"It’s a real partnership rather than a one-off experience ... It has enriched our school ... I’ve seen the difference it has made to the children ..." Susan Higgins, Principal
St Kilda Primary School welcomes students from all backgrounds. For Principal Sue Higgins, the partnership with The Australian Ballet is about opportunity and equity:
"It’s about children accessing experiences they would not otherwise have, particularly students who come from families experiencing serious hardship."
Every year, members of The Australian Ballet’s Dance Education team visit St Kilda Primary School and work with the students on movement and dance. This annual visit deepens and normalises the experience for students.
“Even though The Australia Ballet and the Arts Precinct is just down the road from us, it did not, and does not mean that some of my children are exposed to the richness of that world," says Principal Higgins.
“When the children walk into the hall and they know The Australian Ballet has arrived, the excitement builds, because they have had rich experiences in the past and they are eager to reconnect … It is an incredibly special partnership that we are privileged to share with The Australian Ballet and it is amazing to see the children’s skills develop over time … It's a program that builds upon skills and instils in children confidence and the belief that they can master these new challenges.
... When the students start off in Prep they throw their little hearts into every aspect of the program – they love it. As they get older, they're asking more questions and focusing more intently on movement, better understanding teamwork and appreciating ‘space’ around them. These are some of the benefits of having a long-term partnership rather than a one-off experience.”
Health, physical education and performing arts
Principal Higgins believes the knowledge and skills that students develop through partcipating in the program leads to a greater understanding of themselves, their own body movement, and the movement of others. She describes it as authentic learning, noting:
"[students are] better able to work together to explore, create and share newly learned movements and different skills. They're able to do this with far more confidence …
They're an arm’s length away from ballet dancers … I just think it's highly motivating for the children. It's meaningful and it's authentic. In today’s world there is a great deal of 'virtual' learning, but this is real. You can touch the dancers … It's happening in front of their eyes. The children are truly a part of it.”
"Exposing students to The Australian Ballet through the Education program broadens their horizons and helps them think differently about the world," say Principal Higgins.
"It’s enriched the lives of children at our school … I've seen the difference it has made to the children here ... I believe that it has enriched their lives and their understanding of themselves and others and I truly believe that it's been an opportunity for them to see life isn't just about just learning to play basketball or footy, but there's a whole other world out there that is beautiful and rich and stimulating for minds and bodies.
And for some students, their involvement in the program has been transformative. Sue notes, “I've had children who have gone on to do dance as a result of the Education program. I have a child who is truly alive when he dances. He loves dancing. He's a different child when he's dancing … and he is one of several children who has gone into dance as a result of The Australian Ballet being part of our school.”
The importance of deeper engagement
Exploring the benefits of long term dance engagement with St Kilda Primary, an inner city multicultural school in Melbourne who have been working with The Australian Ballet Education over 10 years.