In April 2016 I experienced the trip of a lifetime. As the team leader for the Twin Cities team I took a group of 18 dancers from Auckland and Wellington on a World Class Dance Tours trip to Los Angeles. My team consisted of dancers aged from 12 to 26 years old, and what I loved most about the tour was that every member on my team thoroughly enjoyed it all, regardless of their age and experience. There are many highlights from the tour, but to name a few these include the activities and workshops, the tour managers and other tour groups, and the performances from the trip.

The tour included a large variety of activities such as Hollywood home tours, shopping trips,screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-48-42-pm a trip to Santa Monica Pier, theme parks and dance shows – including being in the live audience at Dancing with the Stars! Each of these activities were exciting, fun and allowed us to see a whole lot of LA. They were all very well organised and I would love to go back and do them all again. Some activities also included team bonding and personal development which were directed by the tour managers themselves. These activities allowed us get to know each other better and really inspired myself and the other dancers to aspire to the best we can be. For the Twin Cities team, the team bonding was especially useful as the Auckland and Wellington dancers on my team did not meet in person until we all arrived in LA.

In addition to all of the activities, the diverse dance workshops we attended were a huge highlight of the trip. My dancers and I learnt various genres of dance including hip hop, jazz, contemporary, burlesque and twerking, which were taught by some of the best teachers, dancers and choreographers in LA and at world renown studios such as IDA, Millennium and Edge. The workshops were fun yet challenging and all of the teachers were really happy to have us there. We also had talks from real agents and dancers from LA. These were insightful and it was really interesting to hear how the dance industry works. Two other very exciting workshops screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-49-49-pmwe also participated in were held at Disneyland. One was held as a mock audition, which also added to the knowledge we were gaining about dance in LA. The other was based on an aspect of dance and performance. The teacher spoke with me beforehand about our upcoming performance at Disneyland and asked if there was anything I think my team needed to work on. I suggested expressions and performance attitudes which she took on board and delivered the whole workshop around. This helped my team and I hugely not only for our performance but for each dancer individually beyond the trip also.

The people on the trip were also a significant highlight. The tour managers were all extremely helpful, knowledgeable and friendly, and really contributed to the enjoyment of the trip. They became not only staff members of the tour but great friends to all of the teams. The other teams themselves were also great to be on tour with. It was exciting to see other groups of dancers embarking on the same journey and being able to support their performances as well as having them support us.

The biggest highlight and most memorable moments of the trip were the two performances my team and I did. We performed not only at Disneyland but also on Hollywood Boulevard. Both performances were thrilling, successful and a feat that I thought would only be achieved a dream. As the team leader I was extremely happy with how my dancers performed and really enjoyed dancing alongside them. How many people can say they have performed at Disneyland and on the Hollywood Boulevard?!

Alongside the highlights, I received so much personally from the tour. The trip was inspiring and insightful, and I learnt so much. As a leader and teacher, I learnt what does and doesn’t work when leading a team on such a massive trip. I learnt how to manage two groups in two different locations (Auckland & Wellington), how to choreograph with these two groups and how to run rehearsals when two separate groups come together for the first time. Being on the tourscreen-shot-2017-02-09-at-5-50-42-pm around other dancers and teachers, and being immersed in the dance industry also inspired me to become a better teacher, and to continue to challenge, motivate and nourish my students in any way I can. As a dancer, I was given a huge insight into the dance industry and dance world in LA. With the industry being much larger and very different to the one in Auckland and throughout New Zealand there was so much to learn and take in while on tour. In two weeks I learnt many things as mentioned – different genres of dance, aspects of dancer/choreographers’ lives and the ways agencies work. This knowledge is useful in considering my own place in the dance world, but also useful to pass on to other students who may hold an interest in becoming a professional dancer. As an individual, I believe the entire trip contributed to many aspects of my professional development. This includes leadership skills through leading the

Twin Cities team; communication skills which were required between myself and the dancers, their parents, the tour managers and the other teams; self-confidence in my ability to achieve a successful performance at Disneyland and Hollywood boulevard; and many others such as time management, initiative and positive thinking.

Since being on the tour I have been able to utilize these developed skills in many areas of my life – such as when at University studying my Doctorate, lecturing a dance paper at the University of Auckland, and when teaching young people at an afterschool studio. The knowledge and advice I received while on tour continue to contribute to my dance and career aspirations. I aim to be the best teacher and dance scholar I can be, and strive to push my students in the same way while giving them the best learning opportunities. Additionally, knowing aspects of what the dance industry is like I can share my experiences and inspiration from the tour with my students.

Overall, the tour was organised and always exciting, the team managers were friendly and enthusiastic, the accommodation was comfortable and fun, and the performances were thrilling. The entire experience of the World Class Dance Tours Los Angeles tour is one I could do again and again.

Kristie Mortimer
Twin Cities Team Leader 2016