Q&A with Natalie Bowie
What is your training and background in dance? I started Classical ballet at the age of 3 with the RAD and then progressed to competitions at the age of 5. My teacher Miss Tipper (yes, I still remember her name as she is the one who instilled in me a love of dance) moved away and I had to find a new Ballet School to go to so continued learning RAD with the lovely Margaret Fairhead. I didn't start Jazz Ballet till I was 11 and then discovered American Jazz when I was 15, Jazz Ballet would never be the same for me ever again! After completing High School at 17 (my Father was adamant I had to finish all of my schooling) I got into The Auckland City Dance Centre where I studied full time Vaganava 9am - 5pm, 6 days a week. While there i also learnt Contemporary, Spanish, Flamenco and Russian and Ukrainian character/folk dance, which i still adore. I also continued with my RAD Advanced 2 training 3 nights a week from 7pm - 9pm. While I was still at High School I did competitive aerobics to increase my stamina and strengthen muscles, during which time as a 16 year old I was selected to represent NZ in their Junior aerobic team. I have also done Hip Hop in NZ which was my down time activity. How long have you been teaching? I taught RAD for 2 years 2003-2005 in NZ before my family and I moved here to the Sunshine Coast, but due to not having a family support network, was unable to continue. After waiting for child number 5 to start school I was blessed to meet Miss Deborah who gave me the opportunity to put my teaching hat and dancing shoes back on last year and so here I am. Over the last 20 years I have also had the opportunity to teach dance in many Primary Schools, High Schools and Community Events. What styles of dance classes do you teach? I currently teach the 'Mummy and Me' class, I help with RAD classes, Junior Jazz (with an American Jazz influence) and Hip Hop at TDCPS If you could describe your dance classes in 3 words, what would they be? Fun, Informative, Satisfying What inspires you in your teaching? Children, opportunities and the chance to succeed at one's dreams. As a mother of 5 children I love to see children excel at what they love and if I can help in some small way in their journey then I myself have succeeded too
How do you inspire your students? Firstly, I try to help them feel like they're in a safe environment when they are in my class. I try to keep myself in shape so that I can demonstrate proper technique in corrections that are made instead of telling them what it should look like, and if I don't know the answer I admit that I don't know but that I can find out. I also make sure that I follow up with that information. I try to make my classes fun but still maintain an element of discipline, and I talk to students outside of class. Who are some teachers that have inspired you? My very first Ballet teacher Miss Tipper, she took this little girl who had dreams of becoming a famous rugby player and channeled that passion into dance. Then there was Margaret Fairhead who was a very strict but fair teacher. I learnt from her that respect was earned and that it was a two way thing, and she always expected that we gave 100% in every class, to leave your problems at the door and keep dancing. Mary Berg was a fun teacher who introduced me to the world of American Jazz Ballet (she was American herself who use to dance with the New York Ballet) I remember the first classical class I had with her, she was filling in for Margaret who was away examining for RAD in China, she was almost due to have her second child and I was like, whoa, what is this crazy pregnant lady doing? And why is she demonstrating Grande Jete en Tournant? 5 weeks later she was back teaching RAD Ballet, Open Class, and American Jazz and it didn't look like she had ever had a baby!!! That was really inspiring. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to have the influence of many teachers both good and bad, you learn from each of them if you have the attitude to learn and not take things personally but the one that stands out the most was Valerie Murray the Principal of The Auckland City Dance Centre, she was in her mid 60's and she had amazing technique. Her anatomical knowledge of how and why the dancer's body worked the way it did came from her own personal struggles. She was 5ft 9inches and she had shrunk, she did not have what the ballet world considered the right body for ballet because she was too tall, was to busty and had sway back (hyper-extended) legs. I always learnt so much from her classes, she loved everyone and would squeeze you every time you turned up each day, she was like a mother hen who made sure you ate properly, that you ate enough, that you rested enough and would always listen and know what to say when you had had enough and wanted to throw it all away. She removed the lift from the building so that we would have to climb all 83 stairs at 8:00 every morning so that by the time we reached the studio our bodies would already be warmed up ready to dance, ready to stretch. Val is the reason I teach today. What is your most memorable moment as a dance teacher so far? I think it's made up of lots of little moments like when a little child is petrified to come to class and have a complete stranger try to get you to do all these strange things with your feet and legs, there's tears and sometimes tantrums and then all of a sudden there's this enormous smile with big eyes and you know yes that little girl or boy will be back. Then there's the struggling student who has the light bulb moment when everything finally lines up and they can master that elusive leg extension or pirouette etc Describe the most creative work related project you have completed as a Dance Teacher? I have had the wonderful opportunity to choreograph shows for schools, both Primary and High School and it has been both challenging and rewarding as the majority of the students don't have dance backgrounds and you're working with people who have different standards in dance, but my favourite was for Stage Challenge (New Zealand 's equivalent to Eisteddfods) for Church College of New Zealand where we had 8 minutes to portray a drama piece that had to include acting, dance and tell a story. They practiced for 5 months before school, during lunch break and after school. We chose Cinderella with the underlying theme of child abuse, overcoming obstacles and self worth. There were 200 students in this production and they were placed 2nd in the competition by 2 points. But for me the success came from giving children the opportunity to experience something out of their comfort zone, something that they sometimes wouldn't normally have been able to afford and to build a love of hard work even if at the end of the day you don't get the outcome you wanted. Do you feel continuing education is important? Why or why not? Yes,
definitely. Knowledge is Power. Education/Knowledge is a life long pursuit and just like dance; It is something that is never 100% perfected, there is always room to improve. Life can throw quite a few curve balls at times and the more effort you put into gaining an education, gaining knowledge the more opportunities you have to succeed and help others along the way no matter what your chosen field.