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/
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” – 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 the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School.