A mixed-aged team brimming with talent, enthusiasm and camaraderie is dancing up a storm at ACG Tauranga.
This year’s creation of an Open dance team – the first in the school’s history – is upping the ante on ACG Tauranga’s vibrant dance culture and giving students from across different year levels the chance to buddy up and learn from each other.
The 20-strong team of dancers spans Years 4 to 10, and already they’re making their mark. Not only did they take out third place in the Open category at the recent DanceNZMade competition (despite being the only team with primary-aged dancers), but they also won the Director’s Wild Card, giving them entry into the upcoming Nationals.
But while these results are outstanding, Year 8 student Jeeyoon Ma says being part of the Open team has provided much more than just accolades.
“This team is very special because we are very much like family,” says Jeeyoon.
“We all have a special bond with each other, and the fact that we are different ages makes us even closer. The older kids take care of the younger kids, and when the younger kids need help with the choreography, they are not afraid to ask. Everyone is comfortable with each other, just like family.”
In the eight months they’ve been dancing together, the girls have forged friendships and connections that will last for years to come as they move their way up through the school.
“We have so much fun, especially now that we know each other quite well, and we really motivate each other to push ourselves harder. During rehearsals, we have laughs that bring up the energy to keep us going. It’s made me realise how special all the girls in our team are.”
Dance teacher Dani Archer says the mixed-age team brings a new dimension to the school’s dance offerings.
“Being a school that teaches Early Learning up to Year 13, I believe we have something different to offer,” says Dani. “We have some very hard-working Primary students who I knew would learn a lot and be inspired by working with our older students, and it was an excellent opportunity for our older students to mentor our younger students.
“The team has developed such a strong bond, and they have been extremely self-motivated when it comes to training and rehearsals. Our older students contribute ideas to the choreography based on their areas of expertise, and they also support the younger students when it comes to learning the more difficult elements of the routines.”
Year 6 team member Jorja McAlpine has been dancing since she was two, and in that time, has been involved with a variety of dance studios. This year she’s dancing for both KJ Studios and ACG Tauranga, and she couldn’t be happier.
“Being selected for the ACG Open team was an honour and has been a real highlight for me, especially performing in front of my school, learning from our amazing, talented dance teachers and getting selected for Nationals,” says Jorja.
“The different ages create a really nice balance. We encourage and support each other, and I’ve made friends with the other students in my team. We work collaboratively and have a blast dancing together.”
And with different students experienced in various dance genres – from Latin and ballet to hip hop and contemporary – they have a lot to teach each other.
“Our creative Senior students have offered some great ideas for choreography. Watching and learning from the more experienced dancers gives me more potential in my own dance and performance.”
Year 10 student Milla Sharp is one of those dancers. With 12 years of experience and a particular passion for jazz, she is a great mentor for younger team members.
“As an older dancer, a highlight of being part of the ACG Open team has been helping the younger students learn and improve their dancing. It’s a great environment where we all help each other to be the best we can be,” says Milla, who dances five days a week for ACG Tauranga and KJ Studios.
“I love the range of ages in our team and the fact that we are all girls. This has helped us bond and grow together. Our connection was further strengthened at the recent DanceNZMade competition. It was such a fun experience, and gaining the Wild Card entry into Nationals later this year was the definite highlight. It was great to represent ACG Tauranga at Regionals, and we can’t wait to dance even harder at Nationals!”
For Milla, the school’s dynamic and innovative dance programme has been a big drawcard.
“I love that the ACG Tauranga dance programme is tailored to dancers of all levels and abilities, with a purpose-built dance room and a teacher with experience in the dance world.”