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By Jullianne Evans
The Waiheke Gulf News
December 22, 2011

Rising Waiheke dance star Kit Reilly talks to Julianne Evans about the first steps towards his dream job.

The day 14-year-old Kit Reilly found out he’d been accepted by the prestigious New Zealand School of Dance, he was in the middle of class at Takapuna Grammar.

“Mum had the envelope at home and asked me if I wanted her to open it; and I could tell she really wanted to,” he laughs.

The letter confirmed that Kit’s audition to become a ‘junior associate’ of the school had been successful and his first challenge would be in January 2012, when he was offered a week of master classes in Wellington.

“I was really excited because I auditioned last year and didn’t get in… I was so pleased I didn’t give up.”

Auditions for the school were held around the country in November and about 200 young hopefuls attended. Only seven new dancers were finally chosen.

The Junior Associate programme nurtures the next generation of New Zealand dancers, catering for a small number of notably talented young students aged 13 to 16, who show natural potential for both classical and contemporary dance.

The idea is to provide complementary tuition while students who hope to attend the school full time in the future, continue to study with their own dance teachers.

Kit hopes to go to classes in Wellington over four weekends next year where he will be appraised by staff, teachers and the head of the programme to see if he’s got what it takes to reach to the next level.

And wherever possible, he says, the junior students enjoy an active relationship with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, including master classes with the company when they are on tour.

They are also offered a partial scholarship to attend the annual winter school. The cost of the classes is covered but the travel and accommodation will be extra which is where the supportive parents come into it.

“Yes, both mum and dad have always encouraged me to follow this path if that’s what I want.”

Exciting stuff for a boy who has been dreaming of a career in the performing arts since he was seven.

“I started dancing at seven, but I thought I wanted to be an actor until I was about 10. It’s only in the last four years that I’ve really focussed on dance, and classical dance in particular.”

And now he lives and breathes it, attending about five classes a week in jazz, contemporary, tap and ballet at two different schools; the Devonport School of Dance, and the Rose McRae Dance Academy which runs classes on Waiheke.

And as a male, he is still very much in the minority. “I’m the only boy in my ballet class but there are more in other styles. And there are a few boys at Takapuna Grammar who dance so it’s not so unusual; but it’s more competitive for girls obviously as there are so many of them.”

I wonder how he settled on dance in preference to acting.

“I think I just decided it was my thing. It’s a good way to express yourself, it keeps you fit and I love being in front of an audience.”

Does he get nervous? “Yes, I was very nervous when I had to do a solo piece as part of the end of year recital for my dance school at the Bruce Mason Centre.” But fortunately, it was alright on the night.

The life of a professional dancer is notoriously tough; does he think he can cope?

“I think you have to work very hard and keep up your conditioning at home. And you have to know you are going to suffer disappointments and move on, work past it.”

He admits that last year, he had an exam result he was less than happy with.

“But you know you’re not alone. Other people have the same disappointments, so you can hopefully get through it together.”

And in an ideal world, what does the future look like?

“I want to carry on as I am for a few years, finish my schooling, and then apply for the New Zealand School of Dance to study full time for two or three years. And then, hopefully, get into any professional company.”

Anywhere in the world? “Anywhere that will have me!”

Well, the odds are pretty good if he is accepted and graduates. Sixteen of the 24 students graduating from the New Zealand School of Dance in November this year have already secured professional jobs.

The class of 2011 will be taking up positions in among others, the West Australian Ballet, New Zealand contemporary company Black Grace, the Singapore Dance Theatre, the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the Sydney Dance Company.

So it looks like the passport to big, bright things. “Yes, that’s what I’m hoping,” he smiles. Watch this space. • Julianne Evans

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