This year, The McDonald College will be holding its fifth Elite Masterclass series on April 11-13. Renowned for excellence in performing arts, the school will have the honour of hosting Lucinda Dunn OAM, Australia’s longest-serving ballerina and former principal dancer with The Australian Ballet; alongside Daniel Gaudiello, former principal artist also with The Australian Ballet.
The three-day program will offer two streams for Junior levels (ages 12-14) and Senior levels (ages 15-19), tailored for students with intermediate and advanced level training. Students will experience classes in classical ballet, pointe and coaching, variations and repertoire, contemporary, and yoga.
The Elite Masterclass series has been running since 2017, with Anita Young and Paul Boyd as the first master teachers, and has since been running (except for 2020 due to Covid-19) with incredible programs to enrich students.
This year, Jane Kesby (Head of Ballet at The McDonald College) says, “Both Lucinda and Daniel have had such fulfilling and amazing careers, and I have no doubt that what they will share about technique, artistry and quality of movement in the studio with the students will be with them for life.”
With excellence at the forefront of all they do, the objective of The McDonald College is “always for the students to gain, to have access to international guest teachers, to experience diverse teaching styles, and to be inspired and motivated by the careers of our world-class guest teachers that have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share,” Kesby says. And this is exactly what this year’s guests will offer.
Students attending Dunn’s classes can expect them to be informative, challenging and engaging. Filled with insight, Dunn says, “The classes will be positive and fulfilling through correction and personal feedback, with the opportunity to ask questions.” For Dunn, the sharing of knowledge is imperative for growth, noting her focus will be “to inspire the students through demonstration and information.” As a distinguished artist and celebrated teacher, her attention will particularly be placed on the purity and beauty of what classical ballet is. She adds, “I aim to expand the knowledge of what each individual can strive for.”
So what new insight and knowledge will attendees walk away with? “Students will understand the importance of values and work ethic on a daily basis to progress — self-motivation and the importance of also self-inspiration,” Dunn shares. “It is important for students to identify and work on weaker aspects of their individual bodies as they develop and grow, and being mindful and clever to promote their assets. To understand the artistry, technique and mental strength which essentially all play such an important role to the developing artist. And finally to nurture and further inspire their love of dance.”
Combined with deeply passionate and applicable life lessons from Gaudiello, students will certainly start the new term incredibly enriched. Having worked with many masters across his career, Gaudiello highlights three key aspects every dancer can hold on to and apply as they move through their training and career.
He shares the first one, explaining, “Quality over quantity is still the essence of classical ballet. As much as I love an exciting trick, if it’s achieved with style, technique and elegance, it’s worth so much more.”
The second is deeply aligned with Dunn’s core values. He states, “Hard work is the only way to pure success. You have to love the craft. Many coaches have shared their passion for the work in the studio, and that rubbed off on me.”
The third aspect is the power of positivity. Gaudiello notes, “The best mentors I have ever worked with have made me feel like I’m good enough for the piece that I was performing — no matter how famous it was. The times that I have failed were because I have not felt this. Positivity is the most powerful tool of the mind and it’s what I encourage all students to find within themselves. It’s also the part of the ballet industry that I would love to see embraced. The audience wants the joy of dance embodied in front of them. How can you create that feeling for them on stage when negativity is abundant off stage?”
Paving the way for the next generation, Gaudiello says, “I would love to see the next generation of dancers be the ones with the passion and inner strength to change the direction of the ballet industry.” With important issues being more accessible via social media and identifying what is ethical, he notes, “For many years, dancers have been seen and too afraid to be heard. I want this generation to have the courage to call out workplace bullying, to be assertive.”
With fresh perspective, how should students make such a classical art form relevant? Passionately, Gaudiello outlines, “Challenge the people who want to keep ballet in a time warp. Honour the tradition but don’t let anybody make you perform a role like the generation before you. Make it yours; do it your way.”
For those wanting to follow a similar path in performance and choreography, Gaudiello offers his advice. “For those wanting to follow in similar footsteps to me, my advice is to learn from the past but change the future. My heart and my gut led me through my career. My vulnerability was my strength, and it can be yours, too. Don’t be afraid to be your true self. A great person once told me to find that quiet inside and wait for that voice; it will tell you what to do next.”
The Elite Masterclass series will offer incredible value, with a combination of insightful information and demonstration, tools and techniques to develop and refine artistry, and the importance of hard work and personal values to help students succeed.
For more information and to book, visit www.mcdonald.nsw.edu.au/blog/2022/03/2022-elite-masterclass.
By Renata Ogayar of Dance Informa.