Mr Dance Factory
Mark Laguerre, Artistic Director of Dance Factory, has a resume that includes commercial dancer, musical theatre performer, teacher and Artistic Director of the Victorian State Schools Spectacular. He shares some insights into the Performing Arts and Dance training.
Dance Factory has been at the forefront of dance education for many years. On reflection, what gives you the most satisfaction?
It has to be our graduates - watching them move into the industry and embark on very successful careers. We have Dance Factory students working throughout Australia, New York, the West End, Europe and Asia. We are very proud of Jasmin Sheppard who is now a principal dancer and choreographer with Bangara. Jolene Slater has been a principal dancer at Moulin Rouge in Paris for many years and Sean Hingston has been working with Susan Stroman in New York. We have directors, choreographers, performers, teachers, studio owners and dancers. It is gratifying to know that they trained with us and when they come back through Melbourne and teach guest classes, I can see that knowledge and experience being passed on to our current students.
I understand Dance Factory’s courses are Government funded now. What does that entail?
The Victorian Government, after the TAFE shakeup, have put in place a funding program that financially supports students seeking further education. It’s called “Skills First” and our courses are funded through that initiative.
How does this differ from the HECS scheme?
The HECS scheme is a loan from the Government that the student is required to repay in the future. “Skills First” is a grant to the students; the Government is paying for a large part of students’ tuition fees, which means that the student doesn’t have to repay the grant.
The funded amount varies depending on the courses studied but it generally ranges from around 50% of the course fees, up to (if you have a health card) as much as 80 - 90%.
Does it apply to both part time and full time studies?
Yes. Not only are we the only commercial dance courses in Victoria that offer this funding, we are also Government approved to accept international students.
So what is the approach of Dance Factory training?
Technique and performance. Solid, strong technique is the thing that separates dancers, that draws your eye to that one dancer in particular, and that strength of technique comes through hard work, application and dedication. We focus on that in all our classes, but technique works hand in hand with performance, seeking to engage the audience, giving voice to the emotion, character and story of the dance. Giving the audience the sense that they are sharing in something spontaneous and “live”. That comes down to a dancer’s ability to perform, and you learn that by being in front of an audience.
So our courses are practical and physical - lots of classes and a major performance at the end of each term. Some schools work all year toward a single show but we have one every ten weeks. Get in, learn fast and also, perhaps, make mistakes, but learn from mistakes and grow from mistakes.