The VCA Secondary School produces educated dancers whose training sets them up well for future careers and a range of options
The Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School is one of the world’s foremost dance schools, our alumni are significant players in the artistic life of this country and overseas. The VCA Secondary School offers a comprehensive and intensive specialist dance course based upon the rigorous training of classical ballet.
PHILOSOPHY - WORKING TRUTHFULLY
It is difficult to briefly outline the philosophy underpinning the training in a diverse and eclectic program such as ours. But there certainly is a definitive and all encompassing philosophy that guides and drives the teaching in our dance program; a prism through which the varied backgrounds of the dance staff can be focussed. It is best expressed through the title above: ‘working truthfully’. It is about working to individual physiological limitations and strengths rather than working to achieve a traditional model of perfection - particularly important when dealing with issues like outward rotation of the leg in the hip socket. Models of perfection (the notion that all dancers can be trained, exactly alike, to achieve the same outcome) lead to poor training methodology, incorrect alignment, injury and frustration and it is inevitable that success is achieved by few and failure by many. Working truthfully for individual differences, without unnecessary tension, with ease and efficiency, allows for maximum range of movement and the endeavour to achieve success for each individual dancer.
It is a challenging philosophy for our dance staff requiring focus on each individual rather than the group. We train this way because it works, it produces the best results. Each dancer can achieve their optimum without muscle bulk or imbalance; with ease and individuality. Our focus is long, lean and effective muscle tone. In our school there are as many 5th positions as there are dancers; traditional training offers one 5th position that all students try to achieve. (NB: Any position could be nominated, 5th is identified only because it is the starting position for most sequences)
It is a feature of our training program that technique classes will sometimes have more than one teacher, or that individual dancers will be coached during class time. Every student is important to us and we work as a team to achieve the best for them. To this end we also have a generic training facility; we offer a comprehensive body conditioning program and the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School offers GYROTONICS* as an addition to the training program.
We praise our students for their hard work and application; not for their talent or ability. We believe that it is through many hours of deliberate practice that our students will achieve their maximum potential. Our role as trainers/teachers is to foster this application.
Our mentor Professor Donna Krasnow (York University; Toronto) has visited our school over a number of years; her research on body mechanics and training with imagery has helped us to implement this philosophy in our training programs. Professor Krasnow is one of the leaders in the dance education/training industry worldwide.
Aside from the excellence of the training this philosophy allows us to look after the individual, we do not force the development of art at the expense of emotional, psychological or physiological well being; we believe that for the dancer to prosper the whole person must prosper. Hence our belief that young people need a full and comprehensive education; this is not just ‘in case’ they don’t make it as an artist, but because it will enhance their art now. Our philosophy drives the journey of the dancers towards their development as creative artists, emphasising individuality and creative achievement. To this end we allow the students each year to create their own work and to stage that work in a fully supported creative season.
Our dancers specialise in three main areas of theatre dance: classical ballet, contemporary dance and jazz dance. We believe that the rigorous training of classical ballet, to the highest degree of facility, underpins the physicality and technique required for all of these genres and for the other styles of dance that we teach. In other words: to achieve highly in contemporary or jazz dance - lift the level of ballet training, this will assist flexibility, line, strength, stamina, lower leg articulation etc. An arabesque is an arabesque in whichever style it appears and whatever it is called – the issue is more whether it is a good arabesque....We train good arabesques! We train artists - truthfully.
Gyrotonics* Please visit the website https://www.gyrotonic.com/
IADMS* International Association of Dance Medicine and Science https://www.iadms.org/
dr sela kiek-callan
CONTEMPORARY STUDIES, VCE DANCE – DR SELA KIEK-CALLAN
Sela first began working as a dancer/ teacher/ choreographer after graduating from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. Moving to the United Kingdom in 1996, she continued to further her experience of dance, performing with Green Candle Dance Company, Kantikoy and Lisa Torun and Dancers, and working as a Lecturer in Dance at Coventry University in England from 1997- 2004. She continued to pursue her interest in site specific dance throughout this time, creating works for community and professional dancers in various sites, from historic buildings to neglected public sites. Sela completed a Master of Philosophy researching site specific performance in 2003 through Coventry and Middlesex Universities in England.
Since returning to Australia in 2004 Sela has choreographed and/ or performed for various Dancehouse seasons, the St Kilda Festival, the Australian Youth Dance Festival, for Quantum Leap Youth Dance Company in Canberra and for students at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School. Sela has been a sessional lecturer on the dance degree programs at The Victorian College of the Arts and Deakin University. She completed a practice based PhD in Dance in 2011 through Deakin University and remains passionate about her area of research, architecture, the body and dance.
GIRL'S BALLET TEACHER - FIONA MUNROE
Fiona Munroe is a classical ballet specialist and choreographer with a wealth of dancing experience. After her early training in Australia gaining her Advanced RAD, she then trained professionally at the Royal Ballet Upper School in London. After graduating Fiona went on to dance principal roles in Malmo Ballet, Sweden, performing professionally in Europe, Japan, Italy, and Australia. After her professional career she returned to Australia and gained her RAD teaching registration with Distinction.
For the past 15 years Fiona has been using this experience to train the talented students of her own dance studio, many of which have gone on to professional vocational training here and abroad. Some of her students have gone on to the likes of Australian Ballet School, the Central School of Ballet in London, Zurich Ballet School and Basel Ballet in Switzerland, Mannheim Ballet School and Dresden Ballet School in Germany, and Munich Ballet School to name a few.
BALLET TEACHER - JANNE BLANCH
Janne Blanch graduated from New Zealand's National School of Ballet (now The New Zealand School of Dance ) into the Royal New Zealand Ballet where she attained the rank of Principal. Following a contract with the Queensland Ballet as Principal Ballerina, Janne joined the Australian Ballet as a Senior Soloist dancing a wide range of principal roles and touring extensively internationally. Upon retirement as a performer, Janne completed, with distinction, her Diploma of Arts at the VCA School of Dance majoring in Classical Ballet Teaching.
Until December 2009, she was associated with the School of Dance in a variety of roles including Artistic Assistant to the Dean, Anne Woolliams, Ballet Mistress of the Vic Arts Dance Company, Assistant Head of Dance ( VCASS ) and Lecturer in Classical Ballet, teaching across all levels from Year 7 VCASS to the Postgraduate Diploma in Classical Ballet Teaching. Some teaching highlights include involvement with the initial Art-Ed program at the Victorian Arts Centre which was affiliated with the Lincoln Centre, New York, and instrumental in establishing movement programs in primary schools, an invitation to develop a children's training program for the Bangkok Music and Arts School, guest teaching opportunities throughout Australia, Asia and New Zealand, completion of a Professional Certificate of Adolescent Counselling through the professional development program at Monash University, a visit to Le Conservatoire de Danse in Paris and study of the Russian training system at the Vaganova Ballet Academy, St Petersburg.
In addition to her teaching role for VCASS, Janne is Coordinator of RAD@VCASS particularly enjoying the coaching role that teaching in the RAD program involves. In 2011 she was appointed a Practical Teaching Supervisor for the Royal Academy of Dance, mentoring teacher trainees in the Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies program. Although Janne's primary focus is on the training of young dancers, she has frequently choreographed and reproduced works for the performance program of the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School.
WORLD DANCE TEACHER – JENNY PURCELL
Jenny combines classical dance training commencing at the age of 3, with Ms Coral Brown (Cecchetti) and from 11 years of age with Mr. Martin Rubenstein, Former Principal Artist of the Borovansky Ballet Australia, Jenny received Honors in the exams Royal Academy of Dance, Elementary to Advanced then attained Solo Seal, simultaneously with a thorough training in Character/Cultural and Folkloric dance, having studied with Maestro Alberto Vila (Classical Spanish, Provincial Spanish and South American), Miss Rosita Himing (South American) and Madame Marina Berezowsky (European).
She has studied traditional Classical Indian dance at the Bharatam Natyam (Bharatalaya) Academy with Dr. Chandrabhanu for 2 ½ years. She has performed overseas with Teatro Folklorico Madrid, (Theatre of the Folkloric) in Madrid and worked in Spain with them for 18 months. She returned to Australia to complete her teacher training Diploma and over the last 32 years Jenny has been teaching and choreographing.
Jenny has choreographed and staged over 320 performance pieces and ballets both for Students in a diverse range of genres and for Professionals including working with The Australian Ballet in 1994/95 World Premier and 1998 Seasons, of the ballet ‘Madame Butterfly. Jenny has been teaching at VCASS since 1994.
BALLET STUDIES COORDINATOR - MAGGIE LORRAINE
Maggie Lorraine, a protégé of Marie Rambert one of the founders of Ballet in Britain, has had a varied career in theatre. After training in London at the Ballet Rambert School, she joined The Ballet Rambert in 1961 as the youngest company member, aged only 16 years. Within two years she achieved the rank of Principal Dancer. Following this she joined The Royal Ballet Company where she danced for five years working with both the Covent Garden Company and Touring Companies.
After leaving the Royal Ballet, she danced with a variety of Companies all over the world including London Festival Ballet, P.A.C.T. Ballet (South Africa), New Zealand Ballet and West Australian Ballet Company, forging strong links with people and companies internationally. During her long career Maggie has also worked in a Contemporary Dance Ensemble touring Germany and a production of “The King and I” in the West End of London.
When employed with PACT Ballet in South Africa, she worked on improvisation with actors employed by the Multiracial Theatre Group at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg. This was during Apartheid, a time when it was illegal for black people to mix with white people.
Teaching has, for many years, been an important part of Maggie's life. Following a short period as Ballet Mistress with the West Australian Ballet Company when she produced “Konigsmark” for them, she retired from dancing to concentrate on teaching.
In 1989 Maggie became a Lecturer in Classical Ballet at the Victorian College of the Arts. In 1993 she was invited to produce and stage Lambros Lambrous’ ballet 'Motif' for the Queensland Ballet Company, and which she has also staged for the VCASS and the VCA tertiary dance students.
Meryl Tankard when Director of Australian Dance Theatre, invited Maggie to join her company for a European tour as rehearsal director, in 1997, and also in 1999.
In 1997 Maggie was invited by the Australian Consulate to teach The Ballet Company in Ho Chi Minh City as part of a cultural exchange instigated by the Australian Government.
Maggie was appointed Acting Head of School at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1998, a position she held for two years.
In December 2000 Maggie was invited to participate in the first Monaco Dances Dance Forum. She joined an international panel of experts which adjudicated six sections including nominees such as Pina Bausch, Matz Ek, William Forsythe and Yiri Kilian.
Maggie has been involved in the accreditation and course review of numerous tertiary institutions both nationally and internationally.
In 2007 she was appointed as a Subject Specialist by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications.
In 2005 Maggie took up the position of Assistant Head of VCASS Dance and now devotes her teaching to the secondary school students.
Maggie became a Certified trainer of GYROKINESIS and GYROTONIC in 2011 and in 2012 was appointed on to the Education Committee of the International Association of Dance Medicine. Maggie was a presenter at the IADMS Conference which took place in Singapore in October 2012.
MUSICIAN ACCOMPANIST AND MUSICIAN COORDINATOR - OLGA POLYETAYEVA
Olga Polyetayeva was born and raised in the Ukraine. She started her musical training at a young age with piano lessons at a local children’s music school. At the age of 16 she continued studying piano at the Prokofiev Musical College and graduated with honours after 4 years. Olga then went on to graduate from the Kharkov National Pedagogical University where she studied Musical Education.
She has worked as a piano teacher and accompanist at numerous organisations in Ukraine but her skills of collaborative pianist were mainly developed through daily practice in the position of Staff Accompanist in Kharkov National Pedagogical University.
Olga’s professional versatility has been developed by working with dancers, conductors, orchestras, choir, singers, violinists, cellists, wind and brass instrumentalists.
Olga moved to Australia in 2007 with her husband. She has been active as an accompanist for various instrumentalists in music programs in schools and various classical ballet classes in Melbourne including the Russian Choreographic Academy, Yarra Valley Grammar School, The Australian Ballet School and VCASS. When she is not busy at the piano Olga enjoys spending time with her two little children.
CONTEMPORARY STUDIES COORDINATOR - STEVEN MCTAGGART
Steven is a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) secondary and tertiary programs, receiving a Bachelor of Arts (contemporary dance performance), before joining Royal New Zealand Ballet where he became a lead soloist. His musical theatre credits include “CATS” – in Hamburg Germany, “West Side Story” – Sydney and Brisbane and frequent appearances with Opera Australia.
Steven also worked in contemporary and commercial dance theatre in Melbourne as a freelance artist while completing a graduate Diploma in Choreography at the VCA. He joined Meryl Tankard’s Australian Dance Theatre for over 2 years and was the Artistic Director/Assistant on the opening segment of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
Steven has a Bachelor of Education in primary and Secondary and currently is the Head of Contemporary dance at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School.
JAZZ COORDINATOR - TANYA MITFORD
Tanya’s versatility has generated an extensive career with opportunities as a Director, Choreographer, Resident Director/Choreographer, Assistant Director/Choreographer, Dance Captain, Performer, and Musician. She has creatively managed and performed numerous roles in a variety of works including: The Boy from Oz, Billy Elliot, Guys and Dolls, Dusty – The Original Pop Diva, Sam Mendes’ Cabaret, Little Voice, Violet, Anna Karenina, Clinchfield, Ruben Guthrie, The Damned, Fiddler on the Roof, Leader of the Pack, Anything Goes, Sugar, Carousel, High Society, Mack and Mabel, The Boyfriend, Gypsy, Jolson, Company, Baby, Nana, Dancing with the Stars, and The Librarians, as well as children’s entertainment for The Wiggles, Disney, Warner Bros, Bob the Builder and ABC for Kids.
She is also in demand as a Personal Trainer, Adjudicator, Dance and Performance Lecturer with the Victorian College of the Arts Music Theatre Degree, and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts as a Director. Tanya, most recently, choreographed Promises, Promises for The Production Company and directed Into the Woods to critical acclaim in Perth, following her time as the Resident Director/Choreographer/Performer of An Officer and a Gentleman at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney. She recently directed Spring Awakening for Patrick Studios. She became Jazz Coordinator at VCASS in 2014.
BOY'S BALLET TEACHER - TIM HARBOUR
Tim Harbour is regarded as one of Australia’s best dancers and choreographers. He has a Graduate Diploma in Classical Dance Teaching, Melbourne University/Victorian College of the Arts and completed his Diploma of Dance form the Australian Ballet School in 1995.
He has conducted workshops and sessional training for dance students and established artists from The Australian Ballet, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Australian Dance Theatre, Victorian College of the Arts and The National Institute for Circus Arts. These programs encompass rehearsal, interpretation and performance as well as daily exercises and conditioning to improve technical standards, fitness and suppleness.
Tim is on the dance panel of The Greenroom Awards and a Member of the Victorian branch committee of the Australian institute of Classical Dance.
He has performed in numerous works from the traditional and contemporary repertoires as a Principal and leading dancer. Tim has worked closely with acclaimed Australian choreographers including Graeme Murphy, Stephen Page, Stephen Baynes, Meryl Tankard, Stanton Welch and Natalie Weir. I also featured in master-works by Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Maurice Bejart, Christopher Wheeldon and Nacho Duato.
Performed in international productions with The Australian Ballet in Europe, the United Kingdom, United States of America, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and China and recently retired as Senior Artist with The Australian Ballet after twelve years performing at an international level. Performed as a guest dancer with The Royal Swedish Ballet.
Tim's choreographic career began with small works for The Australian Ballet company’s bodytorque program while still a dancer. After dancing, Tim began being commissioned to make dances for other companies both in Australia and overseas. These include the Queensland Ballet, West Australian Ballet, New York City Ballet and Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses. Tim’s first main-stage work for the Australian Ballet, Halcyon in 2010 was followed by Sweedeedee in 2012 for the company’s 50th anniversary celebrations. In 2014 Tim created Ostinato, which the Australian Ballet presented at the Fall For Dance Festival in New York. That year Tim became a Resident choreographer for the Australian Ballet. Tim has just premiered his latest work Filigree and Shadow for the Australian Ballet at the State Theatre, Melbourne
HEAD OF DANCE - TIM STOREY
Tim is currently ‘Head of Dance’ at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School in Melbourne; a position he has held for many years. Under his leadership VCASS has developed as one of the major dance training organizations in Australia. It offers a broad dance course based upon the rigorous training of classical ballet with an underpinning philosophy of physiological truth in training.
Tim had an international career as a dancer; after training at the Royal Ballet School in London he danced in companies such as ‘PACT Ballet’, ‘English National Ballet’, ‘Western Australian Ballet’ and ‘Royal New Zealand Ballet’. He danced roles as diverse as James in La Sylphide, the Prince in Nutcracker, Captain Hook in Peter Pan and the Principal role in George Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante.
Following his dance career he was engaged by the ‘Victorian Arts Centre’ in Melbourne as ‘Theatrical Field Officer’ in their programming division.
He choreographed extensively throughout his career, works such as ‘A Soldiers tale’, ‘Holberg Variations’ recently ‘The Rite of Spring’ was staged in Melbourne’s ‘Merlyn Malthouse’ theatre.
His teaching and curriculum development experience are broad. He was State Reviewer for VET Dance in Victoria for many years and was on the re-accreditation panel for the new Certificate 2 in dance completed in 2007 and completed the review of the Certificate 2 implemented in 2013.
He studied teaching methodology and the philosophy of teaching as an Undergraduate at Macquarie University in Sydney. He was a Lecturer with VCA/Melbourne University for more than 20 years and is currently a leading teacher with the Department of Education and Training.
Tim combined his artistic practice and business interests to successfully complete a Master’s degree (MBA) with RMIT University in 2006.
Tim is currently setting up links with international organizations and schools overseas.