Step inside Tweed's Ballet Factory

Tahnee Pitchers and Narrin Turnbull spend hours each week honing their skills at the Ballet Factory in Tweed Heads South.
Tahnee Pitchers and Narrin Turnbull spend hours each week honing their skills at the Ballet Factory in Tweed Heads South. John Gass

CLASSICAL ballet is regarded as one of the most graceful forms of dance that's celebrated across the globe.

What you might not know is that to perform perfectly requires as much strength and discipline as an elite athlete.

Navrin Turnbull and Tahnee Pitchers know exactly what it takes.

Both spend at least 20 hours a week on the boards at the Ballet Factory in Tweed Heads South, jumping and turning in an effort to perfect every move.

That doesn't include the countless hours they spend at school and training at home.

Navrin and Tahnee are names people should try to remember because both are determined to reach the pinnacle of ballet.

Navrin has been dancing for less than two years while Tahnee has done ballet on and off since she was three years old. Tahnee has taken a far more serious approach since joining Northern Rivers Ballet Company four years ago.

"It's the performance at the end really that completes the dream, I guess," Navrin said.

"That's when all the hard work pays off.

"I have always done school dance and it was jazz. I wanted to become a jazz dancer.

"They said if you want to get anywhere then you have to do classical ballet for the discipline and training, so the teacher said to come to Miss Fiona's.

"At the first class I was hooked."

Jazz lost Navrin to ballet that day.

"I love Spanish … I definitely enjoy Don Quixote. I love the style and attitude of it," he said.

"I'm not that big on jumping, I prefer turning."

Tahnee couldn't be more different. She loves the jumps and prefers the ballet Giselle.

"I want to go all the way," Tahnee said with a passion.

"I put in five hours extra a week because I put in a few hours every day."

Northern Rivers Ballet Company founder and artistic director Fiona Munroe is their teacher, along with 120 other students willing to strap on ballet shoes and do the hard graft.

About 30 of those are in the Northern Rivers Ballet Company, which is about to begin a tour of Peter Pan across the region.

"We are doing three ballets and Peter Pan is the narrative ballet for the kids," Ms Munroe said.

"There are only so many ballets you can do with kids and with not many boys … sometimes no boys.

"There's always a call-out for boys.

"You have to adjust what you are doing … sometimes there are guests."

Occasionally the younger girls in the company have to play the parts of the males.

When Ms Munroe answered a question about why children chose ballet, she asked her own series of questions.

"Why do kids get into football? Why do kids get into swimming? Why do kids run?

"It's just a passion … just a love for music and movement," she said.

"They stay into it more as they get older for the discipline, the challenge and the physical as well as that artistic outlet they have.

"It's not for everyone. It's a way of life really. You need to be very dedicated."

Ms Munroe understands the commitment, having toured with European companies in Germany, England and Sweden.

"Many people say you never choose ballet, rather you are chosen," she said.

"The company does instill a discipline and a strong work ethic."

Ms Munroe said the company was run as closely to a professional company as possible to give the students a taste of what it was like to make dance a career.

While Navrin and Tahnee may need to travel to Europe to realise their dreams, for now they will be part of Peter Pan and one of the longest-running ballet companies in NSW.

Topics:  dance

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