Raise attracts new breed of dancers

A new dance studio designed to cater for dancers and drop-in students who want to mix with the best, has opened in Wellington.

Raise, dubbed New Zealand’s answer to London’s Pineapple Studios, is an open forum for all members of the dance community, and is attracting some top talent to teach students.

Often in the world of advanced dance, particularly ballet and contemporary, it’s either a career or nothing at all.

But Raise an organisation founded with Wellington’s freelance and semi-professional community in mind – is allowing those who spent their lives dancing to carry on after they’ve finished formal training.

At the helm is Erin McCloskey and Greer Robertson, who both come from strong dancing backgrounds.

Raise, which evolved from a previous model dubbed Raising the Barre, is a “an open forum, where all members of the dance community can get together”, Robertson said.

“And that includes students at the New Zealand School of Dance in their downtime, to professional dancers wanting some extra class time, to those who just want an after-work class or the chance to push themselves.”

Robertson, a former dancer with the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) takes a number of the classes, based out of the RNZB studios at the St James Theatre.

Forced to relocate back to Wellington from Christchurch after the February earthquake, she is quickly re-establishing her old links to bring in top tutors.

“It’s New Zealand’s answer to London’s Pineapple Studios”, Robertson said, and it is attracting some of the country’s and world’s top talent to teach students.

A core group of dancers are already using the service and an extensive rotation of “drop-in” students have meant demand for classes is high.

To celebrate the RNZB’s upcoming performance of Swan Lake, former associate director of the ballet company Peter Boyes has just wrapped up open classes in Swan Lake variations.

Acclaimed international choreographer and former Canterbury boy Ross McCormack is the latest to share his time with anyone who wants to show up.

He is also a former student of Robertson’s, who said they were “lucky to have him amidst a busy international schedule”. McCormack has just finished touring Korea.

He will be taking four workshops of the highest-calibre contemporary coaching to the wider community.

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Although temporarily basedat the New Zealand School of Dance studios for the duration of McCormack’s workshops, Raise permanently shares its base with the RNZB, allowing company members to take classes as well.

With the support of both national industry body Dance Aotearoa New Zealand and the RNZB, Raise is an interesting exercise in allowing the widest group possible access to tutoring normally reserved for the best of the best.

McCloskey said Raise filled a niche where advanced dancers were not held back by having beginners in the class, but beginners could in turn be inspired by some of the higher level dancers.

“It’s supportive and it’s relaxed,” she said.

“It’s for the more advanced dancers but everyone is welcome and the classes are aimed toward the highest common denominator, as every class should be.

“That’s so everyone can step up to the next level but also go at their own pace.”