Teaching dance a lifelong passion
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.