At age 18, Stockinbingal dancer Grace Large, a student for the past 12 years at Christine Wishart’s Dance Studio in Cootamundra, has taken the big step of moving to Sydney for further training. Grace is living by herself for the first time, having moved this week into a unit in the inner western Sydney suburb of Greenacre, and started a job there. Having just completed year 12 at Cootamundra High, with dance as one of her subjects, she is very focused on her goal of becoming a professional dancer.

“I’ve never really wanted to do anything else,” she says, “I never tried any other sports or anything, it was always just dancing I wanted to do”. For the next 18 months to two years, she will study at the Australian Music and Performance Academy (AMPA) at Surry Hills, near Central Station. After obtaining her degree she is looking forward to doing “anything to do with dance”, such as stage shows, cruise ship performances, or somewhere in choreography. “I’ll just see where it takes me I guess.” Grace chose AMPA because she loves performing, and it is the only school in NSW that does a performance-based degree. “Most of the universities are very theory-heavy, but AMPA is performance-based and ever since I heard about them in Year 8 or 9, it’s been my goal to go there.”

She started at Christine Wishart’s School of Dance when she was six, and has been inspired by the example of other students who’ve spread their wings and moved on to greater things, such as Tom Bradley, who this week was performing in New York and is based in France and Germany, or Liam Berg, who has relocated from Sydney to Melbourne to do a Master’s in dance. “Quite a few of Christine’s former students have had a lot of success, which is a good sign I guess, and it’s been good to have them as people to look up to.” Grace’s younger sister Lily, who will be in Year 11 next year, has also been a student with Christine Wishart since she was six, and Grace is thankful to her parents, Estelle, who runs the Stockinbingal Post Office and Paul, who works at the Stockinbingal Bowls Club, for their support.

Grace is already an experienced performer, having danced at many Eisteddfods in NSW including Bathurst, Orange, Cowra, Albury and Wollongong as well as participating in Quantum Leap in Canberra for six months this year and performing there. She has also been an assistant teacher at Christine Wishart’s School of Dance for the past few years, as well as holding classes once a week at Ellwood’s Hall in Stockinbingal for youngsters unable to travel to larger centres. Christine Wishart has been teaching dance at Cootamundra, Young and Temora for many years and believes it’s good for students to perform a range of different dance styles including jazz, tap, ballet, hip hop, acro and contemporary. “They don’t just do ballet, they do everything and they do it all very well because they get eisteddfod exposure,” she says.

Christine said Grace started off as a normal dancer, but got more and more into it especially when she started to do eisteddfods. “She has improved every year and been a very very hard worker,” she said. “She’s very dedicated, focused and an extremely versatilw dancer, able to excel in any dance style. Her mum taps with me and her sister dances with me as well.” Grace is finding it “very different” living in Sydney, having most shops within walking distance and not half an hour’s drive away. “I’m getting used to it slowly. Orientation week starts on 23 January and I’ve already got work here. ”Christine has been a great teacher for as long as I can remember. “She taught me how to dance, then she taught me how to be a teacher myself. “I’ve moved on I guess but thanks to her and my other teachers and everyone else who’ve helped me get where I am.”

Tom Gosling