After being introduced to Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, and Fred Astaire by his Nanna, old Hollywood became a big part of Shaun Curtis’ childhood. These influences, along with watching Cats the Musical, prompted him to start dancing at age 5.
“I initially did tap, and from there, I asked my Mum if I could try ballet and jazz. Apparently I was completely bored the whole time with ballet, but when my mum asked me which class I liked better I said 'classical, of course,'” Shaun laughs.
At around 12 years old, Shaun took the next step by signing up for Queensland Ballet’s Associate Program and participating in productions by Brisbane City Youth Ballet. From experiencing the stage, he realised how much he really loved his ballet, deciding that was the direction he wanted to head towards.
“I realised how much you work for yourself – that first year at Queensland Ballet was a big game changer for me, realising how far and progressive you can go, and how much you have to work,” Shaun recalls. “I lived in Jimboomba, about 40 – 50 minutes away from Brisbane, so while it was a decent trek it was still really good to be involved.”
After taking part-time training through Queensland Ballet, Shaun decided to audition for Queensland Dance School of Excellence (QDSE). The audition was a memorable experience for him!
“I remember auditioning with a broken arm in a fluorescent yellow cast. I was one of only a few boys and everyone was looking at me very strangely,” Shaun chuckles. “I could still hold a barre, just very awkwardly. Doing turns with it was hard because one of my arms was so much heavier than the other, which threw me off for everything – but it was my only chance to audition so I had to give it a go!”
Despite his broken arm, Shaun was accepted into QDSE, which he trained over three years from Years 10 – 12. In Year 12, the School transitioned to Queensland Ballet Academy, where he danced in Level 1 of the Senior Program.
“I really wanted to be a dancer, but I had a lot of injuries from it so education was really important to me,” Shaun says. “Going into the Senior Program was the best path I could take because it gave me a solid education as well as the ballet training. I really liked school, I think if I wasn’t dancing, I would be interested in physiotherapy or psychology, which was a safe back-up.”
Luckily, Shaun didn’t need to use his back-up plan – upon graduating high school, he auditioned successfully into the Pre-Professional Program and then progressed into the Jette Parker Young Artist Program, before joining Queensland Ballet Company on a Company Artist contract in 2020.
“Being a part of the Company and in an environment where you take class with 60 other dancers in the room all supporting one another is a highlight. The inspiration I get from everyone helps me try and better myself every day – the process has always been slow for me, but so rewarding,” Shaun says. “There are countless Company members who have helped me with a correction, or offered a new thought process to help me be a better dancer. That’s something I value and appreciate so much.”
While 2019 was action-packed with performances such as Solder’s Mass and the Queensland Ballet Academy Gala for Shaun, he’s slowly working his way back to the stage following COVID-19 restrictions.
“The satisfaction to stand on stage again and do what you work for your whole life is very rewarding – It has been quite ethereal to be performing,” Shaun says. “I love everything about Queensland Ballet – the work, the repertoire, the people and the atmosphere. Coming in every day and doing something that you love for a living, is honestly something I will cherish forever.”
For those looking to take up dancing as a profession, Shaun’s advice is to try your best – if you put 100% of yourself in it, you’ve done everything you can to the best of your ability.
Images: Queensland Ballet Academy & David Kelly