The Australian Ballet is home to some of the best dancers in the country, and now it could be your exercise home too. The company is opening up its studios to the public to learn dance, Pilates and yoga in the same spaces used by its professional dancers.
“The studios … are the same studios that the company dancers take their daily classes in; the same studios they do all of their rehabilitation work,” says Viviana Sacchero, the Australian Ballet’s audience engagement manager. The rooms are “purpose-built, and you get to put your hand on the same ballet bar as one of the principal artists, and of all the principal artists at the Australian Ballet since 1981.”
Taking casual dance classes at the Australian Ballet isn’t an entirely new concept. The company has offered adult dance classes since 2012. What is new, however, is that you don’t have to be a dancer to take them, and it’s also no longer just ballet on offer.
In March this year the Australian Ballet expanded its studio program to include four different types of ballet – from beginner through levels one, two and three – as well as Pilates, yoga and Broadway dance classes.
“I wanted there to be lots of entrance points, and the opportunity for progression,” says Sacchero. “If you’ve been coming to the beginners class for three months, I felt it was really important for you to have somewhere to go to after that.”
Even for beginner-level, casual ballet classes, most of the instructors are either former dancers with the Australian Ballet, or current members of the company. That level of expertise extends to the music.
“A huge point of difference between us and all of the other ballet classes out there is that we actually have live piano accompaniment,” says Sacchero. “These are all professional pianists … we’re investing just as much in the musicality as we are in teaching this technique. And the structure of the ballet class is the same as it would be at any professional dance company in the world.”
If all of this sounds intimidating, Sacchero assures us it isn’t – the casual classes are designed to be accessible and fun. Sacchero points to the Broadway class as an example.
“If you’ve ever seen one of those musicals like West Side Story or Saturday Night Fever or even Cats, that’s the kind of repertoire we’re teaching in these classes,” she says. “And the teachers are people like Ross Hannaford, who has won so many awards, and the classes are just super fun.”
In the interests of keeping it approachable, there’s also no dress code. You don’t need ballet shoes for the ballet classes, and you don’t have to buy a glitter hat or cane for the Broadway classes (although Sacchero says you can if you want to).
“People’s perception is that you have to have your hair done and this high level of grooming, and in some instances it’s treated like a finishing school,” Sacchero says. But that’s not the case, and current students wear everything from traditional pink ballet tights to oversized Wu Tang Clan t-shirts, she explains. “It’s bringing ballet into 2017… lots of people come in and do the classes wearing socks.”
Mat Pilates and yoga classes begin at $15 and ballet classes from $23. It’s good value, Sacchero points out, for some of the highest-calibre teaching and studio space in the country.
“You’d have to be dancing as a professional dancer in one of the major companies around the world” to typically get access to either, she adds. “But we’re offering that here to the public.”
“A lot of people see the Australian Ballet and they think, ‘Oh my god, that’s the last place I want to go to learn ballet’. But it’s actually the first place, because there are so many different entrance points, and there’s really none of the stuffiness or fussiness … There’s just a whole lot of knowledge.”
Casual classes at The Australian Ballet are held at The Primrose Potter Australian Ballet Centre Studios, Kavanagh Street, Southbank. More information and pricing here.
Broadsheet is a proud media partner of the Australian Ballet.