Ballet programme moves to Nelson

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A strand of the Canterbury Ballet School is moving to Nelson in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, which have robbed the school of its original central city premises and destroyed the confidence of prospective dance students unwilling to chance it in the still shaky city.

The school’s principal, Taisia Missevich, said she planned to shift a foundation course to Nelson and begin a new fulltime accredited dance trainee programme, to operate from the Peta Spooner Academy of Dance.

She had applied for the dance trainee programme to be accredited through the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, with the aim of attracting stronger interest in what was typically a two-year course.

The Canterbury Ballet School has launched the international careers of a number of young dancers over the 30 years it has been operating, including that of Christine Owen, who danced with the San Diego Ballet, and recent graduate Lily Cartwright, who is now with the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Canterbury Ballet also runs a youth dance company, and has plans for a new bridging company, which Ms Missevich would also like to shift to Nelson.

The bridging company would do performances for schools, using local dancers. Ms Missevich said she had already checked out venues, and Nelson’s Theatre Royal was entirely suitable.

She said she was not turning her back on Christchurch. Like many in the city, she had become used to the earthquakes, but she understood why the city would not appeal to new students.

“If you’ve not been through what we’ve been through, it’s hard to understand, but if you’re the mother of a 17-year-old, I can see why you wouldn’t want to send your daughter here.”

Ms Missevich said students came to the academy from around the country and occasionally from overseas.

After last February’s quake, several “terrified” students who had planned to start a month later pulled out.

Canterbury Ballet was closed for three months last year after its Montreal St studios were a writeoff because of the quake. It shifted to new premises in Middleton.

Ms Missevich said the aim now was to start operating aspects of the school from Nelson by the middle of this year. She sent the school’s fulltime dancers to the New Zealand School of Dance in Wellington after the quake so they could keep up their training for the New Prague Dance Festival and Competition, which they attended a few months ago.

She said the plan was to use dance tutors in Nelson and the ballet school’s usual visiting tutors for faculty programmes.

Ms Missevich said she had known Ms Spooner for about 25 years, and the idea to move some of the school’s programmes to Nelson came about after a recent get-together. “I came to visit Peta and we started talking and started looking into the future.”

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