Young dancer puts best foot forward
Fresh from dancing in the Imperial Russian Ballet Company’s touring production of The Nutcracker in the Regent on Broadway last November, Levin dancer Tilly O’Neill is excited by her new year challenges.
In October, the 13-year-old, a pupil of Palmerston North’s Maureen Ax School of Dance, successfully auditioned in Wellington as an Associate of the New Zealand School of Dance.
Every year, the Associate programme identifies a number of students from around New Zealand who have the talent for a career in dance performance, and feeds those promising dancers into the NZDS.
Not notified of her place until mid-December, O’Neill had assumed she had missed out and would have to try again this year.
‘‘There were so many other amazing dancers, I was surprised when I found out I was picked.’’
Apart from the competition, the audition was extremely demanding.
‘‘There are lots of rules - it’s really strict. They line you up and ask you to do different stretches,’’ she said.
‘‘There was one hour for the ballet audition and one hour for contemporary. It was really hard and some of the steps were quite difficult to pick up.’’
Those selected for the programme get to attend four weekends of tuition in Wellington throughout the year, as well as several masterclasses with the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
Her dance teacher, Maureen Ax said for The Nutcracker O’Neill was asked to perform an enhanced pirouette known as a fouette rond de jambe during the children’s Christmas scene.
‘‘It’s quite an advanced step in ballet,’’ Ax said. ‘‘When I saw what [the Imperial Russian Ballet] wanted, I thought a member of the company would be performing it.’’
O’Neill, who has been coming to Ax since she was 7, acquitted herself well, and despite the language barrier, thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
‘‘[The Russians] were really friendly. They gave us lots of highfives. It was good watching them warm up and perform.’’
Thirty-eight of Ax’s pupils took part in the performance.
O’Neill, who commutes to dance class from Levin five days a week with mum Lisa and older sister Ruby, is now preparing herself for the next round of Palmerston North dance competitions in March.
Tilly O’Neill 13, is an Associate of the New Zealand School of Dance.