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.
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.
IADMS* International Association of Dance Medicine and Science https://www.iadms.org/
steven mctaggart | head of dance
HEAD OF DANCE - 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 in 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 Dance at VCASS.
Janne was a Principal Dancer with the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Queensland Ballet, before joining the Australian Ballet as a Senior Soloist in 1973. She featured in lead roles in both traditional and modern repertoire and toured extensively with these companies both nationally and internationally.
Following retirement as a dancer, Janne was appointed the Artistic Assistant to Anne Woolliams, the founding Dean of VCA when VCASS was the Victorian College of the Arts Technical School. She was Ballet Mistress of the Vic Arts Dance Company and Assistant to the Head of Dance at VCASS.
Janne is an expert teacher in Classical Ballet, having taught across all levels in VCASS from Year 7 to 12. Janne holds a Diploma in Arts - Dance Teaching (VCA), a Certificate of Adolescent Counselling (Monash) and is a registered teacher and Practical teaching Supervisor of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD).
Anne Butler holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Classical Ballet Teaching from the University of Melbourne. She is a Fellow and Senior Examiner for Cecchetti Ballet Australia and is a Victorian Representative on the Cecchetti National Council and an Australian Representative - Cecchetti International Classical Ballet.
She is a resident choreographer for Dancebourne Arts, having produced works in both Victoria and Italy. As an independent researcher, she has presented for many organisations including the National Gallery of Victoria, Johnston Gallery, Royal Academy of Dance, and CORD Conference in New York.
Anne is the Coordinator of the Cecchetti program at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School as well as delivering history/ theory and dance teaching/educational support.
Madeleine was one of the most beloved ballerinas of her generation. Dancing with the Australian Ballet for 18 years - 10 as a principal artist - she led the company on multiple international tours, including London, New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Auckland and Shanghai.
Madeleine developed career defining partnerships with David McAllister, Steven Heathcote, Robert Curran and Kevin Jackson and was celebrated for her portrayals from the classical repertoire such as Giselle, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, La Sylphide and Swan Lake.
She received multiple award nominations for her dancing from the Helpmann Awards, Australian Dance Awards and Green Room Awards during the course of her career.
Since retiring from her dance career, Madeleine has been sought after as a teacher and coach with her signature optimism and love of excellence and inclusion driving her work. She has been in demand as a coach and teacher at the Australian Ballet Company, Ballet Mistress for the Australian Ballet’s Storytime programme, and gained extensive experience teaching at vocational schools across Melbourne.
Ross’ career highlights include playing Tobias Ragg in Sweeney Todd as well as the coveted roles of Paul in A Chorus Line and Princeton in Avenue Q. Ross became the resident director of CATS after playing Skimbleshanks in the most recent Australian tour. His other musical theatre credits include, Wicked, King Kong, We Will Rock You, Pippin and Shout. He is a recipient of the RAD Solo Seal award and a dedicated member of the Arts community.
Tim danced for the Australian Ballet for 13 years, dancing principal roles, working with leading choreographers and touring all over the world. He was nominated as Best Male dancer in the Australian Dance and Green Room Awards and, after dancing as a guest with the Royal Swedish Ballet, retired in 2007. Tim has gone on to have an extensive career as a choreographer, taking on commissions with local companies like the Queensland and West Australian Ballet as well as internationally for the New York City Ballet, Houston Ballet and Singapore Dance Theatre. Tim was resident choreographer with the Australian Ballet 2014-2020, creating many works - Filigree and Shadow and Squander and Glory - and enjoyed multiple award nominations and return seasons. His choreographies have been performed all over the world including New York, London, Houston and Singapore.
Kynan trained at the Australian Ballet School and after graduating in 1992 accepted a position with The Australian Ballet Company. Kynan danced with the Australian Ballet for 7 years and performed in all major classical ballets and most contemporary ballets in the company’s repertoire both nationally and overseas before retiring in 1999.
Some of Kynan’s roles included Rothbart in Swan Lake, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet and the title role in Don Quixote. He has taught at various schools across Melbourne and at events and awards for the Royal Academy of Dance. Kynan has also run a successful dance school with his wife for over 20 years.
Kynan specialises in classical ballet, pas de deux and is passionate about passing on his knowledge of technique, musicality and artistry to the next generation of dancers.
dr. sela kiek-callan
Sela is a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. Moving to the United Kingdom in 1996, she performed with Green Candle Dance Company, Kantikoy and Lisa Torun and Dancers, and worked as a lecturer in Dance at Coventry University in England. Sela has choreographed for Dancehouse Seasons, the St Kilda Festival, Quantum Leap Dance Company, and the Australian Youth Dance Festival. She completed her PhD in Dance in 2011 through Deakin University and has published a number of articles on her site specific dance work. Sela is currently a Leader Teacher for Contemporary Dance at the VCASS and lectures sessionally at Victoria University and Deakin University.
Nicole holds a Diploma of Classical Dance, has studied dance at the Victorian College of the Arts and more recently has trained in Acting at the Q44 studio where she is a company member.
Nicole has had an extensive Musical Theatre career throughout Australia and overseas. Her featured roles include; Mary in Merrily We Roll Along with Watch This Productions, Bonnie in Hurlyburly (Q44 Theatre) and Riss and Understudy Dusty Springfield in Dusty (The Production Company), Ellie May in Showboat (The Production Company), Magenta in the international tour of The Rocky Horror Show (Tim Lawson Productions), Lauren in First Date (Pursued By Bear) Austin in Sister Cities (Q44 Theatre), as well as the title role in Q44 Theatre Company’s inaugural season of the play Dolores.
Other theatre credits include the national tours of Legally Blonde (GFO), Die Fledermaus (Opera Australia) in the role of Ginger Rogers, the national tour of Dame Edna’s Back with a Vengeance (Duet Productions), 42nd Street, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Little Me, Damn Yankees, Anything Goes and The Producers all for The Production Company, and the Australian premiere season of Jersey Boys (Newtheatricals), in which she was Dance Captain.
With further credits in Film and Stage under her belt, Nicole brings her great joy and vivacity to inspiring students’ love of storytelling and performance.
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 trained at the Royal Ballet Upper School in London. Upon graduation 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 over 20 years, Fiona led her own dance studio in Queensland, providing pathways for many of her students to attend professional vocational training at the Australian Ballet School and many international schools. Fiona currently teaches ballet at VCASS across all year levels.
Leana has been teaching acrobatic dance for over 20 years. She has studied Classical, Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, Musical Theatre and Acrobatics. Leana is a alumnus of VCASS who has worked professionally as both a dancer and an acrobat. As a trainer for The Acrobatic Dance Association, Leana is responsible for running acrobatic workshops and training sessions all across Melbourne.