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Gifted Wahta pirouettes into The Australian Ballet School


Gifted Indigenous ballerina Wahta Handy is hoping to follow in the illustrious dance steps of some of Newcastle’s finest performers.

And, at only 10 years of age, she’s every chance of achieving that ambition.

The proud Barkindji/Kunja nations youngster was recently accepted into The Australian Ballet School (TABS) Intra/Interstate and International Training program (Level 2) for 2023, much to the delight of her mother.

“We were both in shock [at the news],” Patricia Handy said.

“That was her third attempt at being considered.

“So, it shows you how hard it is to gain selection.

“To know she’s finally in it is a relief.

“However, her perseverance paid off, she wasn’t giving up on her dream.”

That means the hard work is about to start in earnest for the Joan and Monica Halliday Awards 2022 finalist, according to her mum.

“Wahta will now have to travel to Melbourne twice a year to study at The Australian Ballet School,” Mrs Handy said.

“She’ll undergo a week of girls’ intensive, plus another week of personal training, as well as classes.

“Then there’s a session in Sydney, for all the students throughout NSW.

“The teachers will meet them there and put them through their paces.

“It’s very full-on, but it’s what you’d expect.

“Three of her friends, from Studi-O Dance School in Gateshead, were also accepted over the past three years, including Joe Dufty who reached the final of the 2022 Sydney Eisteddfod Ballet Scholarship.

“So, she’s definitely looking forward to the experience.”

Mrs Handy said her daughter began her ballet journey at a very young age.

“Wahta’s danced since she was three, under the tutelage of Miss Karen Barker-Rogers at Studi-O Dance School,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“She used to do the Kindy Gym at the PCYC at Windale – and she loved that.

“Then I took her to the ballet.

“She loved it, too.

“And, we haven’t looked back ever since.

“In July, Rod Smith, from Awabakal Ltd, asked if she could perform a dance at this year’s Newcastle NAIDOC 2022, as ballet hadn’t been performed before, which the crowd greatly appreciated.

“She’s also received two scholarships from the Ella Foundation (Indigenous ballerina Ella Havelka) to attend TABS’s ‘summer and winter’ school this year.

“But, throughout it all, Miss Karen has played a huge role in Wahta’s development.

“She’s a really, really good teacher and has an amazing track record.

“In fact, Wahta’s the 13th student (from Studi-O), who’s gotten into The Australian Ballet School.”

The Windale Public School pupil doesn’t need to go far for inspiration either.

Mrs Handy, herself, spent considerable time in the industry as well.

“I learned ballet in Newcastle from when I was 10 to 18,” she said.

“Then I went to Australia’s premier Indigenous training centre, the NAISDA Dance College.

“When I returned to the area, I was invited to join the Bangarra Dance Theatre.

“That’s why I’m so thrilled with Wahta’s journey.

“Even at 10, she knows what she wants.

“And, that is to be a prima ballerina, like Olivia Bell.

“Newcastle boats a terrific reputation for producing successful ballet dancers.

“That probably all started with Marilyn Jones OBE, who was described as Australia’s greatest classical performer, back in the 1960s and 70s.

“Then you have the likes of Lisa Pavane, Elizabeth Toohey, Amber Scott and Stephanie Williams, just to name a few.

“Wahta also has a pair of shoes gifted to her from Olivia.

“She was in the national company for 18 years, so my daughter looks up to her.”

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