9 February 2022
Dancer Jamie Delmonte might be a familiar face to those who’ve seen a performance by the Royal New Zealand Ballet over the past three years. He started his career at the RNZB in 2019 as a guest dancer in Loughlan Prior’s Hansel & Gretel, joined the company as a Friedlander Foundation Scholar in 2020, and was promoted to a company member in 2021. He has an impressive list of dance credits under his name, but the new year brings a new opportunity for Jamie to explore.
In 2022, Jamie is taking a break from the stage to join the RNZB’s Education team as a Dance Educator. We’ve asked Jamie a few questions about his transition from Dancer to Dance Educator, and what the new role means for him moving forward.
In early 2020, I sustained a stress fracture to my left shin which took me out of work for three months. Cut to 2021 and the fracture was still plaguing my dancing – inhibiting me from taking part in our season of The Firebird with Paquita. By this point, it had been almost two years since I was first injured, and it was time to consider what my shin really needed to properly heal. The idea of becoming a Dance Educator and giving full-time ballet a break originally came from my lovely colleague and friend, Lauren Byrne (RNZB Dance Educator), who thought I would enjoy the role she’d come to know and love. I expressed my interest in the job with the company and during our season of A Midsummer Night’s Dream I was given the chance to shadow Lauren – helping her teach dance workshops in schools during the day and then performing in the show at night. Through watching Lauren and facilitating a few classes of my own, I quickly learnt just how up my alley the job would be. I was so thrilled to be officially offered a contract as a Dance Educator at the end of last year, meaning I could still play a part in this organisation and stay well connected to all my dance colleagues whom I love so dearly.
One key similarity I’ve found between performing for an audience and teaching a group is just how much confidence one needs. Both fields require you to command the space and attention of those watching or learning from you. Just like preparing for a show, I’ve learnt that teaching involves quite a bit of preparation and practice to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible when giving the class. And above all else, energy and the right amount of it is vital to delivering both jobs well—in other words, both roles require an awful lot of snacking!
Yes, every age group we teach has a slightly different ability and experience set, so we make sure to tailor and change every class we give to suit different year levels. This can range from the length of the class to how complicated the repertoire is that we teach. My favourite age group to teach has been the years 0 – 1’s, who will often be five years of age and won’t have attended more than a few days of school. This proves very interesting when they’re given instructions such as ‘stand in a line’ and they have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about!
The biggest and best thing I’ve learnt so far as an educator is just how rewarding teaching can be. Having the chance to change an individual’s perception of ballet is priceless, and I’ve already witnessed several young boys come into a lesson with a bad attitude and preconceived ideas of what ballet is and then leave with big smiles on their faces having loved the class. It is thrilling to see just how much of an impact ballet can have on people.
I am most looking forward to travelling Aotearoa, introducing ballet to those who have never set foot in a dance class before and making valuable connections across the land where both my parents grew up.