nal­ist in the Na­tional Young Per­former com­pe­ti­tion.

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