By REBECCA MUGRIDGE
To be a dance teacher is to instil the love of movement, grace and technique in your students that has been weaved into the fabric of your own life. You are gifting the steps of an artform to another person.
When Dance Centre Peregian Springs co-director Deborah Preece-Brocksom talks about her student Alfie Shacklock, the warm tones of pride and a deep, joyful respect are plain, like each word is softened with a smile.
For the last 11 years she has taught children on the Sunshine Coast how to dance, passing on the enchantment of classical ballet. Ask any dancer and they can tell you how a ballet teacher has a steely gaze that misses nothing in the classroom. Like a bird obsessing over teaching her young how to eat, hunt and survive, a teacher in ballet class focuses on each movement, tilt of the head and turned out leg. In ballet, posture is everything.
Deborah is currently celebrating a momentous occasion as a teacher: one of her students, a boy she has taught since he was just four, has just been offered a place at one of the premiere ballet centres in the world, the Royal Ballet Upper School in London.
According to the Royal Ballet School to be a successful dancer takes “talent, energy, commitment, focus and above all passion.”
Deborah says passion flows through her student Alfie’s veins like he is on fire with purpose, and it is this passion along with a grit and determination that was evident early on.
“He wasn’t one of those [born] incredibly talented children where you go, ‘wow, this could work’ … for Alfie it was actually a different story,” she said. “The sheer commitment he had; he just does not stop. I have never seen someone work so hard. He was such a stiff child and he had really what we call flat feet, absolutely flat feet but he developed them over years and years of work into really beautiful feet.
“When he was probably 10, we realised [this potential] and by the time he was 11 or 12 we absolutely knew, and I thought ‘oh my gosh this is going to end in something absolutely spectacular’.”
[Image 2: Alfie leaping into the air. Image supplied.]
Deborah helped shape Alfie into a dancer that ballet schools all over the world want to work with.
“The Australian Ballet school wanted him, the Queensland Ballet, Huston, Hamburg, Switzerland, La Scala and the Dutch National. Almost every big school wanted him, but he held out for the Royal Ballet and had to wait to be a certain age to audition for them.”
Alfie is not the only student succeeding at Deborah’s school. Evie Wilson also received a personal offer to attend a short-term visit at the Royal Ballet School, and four other dancers were all recently awarded scholarships for a five-week summer school in Moscow.
“A lot of our kids have gone on to the Australian Ballet School, to Hamburg, to the New Zealand Ballet and one of our students has already done some work with the Australian Ballet and the Queensland Ballet and has now gone to Europe with her first full-time contract. We are at that point now where our graduates are getting jobs.”
Deborah is a choreographer with over 50 full-length ballets behind her, an ex-first soloist with a 20-year career as a professional ballet dancer in over 10 ballet companies, an ex-ballet director for the State Theatre Ballet in Coburg, Germany and the State Theatre Halbersadt and has a BA (Hons) First Class Degree in Dance. Deborah opened The Dance Centre Peregian Springs with her husband and co-director Richard Leader in June 2009 to pass on her passion to the next generations.
“My husband and I were both ballet dancers ourselves and then we were ballet directors and then I did university training to become a teacher,” she said.
The dance school’s Instagram page has a quote in a post that says, “Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard for it.”
This is evidently true for both the students and their dedicated teacher.