Updated: Aug 28
At age 19, Nikki Long had finished school and was still thinking about what she wanted to do with her life. She was a singer and loved acting and dancing, although she’d never taken any formal dance lessons. Instead, she’d been more of a sporty kid.
She’d been wanting to try dance classes for a while, but worried about being too old to start in her teens. She’d dreamt of being a performer in musical theatre, but knew she’d need to learn to dance. Instead, she was thinking of settling for doing something in childcare or early childhood education. She knew she’d enjoy it, but still … she had this other dream she barely even let herself consider.
Nikki had made some enquiries about adult dance classes, but hadn’t yet been bold enough to take that first step. Then she called Dragonfly Dance (then named Move Through Life), and after a phone conversation felt a lot more confident about coming along to class. So she did, and realised that it was possible to have a go at what she really wanted to do with her life.
After just over a year dancing with us, Nikki took a leap of faith and auditioned for a Certificate IV in Dance (Musical Theatre). And got in! So this year (2018) she is pursuing her dream of making a life out of singing and dancing. She’s not sure where she’ll end up, but she’s well on her way to finding out.
Does Nikki’s story sound anything like yours? Keep reading for her full story so you can decide if Dragonfly Dance can help you too.
How young is too old?
When I was 13 years old when I started ballet. I was much older than all the other kids in my classes, so I wasn’t surprised when Nikki told me that she hadn’t started dance in her earlier teens because she worried she’d be too old.
“I wanted to dance since I was a kid. I was always a singer and people would tell me if I wanted to sing I need to be able to dance as well. I watched a lot of shows and every time I went to a production I’d be blown away by everything they could do. Even as a kid I’d always made up dances and choreographed them in my head. . I pretty much knew every move from high school musical. I’d copy the dances, and was good at looking them up and learning them online. It’s always been inside me but I never really did it.”
“I was a sporty kid. All my friends played netball but none danced. I guess I was more keen to do what everyone else was doing. When I got to high school I thought I was too old. Starting as an adult worked out well. There was never anywhere I felt comfortable enough to go to as a teenager.”
“I was either worried I’d be too young or too old and stuck in that in between. That fear of having no idea of what I was doing, not knowing what my capabilities would be. I had no clue about where I would sit. But I always knew I was quite good at picking things up fairly quickly, but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to.”
“Apart from looking like an idiot, I guess I was afraid of the unknown. I’d never done anything at all. I didn’t know what to expect and who was going to be there. I wondered if I would be only one my age.”
Taking the first step
They say all journeys start with the first step, and that was the thing that Nikki found most difficult about learning to dance.
“I struggled to find somewhere that I could dance because I didn’t have any experience. I’d been planning on going to ADT for their adult classes for about a year beforehand, but it was just a come and try thing, and I was too nervous to rock up. Once I had a chat with Jo about MTL I felt a lot more comfortable.”
“I did email ADT and it was very much ‘just come along and try it’ and I felt a lot more comfortable about actually talking to Jo. I asked a couple of questions, and she explained about the details. I asked if I’d be too young or old. Jo made me feel very comfortable and it put my mind at ease a bit more. There was a good range of classes and teachers so I felt more comfortable with that.”
Discovering a whole new world
Once she’d gotten started, Nikki discovered so much more, and started to dare to dream about being a performer.
“Dancing at Move Through life has taken me to the next step. It has triggered in my mind that this is what I wanted to do. I went in it just to try it an see if I’d like it, and then it’s definitely the best part that I’ve worked out what I want to do with my life. Also have been able to meet some great people with some great stories, and everyone has their own dance story.”
“There is such a good sense of community. Everyone is supportive of each other and giving things a go, also supportive of each other’s personal lives as well.”
While the dance classes have set Nikki on a new path, she also found that dancing had lots of other benefits that she could enjoy immediately, and that the ones that took a little longer, well, they were worth working for.
“I definitely found that dance is something that just makes you happy. You just get this feeling, like there’s a rush. The feeling of accomplishment when you finally nail something you’ve been working on for so long. Being able to watch yourself improve.”
“Physically I’ve become a lot stronger and more flexible. But the feeling of accomplishment was the best thing. I’d look back and be really proud of myself. I worked hard, and found that I was quite good at having not done much before.”
“I found I definitely did make a lot of friends, especially in the intermediate jazz class. All different kinds of people. Everyone had a different story. Everyone leads completely different lives. But we all love dance, and want to dance. Lots of them did it as a kid and came back to it. It’s one of those things you come back to and don’t want to stop.”
Permission to dare to dream … and to follow it
Thanks to the dance classes she’d been taking at Move Through Life, Nikki auditioned for, and was accepted, into a Certificate IV in Dance, focused on musical theatre with the Australian Company of Performing Arts (ACPA)
“We’ll do tap and jazz, a lot of hip hop and a lot of singing and a bit of acting as well. A bit of everything there. Learning how to work with heels. Singing and dancing at the same time. That was what really drew me to them.”
“If I hadn’t started dance classes, I probably would have gone to TAFE to do child care or do a Bachelor of early childhood. I had tossed up between following my dream of what I really want to do or just falling back on something that would make me happy, but not quite as happy. That was what I convinced myself I wanted to do through school. I always looked at this as not an achievable dream.”
When she started dance classes, Nikki had no plans about where it would lead, and she certainly didn’t expect to be entering a full time dance course just over a year later.
“Honestly I never thought it would lead anywhere. I just wanted to get a bit of experience and auditioning for things and see where I could get. Then I looked online for these courses and saw you didn’t need that much dance experience. It was a dream but I never thought it would actually happen.”
“It’s a year-long course, full time. You can also have the option to do it over a couple of years. A lot of people do that to get the most out of it. There are a lot of people in the course who weren’t dancers to start with.”
Nikki is quite open to where the course will take her. She’s realistic, but optimistic.
“Ideally I would like to audition for some other schools. I’ve looked into Griffith University in Brisbane and VCA in Melbourne and WAAPA. I’d like to audition for some of them, or go interstate and get a diploma. I am also a bit older than a lot of the others. A bachelor is three years long so by the time I finish that I’ll be 25 26.”
“I am also quite interested in teaching how to teach and how to structure a class, so that is also something I’d be interested in. I was a singing teacher as well also hope to gain more skills for that. Learning how to structure things. But yeah, definitely the aim is to perform.”
Support to dare to dream
Nikki started out with a lot of natural talent and great attitude and willingness to work hard and learn. But she was encouraged and supported by her dance teachers at Move Through Life to stretch herself. One of those teachers was Larissa McGowan, well known for her work with Australian Dance Theatre, Sydney Dance Company, So You Think You Can Dance, and more.
“Starting at MTL encouraged me to do that. There was no way I’d audition for this if I didn’t get the confidence. I learnt so much in a very short period of time.”
“I spoke to Larissa just before my audition or the open day. She was very encouraging and said I think you have to do it. As soon as she found out I was doing this course and took it seriously, she was very good at critiquing me a lot more. She was very on me about my technique, which I loved because I really wanted to improve as much as possible. She gave me great advice. We talked about things like just handling it in general, simple things like what to eat.”
“The most challenging thing about dancing has been not giving up when everything isn’t going your way. It’s taught me a lot of patience. You won’t just get it over night. You need to work hard and practice. Having patience and believing in yourself is something I’ve learnt when dancing.”
Take a leaf out of Nikki’s book
“It’s very daunting at first but even once you just step into the class, you feel welcomed and very comfortable. As soon as I stepped into that first ballet class I felt completely comfortable straight away. You just have to take that step and do it. If you don’t like it that’s fine. The first part is making the phone call and going. Just trying to get past the fear factor.”