Wednesday , September 28 2022

Blenheim's Billy Elliot: Ballet and contemporary dancer lands spot on NZ School of Dance program



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Tom Calder remembers being riddled with nerves before starting his first dance class.

All other dancers were a year old than him, and the teacher was not sure if he would have been able to keep up.

But his mother, tired of a 4-year-old that would not stop twirling and moving around the house pleaded, "just give him a go".

Blenheim dancer Tom Calder has been dancing since He was 4-years-old.

SCOTT HAMMOND / STUFF

Blenheim dancer Tom Calder has been dancing since He was 4-years-old.

Blenheim's own Billy Elliott, Tom, 12, is taking steps right and has accepted the New Zealand School of Dance Associates Program.

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With aspirations to make it professionally, Tom has had a deep love for dance, practicing up to 12 hours a week.

"I love how it's such an escape. It's so emotional. It's such a cool expression of emotion, I just love it. It's so freeing.

For the associates program, Tom will go to Wellington for a term

"I'm absolutely stoked for it."

Dancing from the age of 4; first hip hop and salsa, followed by jazz and ballet, Tom is the oldest boy in his dance school.

His favorite memory of dancing as a ladder, was the "star circle".

"You've got a circle and then someone will run in the circle and do 'improv' and the people will be on the outside cheering along."

Tom Calder, 12, rehearsing for his part in the Royal New Zealand Ballet's The Nutcracker, at the ASB Theater earlier this month.

SCOTT HAMMOND / STUFF

Tom Calder, 12, rehearsing for his part in the Royal New Zealand Ballet's The Nutcracker, at the ASB Theater earlier this month.

At the age of 10, Tom was drawn to the structure and rules of ballet and was soon introduced to Billy Elliot.

"I think it's a cool movie. I love how the guy who was in the boxing classes joined the girls and he just grew so much from it.

"Obviously when I started ballet I was the only boy of my age in the Blenheim dancing area, so I thought it was really cool watching the movie."

It was "cool" being the only boy in the dance class, he said.

"I had never seen a boy my age doing lift, I had not seen boys my age dance, except for videos and stuff.

"So it was kind of hard to get my kind of style that was not too feminine.

"I wish there were more boys here. I guess that's the down side to living in a small place rather than Christchurch where there are more boys."

RNZB ballet master Nick Schultz takes Tom and his classmates through their routines.

SCOTT HAMMOND / STUFF

RNZB ballet master Nick Schultz takes Tom and his classmates through their routines.

While he loved Ballet, his contemporary dance was his real calling and that would be his focus in the associates program.

"With contemporary it can be a lot more emotional, a lot more personal."

Tom thought he had auditioned well, but auditions had taken place in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, so his fingers were crossed that he would make the cut

"I was over the moon.

"It will get my name out there."

Blenheim dancer Tom Calder, 12, has been accepted to join the New Zealand School of Dance associates program.

SCOTT HAMMOND / STUFF

Blenheim dancer Tom Calder, 12, has been accepted to join the New Zealand School of Dance associates program.

He was accepted on his performance in an audition in Wellington and his previous dance exam results.

At the end of the year-long program, Tom was audition again to see if he had accepted the following year.

Tom was trying to follow in the footsteps of Christchurch dancer Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, who had a close connection with the Dennis on Grove School in Blenheim where Tom trained.

Guillemot-Rodgerson went on to train the prestigious Juilliard School, in New York, and since graduating had started with the Houston Ballet Company in Texas

Guillemot-Rodgerson was home in Blenheim earlier this year and danced in Grove's mid-year ballet, Mowgli.

"That was so cool because he was Mowgli and I was teen mowgli, so I was like a little him," Tom said.

"He's such an inspiration. It shows me what I might really be able to do.

"If you've seen it done, you know it can be done."

Dance on grove artistic director Jeannie Mark and ballet dancer Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson at the Grove Rd studio.

DAVID JAMES / STUFF

Dance on grove artistic director Jeannie Mark and ballet dancer Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson at the Grove Rd studio.

Earlier this month, Tom was a "child extra" dancing with the Royal New Zealand Ballet in the Nutcracker when they toured through Blenheim.

"That was just so amazing. Even just being on stage with them and watching them was incredible."

A few young boys had recently joined Tom's Blenheim school, and he hoped he could be a inspiration to them, he said.

This weekend, Tom will be singing on stage for the first time in DANCE on Grove's end-of-year performance, The Little Mermaid Jr.

Tom will be joining the New Zealand School of Dance Associates program 2019, majoring in contemporary, by classmates Moana MacDonald and Samantha Grammer.

Accepted on the New Zealand School of Dance scholars program 2019, majoring in ballet, are Milly Ryan and Harriet Ensor.

Dance on Grove's production of The Little Mermaid Jr will be held at the ASB Theater, in Blenheim, from November 30 to December 2.

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