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Bring on the boys!

The stage is set, lights are on, music starts and the audience falls silent as the students of the Nambour Academy of Creative Arts (NACA) launch into an incredible dance production called Extravadance.

by Rebecca Mugridge

You’d be forgiven for underestimating what you were about to see. After all it is a dance production in the small town of Nambour by a state school featuring some local kids, and yet…. at the Nambour Academy of Creative Arts (NACA), this production, Extravadance, with these dancers and this teacher, has the ‘X Factor’.

Men are proven sensational dancers across the world blowing audiences away, and here in Queensland we celebrate gifted male dancers and choreographers like Queensland Ballet’s Li Cunxin, and many of our male dancers having outstanding international careers.

However, it is still typical to find most dance teams and dance schools in Australia still predominantly filled with girls. It can even be common for a male dancer to be the only boy at his dance school. People have started to say there must “be something in the water” at Nambour State College due to the creative talent of the kids that are coming out of their arts programs, including a higher than average number of male dancers. Kristen Austin-Zande, a parent of one of these bright new stars, a boy who you could easily see in a Baz Luhrmann production, says it is a supportive and encouraging environment that can not only encourage boys to try dance but also keep dancing as they get older.

“The school’s program, under the guidance of teacher Emilia McKay, has been such a positive environment that I am so thankful for. Miss McKay has just been amazing, having both my children go through the NACA program, what the school does for the kids and what Miss McKay does for those kids, I just cannot say enough good things about it,” Kristen says warmly.

She believes the program has created a safe space and a program where they all support and mentor one another. “It can be so easy to be dissuaded from dancing as a boy. There are so few of the boys [in dance schools] that I think it is important that they all mentor each other and look out for one another and they really do that here.

“Ethan has never been adversely affected by being in the dance program and I think that says a lot and is down to the culture at Nambour State College and the NACA department.”

Kristen says as the mother of a “boy dancer” that she would encourage other parents out there with boys showing an interest in dance to support them in having a go.

“It is such a wonderful art to be involved in, and not even just for careers. I have seen terribly shy people become able to go out and perform on stage thanks to dance. It teaches flexibility, musicality, strength and communication.

“I would encourage mothers and fathers, especially fathers, to encourage their sons to try expression through dance.”

Dancer Ethan says performing is what it is all about for the dancers.

“Being on that stage, in front of an audience and performing for them. There is nothing like it. Like at Creative Generation the audience was around 3000 people, it was incredible.”

The strong numbers of male dancers at NACA really opens opportunities too, Ethan says. “It is really good for the school; we can do a lot of partnering work and different dynamics in choreography.”

Ethan says everyone gets along well in the dance program. “We really do all have each other’s backs and lift each other up, even though we are across different age levels, we are really there for each other.

“The whole program gives all the students so many opportunities to grow and develop as performers. We all go to different home dance schools and come together under Miss McKay as one team.”

Nambour State College dance teacher Emilia McKay says, “Nambour is the most incredible place to teach, the school and also the town and the spirit of the people. The Nambour community has been so supportive of our dancers.

“These guys never cease to amaze and impress me throughout the years with their dance development, but also what fine young men they’re turning into.

“I’m so proud to have had Ethan, Jahmarly and Chase all involved in CGEN over the years and represent NACA Dance in the highest levels within the state program.

“To have our school name beside them in the CGEN program is such a highlight as their teacher, having supported them throughout the CGEN audition, rehearsal and performance processes.”

Emilia says the program also immerses students in the performing arts industry and that helps show all the students how many male performers are out there.

“Within our NACA program across the different arts specialties we attend annual professional musical performances in Brisbane. In doing this, I think it really opens the eyes of all the students to see how many male dancers there are out there working professionally in the industry.

“I also think social media has been a positive platform for male dancers to be recognised in their performance and choreography.”

Amongst many successes, the dance program recently had a sold out Extravadance event and had students selected for Creative Generation in Brisbane, including some of their emerging, young male artists.

“Over the last six years of competing we have received many outstanding accolades including 5 x Competition Overall winners and Top 5 national finalists,” Emilia shares.

With a stand-out program already making a positive impact on dance, producing talented professionals in a public-school setting, with an exciting number of male dancers, this is definitely a space to watch.



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