Stepping out of your comfort zone with Vito Bernasconi —

When I was young dancer, before I had even considered pursuing ballet as a profession, it wasn’t the only style of dancing that I did after school and on weekends. As well as ballet, I also practised contemporary, character (Russian, Ukrainian, Moldavian etc.), jazz, as well as some Spanish and even gymnastics. Having a variety of styles in my body and repertoire has allowed me to perform roles such as Gopak in Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker, and I was so glad that I had trained in the traditional floor tricks.

As Queensland Ballet finishes with Liam Scarlett's A Midsummer Night's Dream, rehearsals for Derek Deane's Strictly Gershwin have begun in earnest. With this production comes a wide variety of dance styles including ballet, contemporary, tap and jazz…  and again, I'm thankful I have some extra experience behind me.

A production like Strictly Gershwin provides a rare and exciting challenge for professional ballet dancers. Covering so many different forms of dance in the lead up to the season requires us to adjust to new movements and styles. This is something that can be daunting for many of us, as we have largely focused on ballet and contemporary movement since becoming full time dancers, but getting out of your comfort zone can also be exhilarating.

For me, returning to jazz (a style that was never my favourite as a youngster), was a little tough to begin with but as I’m getting a feel for the flow, overcoming any hesitation and adjusting to the movement, I’m beginning to enjoy it more and more. The chance to be performing these Strictly Gershwin routines in a full on, non-stop, big band extravaganza is definitely an exciting prospect I can’t wait to experience! Looking back, I now wish I was more open to styles like jazz when I was a young dancer. Expanding my dance vocabulary and developing fluidity in forms that don’t come as naturally to me as ballet is now something I see as a fun challenge, allowing me to put my abilities as a dancer to the test in different ways.

Why not think about stepping out of your own comfort zone and trying a different dance style too? I believe it's always rewarding to try something new. Challenge yourself, break through barriers and simply see what it is like. You might just love it!