Break the Ballet
It was a brisk morning in September 2009.
Nervous anticipation was buzzing in the air, bouncing frenetically off the studio mirrors at Urban Dance Centre. Over 60 students filled the room, psyching themselves up in preparation to give the best audition for a spot in the 2010 Fulltime course @ UDC. Before today there had already been over 100 applicants audition, places were limited and they all knew it. The audition panel assembled, calling everyone to attention.
“Today we want to see you doing what you love. Show us your strengths and we will look for potential where you are weak. Enjoy yourselves and prepared to be challenged in different genres of dance. Don’t hold back and let’s have fun!” Juliette Verne’s (a.k.a Jet) voice echoed around the studio and excitement began to replace the fear in the eyes of many of the auditionees.
“The day will be split into 5 sections. Ballet, Jazz and Hip Hop will be first, then Singing and Acting, in that order.”
A young 17 year old sandy haired boy from Ulladulla with his hat on sideways scanned the room intensely.
“Ballet!?” he thought,
“This is meant to be a school of Hip Hop! I’m here to show them my Break Dancing not get into a pair of tights…” Jeremy Gates (also known as “Gatesy”) was having doubts if this was the right place.
The ballet barres were in place and the applicants ordered into their position by name and then, it was on!
Classical music piped through the speakers and beads of sweat immediately sprung to life on Gatesy’s forehead within moments of Adrian Van Winklehof taking them through the basic ballet forms. The day turned into a blur of choreography, physical exertion, acting, singing and before he knew it Jeremy was standing there, on his own, blinking in front of the 3 person panel before him.
“So tell us Jeremy, why do you want to do this course?”
The question hung in the air for a moment as Jeremy ran through the day and also his motivation for being here in the first place.
“I’ve come to be a better break and hip hop dancer.” he said “that’s what I do.”
“You understand that this course requires you to tackle different genres of dance and Ballet is one of those?” Jet said.
“Yeah, well, I don’t really want to do ballet. That’s something girls do right?…”
The audition panel was silent for a moment.
“Ballet is a great foundation to build strength and flexibility. It’s not something ‘just girls do‘ and if anything it will make you a better and more versatile dancer. Something that is important if you want to work in the industry. This course requires you to be ready to commit and willing to challenge yourself to new things both physically and mentally, especially if you want to have a chance of getting somewhere.” Jet eyes were intense as she waited for a response.
“Do you think you have what it takes? Do you think you’re strong enough?” Jet said with a smile on her face. “I dare you to accept the challenge.”
Gatesy was discovering something new, he didn’t know exactly what it was but the muscles in his body were screaming at him after the days audition, and it felt good…
‘Dont know how I’m going to explain these black tights to my mates back home.’ he thought ‘BUT I’m not backing away from this challenge, especially if it’s going to make me stronger!”
“Accepted!” he said in a strong confident voice, a big smile on his face and determination in his eyes.
Those words echoed around the room with wide grins from the panel and Gatesy’s journey had begun!
2010 was a year of unsurpassed commitment,dedication,perspiration and positivity at Urban Dance Centre with training and guidance from some of the best faculty the industry has to offer.
Fast forward with his discovered love of ballet:
2011 saw Jeremy move on to further study at the wonderful Tanya Pearson’s Classical Coaching Academy. Later on that year he was a main dancer in Sabrina Mitwallis music video “Sexy on ya” and flew out to represent Australia at the World Hip Hop Championships with Phly Crew in Las Vegas.
2012 Jeremy travelled with Tanya Pearson’s European Ballet tour across Belgium, Germany and Switzerland and was offered placement at 4 different schools. After much deliberation he accepted a place at Mannheim, returning to Australia later in the year to appear in performances such as the Nutcracker and others.
2013 present day – Jeremy Gates has scored a Full Contract in a Ballet Company!! After auditioning for 4 different companies Jeremy was successful in securing a spot in the Thuringian State Ballet. Happily for Gatesy his girlfriend, Norma Magalhaes, also scored a contract in the same company!
Gatesy says his break and hip hop training actually gave him the edge over the other male ballet dancer’s who auditioned because the choreographer needed “something different” to add flavour.
Some messages from Gatesy whilst abroad in Europe:
2012 – Mannheim (after being at the school for a few weeks)
“I start warming up at 8:15am and do a 2 hr classical class with 4 other boys Monday to Saturday 9 till 11. It is the most intense thing I have ever done I am dripping with sweat by half way through barre and exhausted after class. We do an hour barre, 30 mins on centre/pirouettes, then jump for 30 mins, we then have a 30 minute break and for the rest of the day either a pas de deux class, modern,character, more ballet centre practice or Pilates. Some days don’t end until 8:30 pm like tonight and last night.
I am loving it so much and I feel improvement already its a way of not just working hard, but also smart so everything becomes much more clean and placed.
… Love Gatesy.”
2013 – After scoring a Full Contract in a Ballet company
“I want to thank you for bringing me to this world, this art form and this lifestyle. I feel overwhelmed with joy, excitement, gratefulness and humility. I have so many people who have helped me get here and I will always be exceedingly thankful for. You guys were the start. Cheers to a “hip hop school” who is and was so versatile and open. So much that it can put a dancer on any path even classical ballet in Europe.
Thank you and all the best.
From Urban Dance Centre to the Thuringian State Ballet company, a neo classical company with 22 dancers, in a city called Gera (about an hour west of Dresden). Gatesy will do about 60 performances per year and perform in 2 main theatres.
Photos by: Terry Cullinane
Story by Doug Blaikie