From the age of 11, my best friend and I had a dream that one day we would perform together at Disneyland. This dream was ambitious to some and impossible to others until the day we both got accepted to attend World Class Dance Tours where we were told that our dreams were about to come true at the age of 16. All very quickly we were boarding a plane to Los Angeles were we about to take part in a life changing experience. I was a part of the World Class Dance tours in 2014. Musical theatre had been my goal since I was 8 years old but coming from a small place such as Taranaki I was unaware of what the big world of dance was like in places such as Los Angeles.
When we first arrived, we were greeted by the beautiful Kim Davey, someone who to this day continues to inspire me, and we were taken to the Magic Castle Hotel, also known as “The big banana”. Here, we were welcomed by the staff immediately and being around the other side of the world from your family didn’t seem so scary anymore.
Our first lot of classes were held at IDA Hollywood (International Dance Academy). The studios were pristine and suddenly recognisable from the many celebrities that had uploaded photos to Instagram of them rehearsing in the exact studios that we were which was the most unreal feeling. The teaching at IDA filled me with inspiration and renewed my passion reminding me of why I loved to dance and perform. Agents in the industry and famous dancers such as Matt Steffanina came and spoke to the group as well which gave me insight into how I too could make it in the performing arts world.
Millennium Dance Complex was an incredible place where the dancing was intensified. We were put to the test as we danced alongside some of LA’s best dancers. My fitness rocketed from these classes and I could grasp the expectations of dancers over in America. Combinations were taught at a fast pace and we were encouraged to pick things up as quickly as possible so that our bodies got used to things such as muscle memory. Once classes were over we were mesmerised by the number of pictures on the wall all signed by famous people such as Justin Bieber.
Edge Dance Studios was another crazy once in a life time experience as thanks to WCDT I found myself in an advanced contemporary class dancing next to the lead character from the movie Step Up. This was a ‘pinch me’ moment on this tour as I was now dancing next to someone who I had admired for such a long time. The classes were challenging but a ball of fun and once again I was shown how the professionals train every day and was lucky enough to dance next to them.
The workshops that we took part in at Disneyland in Anaheim were something that I will never forget. As someone who intends on doing musical theatre as a career it was a great challenge for me when we were put through a mock audition at the Disneyland Performing arts studios. Here, I was put to the test and it gave me an idea as to where I sit on the world scale, being marked just as you would in a real audition. Not only that, but we had normal dance classes with amazing tutors who had been working with all the Disneyland performers for years and before that had professional careers as dancers so were full of wisdom and advice. Then to top it all off my best friend and I finally had our dreams come true as we performed a duo on the Disneyland stage and it gave a feeling that you wouldn’t understand unless you witnessed it yourselves.
It’s not all about the dancing either, WCDT allowed us to have lots of fun attending theme parks such as Universal Studios, or taking a tour around Warner Brothers where we got to walk the sets of our favourite television shows such as Pretty Little Liars and Friends. Laying in the sun on Santa Monica beach or playing among the waves. Watching the live shows playing in Los Angeles. But most importantly, shopping till we dropped. WCDT gave a perfect balance of intense training and fun free time.
WCDT would not be the same without the self-development taught on the tour. When learning about life’s ‘secret’ through the fabulous Kim I began to grow faith in myself and truly believe that I could do anything if I set my mind to it. With the little things that Kim taught they have taken a huge toll on my everyday life right up to today. When I landed back in New Zealand after WCDT I had an audition for the musical Mamma Mia. I applied the skills that I had learnt from the tutors, but mainly Kim Davey and three weeks later was cast in the show. To this day, I continue to consider Kim as a life-long mentor as she is always open to helping you and giving advice even though it’s been two years since the tour.
It is because of people like Kim and experiences like WCDT that I have been fortunate enough to have been accepted into the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic art where I will receive a degree in Musical Theatre commencing in 2017. I can easily say that if it weren’t for my experience with WCDT I would not be in this position as it is the thing that got me back on my feet as it restored faith in myself that I can achieve anything. WCDT is an indescribable experience that I would recommend to absolutely anyone with a passion or love for dance, and I mean it when I say, it will change your life. It certainly changed mine.
Helena Harvey, Dancer