There is a sense of organised chaos in the studio. Bodies challenging limitations and reaching over one another, disregarding gravity. Hands and feet move across the floor and the weight of bodies rely on each other for balance. The smell of hairspray is thick and mixes with the subtle smell of sweat.
Since 1978, Hinterland Dance Academy has been a second home for many of the dancers on the Gold Coast. It is spring now, almost summer. The heat of the sun shines through the black curtains that mask the back of the dance studio, moving bodies making it even warmer. There are water bottles lined up against one of the walls. Andrea Etheridge, Artistic Director of Hinterland Dance Academy has recently begun rehearsals for the end of year performance.
Today, the dancers are rehearsing “Midnight Blues”, a contemporary piece that will be accompanied by Etheridge’s husband on stage, playing saxophone. Andrea sits in the middle of the room against the mirrored walls, directing the eleven girls. The piece begins with the dancers walking quickly across the room. “Do not walk like dancers,” Andrea tells the girls. The dancers are disciplined and listen expectantly as Andrea corrects them. After Andrea’s critique, there is a less systematic approach to their walk. The floor now tremors from increasingly heavier steps. Focused, the girls go over the piece repeatedly as Andrea makes changes to the choreography. The girls who are not dancing stand respectfully to the side, stretching at the barre, helping each other to remember the choreography. “Charlotte, stagger back a little bit. Kate, walk faster!,” Andrea yells out.
There is an IPod placed on a large speaker in the corner of the studio. As Andrea reaches to replay the song, the girls take their positions. They start, but soon the music stops. “Where is your leg?”, Andrea points towards one of the dancers. “There are two counts of eight, and you are supposed to come out at the second count, try again”, She adds. There is no doubt a search for perfection, however mistakes are integral to the process of becoming a skilled dancer. The girls are working hard They try again and this time, the music plays right through.
Even though dancing is physically straining, expressing through movement can help one to deal with other strains off stage. “I find I am more shy speaking to people rather than dancing. I can communicate better with dancing”, 16 year old dancer Rebecca Jorgensen says. Catherine Gerrard, 15, agrees with Rebecca. “Generally because I am really shy, dancing is kind of a way for me to express myself more”. Then, to also have a strong urge to succeed in the dance industry, can make one set unrealistic standards. “We expect so much of ourselves. I know I am definitely not the best dancer. There are other people better than me and I realise I’m not as good as them. It might break down my self-esteem a bit but I think you have to try not to be better than others. That is something that Ms Andrea always tells us. She encourages us to do our best and not to compare ourselves with others”, Alexandra tells me with a smile on her face.