27 Jan

Helena Harvey – An indescribable experience

From the age of 11, my best friend and I had a dream that one day we would perform together at Disneyland. This dream was ambitious to some and impossible to others until the day we both got accepted to attend World Class Dance Tours where we were told that our dreams were about to come true at the age of 16. All very quickly we were boarding a plane to Los Angeles were we about to take part in a life changing experience. I was a part of the World Class Dance tours in 2014. Musical theatre had been my goal since I was 8 years old but coming from a small place such as Taranaki I was unaware of what the big world of dance was like in places such as Los Angeles.

When we first arrived, we were greeted by the beautiful Kim Davey, someone who to this day screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-29-58-pmcontinues to inspire me, and we were taken to the Magic Castle Hotel, also known as “The big banana”. Here, we were welcomed by the staff immediately and being around the other side of the world from your family didn’t seem so scary anymore.

Our first lot of classes were held at IDA Hollywood (International Dance Academy). The studios were pristine and suddenly recognisable from the many celebrities that had uploaded photos to Instagram of them rehearsing in the exact studios that we were which was the most unreal feeling. The teaching at IDA filled me with inspiration and renewed my passion reminding me of why I loved to dance and perform. Agents in the industry and famous dancers such as Matt Steffanina came and spoke to the group as well which gave me insight into how I too could make it in the performing arts world.

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-30-09-pmMillennium Dance Complex was an incredible place where the dancing was intensified. We were put to the test as we danced alongside some of LA’s best dancers. My fitness rocketed from these classes and I could grasp the expectations of dancers over in America. Combinations were taught at a fast pace and we were encouraged to pick things up as quickly as possible so that our bodies got used to things such as muscle memory. Once classes were over we were mesmerised by the number of pictures on the wall all signed by famous people such as Justin Bieber.

Edge Dance Studios was another crazy once in a life time experience as thanks to WCDT I found myself in an advanced contemporary class dancing next to the lead character from the movie Step Up. This was a ‘pinch me’ moment on this tour as I was now dancing next to someone who I had admired for such a long time. The classes were challenging but a ball of fun and once again I was shown how the professionals train every day and was lucky enough to dance next to them.

The workshops that we took part in at Disneyland in Anaheim were something that I will neverscreen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-30-19-pm forget. As someone who intends on doing musical theatre as a career it was a great challenge for me when we were put through a mock audition at the Disneyland Performing arts studios. Here, I was put to the test and it gave me an idea as to where I sit on the world scale, being marked just as you would in a real audition. Not only that, but we had normal dance classes with amazing tutors who had been working with all the Disneyland performers for years and before that had professional careers as dancers so were full of wisdom and advice. Then to top it all off my best friend and I finally had our dreams come true as we performed a duo on the Disneyland stage and it gave a feeling that you wouldn’t understand unless you witnessed it yourselves.

It’s not all about the dancing either, WCDT allowed us to have lots of fun attending theme parks such as Universal Studios, or taking a tour around Warner Brothers where we got to walk the sets of our favourite television shows such as Pretty Little Liars and Friends. Laying in the sun on Santa Monica beach or playing among the waves. Watching the live shows playing in Los Angeles. But most importantly, shopping till we dropped. WCDT gave a perfect balance of intense training and fun free time.

WCDT would not be the same without the self-development taught on the tour. When learning about life’s ‘secret’ through the fabulous Kim I began to grow faith in myself and truly believe that I could do anything if I set my mind to it. With the little things that Kim taught they have taken a huge toll on my everyday life right up to today. When I landed back in New Zealand after WCDT I had an audition for the musical Mamma Mia. I applied the skills that I had learnt from the tutors, but mainly Kim Davey and three weeks later was cast in the show. To this day, I continue to consider Kim as a life-long mentor as she is always open to helping you and giving advice even though it’s been two years since the tour.

It is because of people like Kim and experiences like WCDT that I have been fortunate enough to have been accepted into the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic art where I will receive a degree in Musical Theatre commencing in 2017. I can easily say that if it weren’t for my experience with WCDT I would not be in this position as it is the thing that got me back on my feet as it restored faith in myself that I can achieve anything. WCDT is an indescribable experience that I would recommend to absolutely anyone with a passion or love for dance, and I mean it when I say, it will change your life. It certainly changed mine.

Helena Harvey, Dancer

20 Jan

Jessica Harnett – A very powerful and lasting effect

World Class Dance Tours is worth every single dollar. It is a completely enriching experience made up ofscreen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-53-41-pm once in a life-time opportunities such as performing at Disney Land, dancing on Hollywood Boulevard, and meeting high scale dance and drama professionals, which I will treasure for the rest of my life.

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-53-30-pmYet, I found it to be so much more than just a dance tour with the aforementioned once in a lifetime opportunities. I found that it was also a tour focused on personal development, one that aimed for everyone to go home a better person, dancer, and all round artist. This combination of personal development tasks and immersive once in a lifetime opportunities was awe-inspiring and made the tour have a very powerful and lasting effect on me.

Now, while I absolutely loved every part of the tour, there were a few aspects that really stood out to me. screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-54-26-pmFirst was the variety of workshops offered to us during the trip. The abundance of choice we had and the quantity of such amazing workshops and tutors placed at our fingertips was every dancer’s dream. Whether you were an advanced dancer, passionate about making a career out of it, a beginner who just dances for pure enjoyment, or someone in between, there was a workshop for you. All of the workshops allowed you to try something new and step out of your comfort zone, and I ended up doing workshops like one for twerking that I very much enjoyed, but would have never tried had I not been on the trip. It was therefore, a tour that very much encouraged you to be brave screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-55-03-pmand embrace things that you would not normally do, the motto being, ‘you never know when you may be graced with an opportunity to take a class like this again so why not do it and make the most of it,’ which lead to a very enriching experience. Also, as someone who has grown up doing a lot of dancing and loves the choreographic side to it as well, the exposure to the industry professionals taking the classes and their choreographic process was incredible and very insightful for myself as an inspiring choreographer and dramaturge. I would not trade my participation in those workshops for the world.

Another aspect of the tour that stood out to me was getting to be a live audience member for a ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ episode. While I absolutely love dance, I would classify myself more as a drama enthusiast so this really was the best of both worlds for me. It was so amazing to get insight into the production of a live audience program while watching very inspirational and clever dancing and choreography. In one afternoon I got to see the inner workings of television, be the same room as well-known celebrities such as Jason Derulo and high profile choreographers, see some of them perform, watch amazing dancers, and appear on television myself (even if just briefly). This experience highlighted how the tour presented us with both traditional dance experiences (such as workshops and dance performances) and also, some not so traditional dance experiences, which tapped into other areas of the arts as well. I loved every second of that afternoon and would sign up to do it again in a heartbeat.

The Disneyland audition workshop was definitely another highlight. It provided me with skills I have screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-55-47-pmfrequently used over the past year. While again it was danced focused, the things I learnt were easily transferable to acting and every other aspect of the arts (and in fact, life in general). Audition skill workshops are something I think get overlooked by many people, but are extremely valuable (especially when you are being taught by a Disney Land casting director who has the power to employ you if you stand out enough). From only a one hour workshop I came away with the knowledge that in an audition you should always ask questions, as it makes you known to the casting director and they begin to relate to you as a person rather than a number, and when possible you must always put your hand up to go first, as it shows bravery and it is an automatic way to get a call back. These are some of the secrets that contribute to a successful audition, which I would have never learnt if I hadn’t had the opportunity to attend the workshop. Therefore, the tour made me a more well-rounded and knowledgeable dancer/drama student about the entire performing arts world from auditioning to performance work, and applying these skills since in University drama work and in job interviews has lead to some amazing results.

Last but certainly not least, my favorite and most treasured moment of the dance tour came out of an evening I never would have expected to come across on the trip. It was Kim’s personal development screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-56-02-pmevening, which taught us a lot about the power of the mind in manifesting what you want to get out of life – otherwise known as the Law of Attraction. This evening was an eye opener for me as she emphasized (in short) the importance of creating a career that you will love doing rather than one that will bring you wealth. She made the point that with hard work and the right mindset it is possible to do what you dream of doing, to create your dream job and that often you will end up making the most money that way – from something you love doing, so why settle for a job you do not enjoy. I think what she said is very true, money cannot buy happiness, but doing what you love can and I have lived by this mantra since as I have started to develop my career pathway. Not only was this evening very helpful to me and lead to me being able to accomplish all of my set goals for 2016, but since the tour Kim has continued to provide me with very generous support and advice. For instance, at the end of 2016 I had trouble deciding which university courses I should be taking to get to where I want to be and after seeking out Kim for some advice, she replied with a very detailed email with tasks for me to complete to help me with my decisions. She is a very busy woman and this would have taken substantial time out of her day to reply to. Thus, the tour provided me with the opportunity to meet a very inspirational mentor who infects everyone with positivity and hope, and I am very grateful to have met her and to have her continued help and support.

Thus, ultimately I got more confidence, inspiration and an increased love for all things arts from screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-56-48-pmparticipating in the tour and it brought home the fact that no matter how hard it may seem my career in the arts is achievable. Consequently, my dreams had never felt more in my reach than after I finished the tour and I owe that to the experience offered by Kim and the open advice she continues to give me. That, to me, is something you cannot put a price on. Plus how many people can say they have danced at Disney Land? Not many, and this is why World Class Dance Tours is worth every single dollar and is an experience every lover of dance should embrace. Travel is known to make a person richer, and this trip does exactly that, enriching you in the area you are passionate about the most.

Thank you Kim for creating this wonderful opportunity for dancers all over the world and for having such a positive impact on my life.

14 Jan

Josephine Bonnington-Mailisi – Surrounded by like-minded people….

My story:
I was a part of the “Random’s” Group. There were a few of us from around NZ, who had been acceptedscreen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-23-51-pm into the World Class Dance Tours program without a dance studio. We had to learn our choreography from watching a private YouTube link. We managed to put on a full-scale show with formations, solos, duets, costuming etc. We all united and bonded over our love for performance. That’s what these tours are about – having fun, meeting new people and learning all you can about the potential avenues to turn your passion into a sustainable career.

What did I love most about the tour?
I loved that I was surrounded by like-minded people that had as much passion about performing as I did. I loved the even balance of freedom and structure within the tours itinerary. I found that I had the perfect amount of time to be a part of the group activities and do fun things like take dance classes, climbing the Runyon Canyon, go out for meals, as well as take time to explore the area and imagine what it would be like to be a professional dancer living in Los Angeles. There were always so many opportunities available, and I really enjoyed the carefully thought out planning Kim put into our schedule each day – it catered to every personality and age group.

One of my favourite moments from the scheduled itinerary would’ve been the Disneyland Workshops. It provided great insight into the technicalities of a judging panel. It showed me that casting goes beyond talent, it can be based on look, personality and a foundation that has been built up from many years of hard work. I loved learning about how things at Disneyland were created such as the choreography for the evening light show. This was choreographed by Joshua Horner using a curtain and free movement. It was wonderful and inspiring to see how passion can be transformed into many different forms of art.

Furthermore, I really enjoyed the industry talks. We were fortunate enough to have people who were dancers, agents, musicians, producers, managers and/or people who were deeply integrated into the performing arts world. Not only, were they so willing to depart their knowledge on to us, but they were so open and passionate about helping us to succeed in our chosen fields.

What did I get out of the tour?
This tour was a great learning experience as it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I evolved so much as a dancer, friend, lady and all round person. It reaffirmed my current chosen path of being a professional dancer and aerialist. It challenged me to take financial risks to gain long-term security. I know truly understand what it means to “Invest in yourself to reach your goals”.

For those of you, contemplating the money aspect. I say, focus on your goals and dreams – and this tour is a part of helping you achieve that. When I first heard about the costs, I thought “How can I afford that?”. I put on a fundraiser show, sold confectionary, held sausage sizzles and sold raffles to earn the money. I utilised the resources around me to save up for the tour. This helped build my character, maximise my organisational and management skills to make my dreams come true. I am now living in Australia studying at the incredible Lee Academy School of Performing Arts. I am in my second year of my Diploma of Aerial, Acrobatics and Dance. I can confidently say that without this LA Tour and the experiences of living with people I’ve never met before, dancing in new environments and climates, and trying new things, moving to Sydney wouldn’t have even been something I would’ve considered.

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-25-54-pmI also received life-long friendships. Living with these girls for 2 weeks was incredible. We bonded like a sisterhood and all still keep in touch to this very day. It is beautiful to see what paths each of us have taken with some having moved overseas, performing for top of the line cruise-ships and some taking that next step in their life with entering an engagement! Most importantly, meeting all these people and being able to experience life as a professional dancer gave me the courage to pursue my dream because I observed how large the industry really is and where I fitted into it.

How has the tour/advice has helped you since?
As soon as I returned to New Zealand I started tap lessons. I believed it was the one thing that was limiting me from being a “versatile” dancer. At one of the auditions we went to, tap was one style of dancing I’d never pursued. This tour inspired me to improve myself as a person and continue evolving and growing my talents.

I gained an abundant amount of knowledge from this tour. Being from New Zealand, it is often easy to screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-27-16-pmbelieve that there isn’t much out there to allow us to pursue our dreams of being a professional dancer, aerialist, actress and performer. That there aren’t enough jobs, training facilities or something limiting ourselves. Anytime, I question my path or doubt my abilities, I think back to this tour and all the valuable skills of trust, respect, courage, versatility, strength and wisdom I gained. I remember the hard hours I put into fundraising the money to go on this trip. I think back to the auditions we went to. I think about the Disney casting panel. I think about the beautiful friendships I made, the guest speakers advice and the endless opportunities I had. These moments, these experiences, keep me going and striving for my goals.

by Josephine Bonnington-Mailisi

05 Jan

Kirsty Bell – Something for everyone….

The World Class Dance Tours, L.A tour, was a once in a lifetime trip for my dancers. The tour catered forscreen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-18-57-pm a diverse range of dancers, styles of dance and interests. It was successful at helping dancers realise their potential within the industry but also in their personal lives. It had the perfect balance between dancing and sightseeing. Definitely a well packaged tour that left everyone wanting more.

The constant support, both before and on the tour made this trip achievable. The team at WCDT are passionate about what they do and this is clearly evident throughout the journey. They know L.A and they know the industry. This helped build a positive and trusting relationship with all the teams on our tour. Another aspect I loved was the variety of dance classes offered, as there was something for everyone. This encouraged a lot of dancers to step out of their comfort zone, to try something new and work with industry professionals while having fun. And you can not forget dancing at Disneyland! What an experience! This was the highlight for the majority of the dancers and now they can say that they have danced on stage at Disneyland.

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-20-29-pmDancers, chaperones, teachers and team leaders all take something away from this tour (and it is not just a lot heavy shopping bags). The fundraising before the tour helped the younger students learn about the value of the dollar and made them feel like they were standing on their own two feet by earning money to contribute to their goal. Teachers get to meet a lot of wonderful choreographers who are inspiring and enthusiastic about dance. They helped me to find even more passion for what I do at home. Chaperones, it is special to see your child doing what they love in a country that is so supportive of the arts and seeing them dance at Disneyland is priceless (this definitely brought a few tears to the eyes of the Mums on my tour).

The friendships you make, the adventures you have and opportunities for personal growth are what makes this tour so special.

– Kirsty Bell, Team Leader