Amid Victoria’s 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, 13-year-old Zi Sione and her father, John began choreographing and filming their entry into Queensland Ballet and Suncorp’s Ballet Beat Drop dance challenge.
“Our inbox blew up when our family saw the competition on TikTok,” John says.
“It took a little bit of convincing, but Dad was happy to enter with me,” Zi recalls. “He got to interpret his interest in rugby, and then I got to show off my love of ballet – it was fun and great time for us to bond.”
The Ballet Beat Drop dance challenge asked TikTok users around the world to show off their dance moves with creativity and impact. While this was John’s first time entering a dance competition, Zi was already a seasoned dancer. So how did it all begin? A keen performer for as long as she can remember, placing Zi into kinder dance classes led to the discovery of her passion for ballet and choreography.
“Zi and her sister would put on shows at home – they were constantly playing Beyoncé, wanting to dance and entertain us. Once we recognised this, we got her into dance classes and supported her through all the different genres and styles,” John says.
“I settled on ballet at around age 10. I love the feeling of working hard and seeing the difference in how beautiful everything looks. Playing a character or a role with so much artistry and technique is really amazing to me,” Zi adds.
Fast forward to August 2020, having been crowned the winner of the Ballet Beat Drop Freestyle category, the next steps in Zi’s ballet journey came quickly. She participated in Queensland Ballet Academy’s online Elite Training Series, before successfully auditioning into Level 5 of the Academy Program, her family relocating to Brisbane to help her pursue the opportunity.
“I always wanted to come into a big dance academy because I knew it would be good for my training,” Zi says.
“My family have been some of my biggest supporters in this, and I’ve had so many beautiful teachers who have helped me along the way.”
“Moving back to Queensland was always in the back of our mind, and sharing the Ballet Beat Drop experience with Zi during lockdown helped bring some colour back into the year,” John says. “Once this came up, everything aligned and while it was overwhelming to leave Melbourne, it’s surreal to be here now.”
Now in Year 8, Zi is focused on working hard in her classes (at school and in the studio!) and hopes to follow in the footsteps of her biggest inspiration: American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer, Misty Copeland.
“Misty Copeland has inspired little girls from different cultures around the world. I saw her perform Aurora as a Guest Artist in the Australian Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty. She was so beautiful on stage – breathtaking. My life goal is to do the same and show myself like that,” Zi says.
Zi’s dream for the future is to become a Principal Artist in a professional dance company, and be the first ballerina of Pacific Islander heritage to achieve that. She hopes in achieving this vision it will inspire dancers from all cultures to experience ballet in how she expresses her feelings through movement.
“I feel so happy when I dance. When I get a correction, I want to do it better and prove to myself that I can do something so difficult, gracefully. I am being taught incredible things I would never have thought of,” Zi says.
“Coming to Queensland Ballet has been a massive highlight for us. She’s always wanted to be in this realm, and the best thing is watching her enjoy herself,” John concludes.
— Thanks to our Principal Partner, Suncorp, your little dancer can have the chance to win a walk-on role in The Nutcracker with the Suncorp Dream Big Challenge. Learn more at suncorpdreambig.com.au
By Courtney Adams
Illustration by Niqui Toldi