Young Regional Ballet Dancers Mentored Via VR

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Young Regional Ballet Dancers Mentored Via VR
August 19, 2017

Distance is proving no obstacle for young regional dancers looking to gain valuable skills from mentors, thanks to virtual reality.

 

The technology has transported regional dance students from their hometowns in regional New South Wales, to backstage with The Australian Ballet in Melbourne, more than 1,000 kilometres away.

 

Over three days, The Australian Ballet senior artist Jarryd Madden mentored young dancers Melodie Cicak, Ashley Middleton and Lily Stace via video streaming, and walked them through wardrobe and backstage.

 

"We were in the dressing room and it was really fun to see what actually goes on and how much fitting they have to do," Ashley said.

 

"At one point we were talking about what we could see, and [the others] were grabbing my face telling me they thought it was the virtual ballerina," Melodie said.

 

Mr Madden said the method of teaching gave him the opportunity to connect with his home on the New South Wales mid-north coast.

 

"To be able to do this through today's modern technology is an amazing thing. I don't take it for granted," he said.

 

Despite the distance, the students said they had gained new skills from the professional dancer.

 

"We have learnt a lot about our port de bras, to be softer and to smile," Melodie said.

 

Port Macquarie Performing Arts principal Stacey Morgan said virtual reality allowed her students a unique insight into the industry.

 

"We are all about innovation, and this experience has really opened my eyes to the opportunities that we can provide for our dancers," she said.

PHOTO: Virtual reality takes dancers behind the scenes with The Australian Ballet. (ABC Mid North Coast: Gabrielle Lyons)

 

Modern technology paving the way for future education

 

The performing arts is not the only education sector opening the door to the virtual classroom.

 

University of Newcastle innovation manager Craig Williams said virtual reality would be a powerful education tool around the world.

 

"From a technology standpoint, we have the ability now to transport students to a new environment or situation," he said.

 

"[Virtual reality] as a communication tool has huge potential and we are only just touching the tip of the iceberg."

 

Mr Williams believes there is a common misconception when it comes to the new form of technology.

 

"Virtual reality is not just a gaming tool anymore, [it is] becoming part of mainstream education now," he said.

 

"It's an exciting area that people need to embrace and expect to see in the very near future."

PHOTO: Australian Ballet dancer Jarryd Madden streams a dance class to Port Macquarie. (ABC Mid North Coast: Gabrielle Lyons)
 

No boundaries: Connecting cities to regions

 

The virtual reality experience has inspired the Port Macquarie-based dancers.

 

"This experience has made us see that just because we are from a small town like Port Macquarie, Wauchope or Lake Cathie we can still get as far as Jarryd did," Melodie said.

 

Ms Morgan said mentorship was vital in motivating the dancers to continue their career in the arts.

 

"The possibility of getting feedback virtually from a professional like Jarryd will lift the standard of dance across the country," she said.

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