For Year 12 Dance Co-Captains Abbey Shaw and Rebekah Sharpe (Wheelers Hill Campus) it’s been a challenging year in The Arts. They’ve had to show dedication and innovation in leading and inspiring their peers, as well as continuously adapting to an ever-changing landscape of virtual and live performance opportunities.

Throw into this mix the challenges of VCE study, virtual auditions and many months of dance training, and it’s no wonder this dynamic duo are thrilled that their hard work has paid off – Abbey has been accepted into Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance and Rebekah into Spectrum’s Full-Time Dance Studio.

“Normally an audition for Spectrum’s Full-Time Dance Studio would be, say, four hours, demonstrating your abilities as a dancer. Because of COVID-19 and lockdown, we had to audition remotely, sending in video footage showcasing our dance skills. This was followed by a phone interview,” says Rebekah. “It was a very different experience.”

Although she has chosen to pursue dancing as a career, Rebekah laughs that her foray into dancing wasn’t so auspicious. “I started dancing when I was three years old because of my brother. He wanted to dance, but when he realised that the class was all girls, he refused to participate. Mum put me in the classes instead and I fell in love instantly.”

Abbey says that ever since she was young she has always been on the move, teaching herself to do a cartwheel or the splits and dancing around the house. But she didn’t start dance classes until she was nine years old.

Both girls have come a long way since those early years, and admit that studying dance is a very different experience from doing dance classes as an outside-of-school activity.

“Studying it as a VCE subject gave me a new outlook on what professional dancing actually looks like and the specific skills that are involved,” says Rebekah. “It was a rewarding but challenging experience.”

Abbey agrees that the opportunity to study dance allowed her to advance on her previous dance training, as well as learning correct theory surrounding the skills and movement. “The last two years were difficult due to multiple lockdowns and lack of face-to-face learning, but this added challenge assisted me in building my independent dance knowledge and levels of resilience. Even when it seemed hard, I knew that I was doing it for a reason. And when you are passionate about something, it brings you so much joy.”

Abbey and Rebekah have both embraced their roles as Dance Co-Captains this year but says that it wasn’t easy balancing their own studies with the responsibility of inspiring others, particularly during COVID-19.

“Being Dance Captain entails a lot of responsibility to keep other students motivated and keep them involved,” says Rebekah. “Adding in lockdowns made this ten times harder. I got through it thanks to the people surrounding me – my dance teacher Mrs Halabi and my Co-Captain Abbey, who brought my spirits up when they were low and were there when I needed help.”

So what are these young dancers’ aspirations for the future?

Rebekah’s dream is to perform on a cruise ship once she has finished her three-year program at Spectrum. “I’ve always wanted to travel the world and I want to be a performer, so why not put the two together. It’s not a long-term goal, and once I’ve achieved it I will be ready to face something new.”

Abbey is looking forward to exploring the many opportunities out there and is also keen to travel. “I would love to eventually work as a dancer in music videos or movies. It would be my dream to find work overseas, allowing me to both dance and travel.”