Lisa Bolte, former principal artist with the Australian Ballet, with young dancers at the Alstonville Dance Studio.
Lisa Bolte, former principal artist with the Australian Ballet, with young dancers at the Alstonville Dance Studio. Jacklyn Wagner

Ballet students reach new heights

A CHANCE meeting resulted in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for ballet students from Mullumbimby, Casino and Alstonville.

The Australian Ballet's former principal artist, Lisa Bolte, treated them to a special workshop at the Alstonville Dance School.

According to the director of the school, Sue Whiteman, the chance to learn from a famous teacher came about because she met Ms Bolte's parents and her sister, who have settled in Lennox Head, and whom the dancer visits regularly.

Ms Whiteman has been teaching in the area for 25 years and bought the old Presbyterian Church in Alstonville 12 years ago to turn into a studio.

“I have students from three to 73 years of age, some who wish to become professional dancers and some who come just forexercise or fun,” she said.

But the workshop by Ms Bolte was a very exciting opportunity for students with a passion for ballet to be taught by a true master of the art, she said.

Ms Bolte graduated from the Australian Ballet School in 1985 and joined the Australian Ballet Company in 1986.

She was then promoted to principal artist in 1993 and in 1998 she was awarded the Mo award for best female dancerafter her performances inRomeo and Juliet.

Highlights of her career with the Australian Ballet include dancing Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty in London and Japan,Kitri in Don Quixote in Washington and Giselle and Coppelia in London. Her personal highlights include performing Giselle with the Maryinsky Ballet in 1996.

“My mother came to see me perform in Russia,” she said. “It was amazing to dance with such a legendary company and to have my mother there in theaudience.”

Ms Bolte left the Australian Ballet Company in 2002, but has since made several guest appearances and continues to teach ballet.

“I think it's different now since I was training. There are a lot more time constraints on all of us,” she said at the Alstonville workshop.

“But discipline is something I think all children thrive on. A good teacher can instil a sense of discipline – and it's possible to do that with kindness. At least that was my experience.”

She said the more she taught, the more she loved it.

“All the knowledge I've been given I can now pass on, it really is a privilege. This region in particular seems to have so much talent. The girls really go for it, they are so willing to learn.”

According to Ms Bolte: “This region has a unique and wonderful co-operative arrangement between the local dance studios and their teachers.

“Instead of rivalry, they work together to create the best classes they can for their students. They got together and asked me to teach a class and I was thrilled to be a part of it.”

At Alstonville, Ms Bolte taught at two different levels – junior and senior classes.

Her subject: the classical ballet Sleeping Beauty.

One of the young, aspiring dancers to attend the workshop was Rhiannon Beardow, 14, of Lismore.

She was the winner of the Lisa Bolte Scholarship donated by Sue Whiteman and Lisa Bolte to the Lismore Festival held last week.

Rhiannon is a dance student of Karen Ireland.

There are more famed teachers on the way to the Northern Rivers, as this is the first of many workshops that will be hosted by the Alstonville Dance Studio.

The next workshop will be held Sunday, November 7, with guest teacher Janece Graham, previously of the London Festival Ballet.

Ms Graham will coach thejunior and senior levels and teach a repertoire from the well-known ballet Swan Lake.

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