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By Yang Liu
The Dominion Post
April 23 2015


Shae Berney, 15, was picked from more than 400 dancers from around Australasia as winner of the Alana Haines training scholarship for 2015 (Alana Haines Trust)[Hutt, New Zealand] – There were more than 400 dancers – some of them world class – vying for Alana Haines Australasia Awards this month. But one of the top prizes went to a Hutt teen who has only been learning ballet for 18 months.

Shae Berney’s lively performance of The Bluebird, from The Sleeping Beauty, stood out in the judges’ eyes and got him to the quarter finals at the Easter event at Wellington Opera House. By the final curtain fall, the 15-year-old had been awarded a scholarship to attend the Harid Conservatory in Florida, USA.

The AHA Awards have become the largest dance awards in Australasia, with a total of $300,000 in cash and international scholarships up for grabs. Among the hundreds of 11-21 year-olds were dancers who had just returned as winners from the Prix de Lausanne Switzerland, YAGP New York & Genee Belgium.

AHA cofounder Katie Haines said the judges saw great potential in Shae and awarded him the scholarship over othe finalists. He will spend four weeks in Florida attending a Summer Intensive with students from throughout the USA and around the world. The classes start on June 22.

The Hutt International Boys School year 11 student told Hutt News he was “pretty excited” about the journey. It’s going be lots of fun, like [meeting] many new people and stuff. But being away from home for a month is pretty scary.”

His mother LeeAnne Berney will go with with him for the first few days to help him settle in. She said Shae had been interested in dancing since he could walk. “I always knew he had a talent. He put music on at home and danced around.”

Shae’s first stage foray was in musical theatre about four years ago, but ballet drew his eye 18 months ago. “It was from my sister; she used to learn. I just watched her, and thought it looked fun. So I tried out.”

A student of Bronwyn Bennett at Chilton St James, he enjoys classical ballet most but also likes jazz and contemporary styles. He spends more than 20 hours a week training, only taking a break on Sunday.

Juggling study and dance practices was tough, but LeeAnne Berney said Shae was “always pretty determined.” “Some days he goes straight to the studio from school and he’s not home till 9 or 9.30pm. Other days he may have only one class, so he gets his homework done on those days.”

Although not sure about his future career plan, Shae said he would be more than content to earn a living from dancing.

LeeAnne Berney is proud of her son and excited about what the next 18 months might bring. “If he makes the same amount of progress as what he has done, it could be quite interesting.”


The Alana Haines Trust was set up in 1990 by Greg and Katie Haines (both former dancers with the New Zealand Ballet Company) in memory of their 11-year-old daughter Alana – a promising young dancer who was killed in a car accident on Christmas Eve, 1989.


© 2015 Fairfax New Zealand Limited



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