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EIGHTEEN months ago Ty Disher had never set foot in a dance studio – now he is off to Melbourne on a ballet scholarship.


Roz Pulley
Cairns Sun
Photograph by Talia Ling
January 20, 2010


The 18-year-old former construction worker, diesel fitter and school drop-out discovered his natural gift by chance after dabbling in hip hop and accompanying his niece to a contemporary dance lesson.

His potential was quickly spotted by dance teacher Sandra Kuhn, who runs Centre Stage Dance Studios in Yorkeys Knob. “I looked at him and thought ‘this boy’s got some raw talent’,” Sandra said. “I suggested he should do ballet to help his contemporary work, so he jumped straight into a ballet class with very young children.

“He had to learn the basics with eight and nine-year-olds and full kudos to him for sticking at it. They knew much more than he did, but he stuck to it,” Sandra said. “It takes a lot of guts for a boy to decide he wants to dance, especially when it’s not something cool like hip hop. The girls just loved him. The bigger ones took him under their wing. The young ones thought he was great. They loved it because he could do lifts and they got to do stuff like a big ballerina.”

After showing early promise, Ty was pushed up a few levels last year to dance with students nearer his own age. “He really loved it and found he was good at it. He has a natural aptitude for ballet. His body does what he wants it to do,” Sandra said. “He had a lot of natural ability to start with and improved in leaps and bounds throughout the year.”

In June last year, Ty sat his first ballet exam with former Australian Ballet prima ballerina Christine Walsh as his examiner. “She runs a fulltime Diploma of Dance in Melbourne at the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet. She offered him a scholarship and the rest is history,” Sandra said.

“He wouldn’t have been offered the scholarship with Christine if she didn’t think he could do it. She knows he’s got to really work hard, but she thinks he’s got potential. She doesn’t accept people unless she knows they’ve got the potential to work in the industry.”

Once in Melbourne, Ty will jump from about 10 hours of dancing a week to 30 plus hours. “You’re flat out,” Sandra said. “It’s such a physically demanding course. It’ll take a bit of adjusting.”

Ty’s mother, Julie Disher, said she was particularly proud of her son’s achievements, given that he dropped out of school in Year 9. “I pulled him out after Year 9 because he always hated school and I put him into pre-vocational carpentry. He did work experience with a guy who couldn’t put him on, then he worked as a diesel fitter for the rest of the year.

“Then Ty decided he wanted to go back to school. I didn’t want him to because he hated it so much. I said ‘you can’t go back’, but I was really proud of him. He did really well. He put his head down, his bum up and worked hard. He put a lot more effort into it. He had a completely different attitude.”

Ty skipped Year 10 and rejoined his classmates in Year 11 at Smithfield State High School, switching to Cairns State High School for Year 12 last year.

Julie said his mates were stunned at Ty’s decision to take ballet and initially joked about it. “But not anymore. I think they’re proud of him,” she said.

Ty said he had no hesitation in giving ballet a try when invited to join a class by Sandra Kuhn at Centre Stage Dance Studios.  “I threw myself in there. The worst thing was starting to wear tights. I was freaking out. You always get teased, not from the girls, just the boys down near the shops. I wasn’t embarrassed about it, but I didn’t like people threatening to fight because you were dressed differently to them.

While auditioning in Melbourne last year, Ty caught a gala performance by the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet. “The male dancers were amazing. I’ve since received a letter from one of the students who says we’ll be doing a gala performance this year with concerts in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns and possibly Tokyo.

“I’m a bit nervous, but I should be all right,” Ty said.


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