18 July 2014
Queensland is famous for its dancing talent at both professional and student levels. Over the years Queenslanders have won a multitude of prizes at Sydney Eisteddfod, and since 2008 students of leading Gold Coast teachers have claimed top honours in the prestigious McDonald’s Ballet Scholarships four times. Carrying a total prize purse of $36,000, these scholarships are the most valuable awards available to teenage ballet students in the southern hemisphere. A $15,000 scholarship plus a $3,000 cash prize is presented to the outright winner, the best dancer of the opposite sex to the winner receives a $10,000 scholarship and $2,000 cash and the six unplaced finalists $1,000 each.
These scholarships always draw the finest talent, and this year attracted 180 ballet students from all over Australia and New Zealand, including a contingent of 23 Queenslanders. Through a series of elimination heats and a semi-final master class, the massive field whittled to the eight finalists who will compete in the deciding round at Sydney Opera House on 3 August. According to the adjudicators, the standard this year is exceptionally high, but with three Gold Coast dancers into the final, few will be surprised if Queensland scores another victory in this prestigious event.
The Gold Coast students Bethany Cockburn, Chiara Gonzalez and Sera Schuller are all beautiful dancers. Sixteen-year-old Bethany Cockburn grew up in Sydney, but for the last year or so, she has been training with Prudence Bowen-Atelier at Mudgeeraba. Always a standout, Bethany began winning prizes at Sydney Eisteddfod when she was seven and by the time she was in her early teens, she had etched her name in its history as the only dance entrant to win five gold medals in the annual competition twice, first in 2010 and again in 2012.
Chiara Gonzalez of Benowa and Sera Schuller from Aroona are both 17 and study with Suzanne Way at Professional Ballet Coaching, Burleigh Heads. Chiara has visited Japan twice for the Gold Coast & Ikeda Cultural Exchange and during her travels performed with the Yuki Modern Ballet Arts Company. Now, as a member the Queensland Ballet Junior Program, Chiara now dreams of dancing the company one day.
Originally from the Sunshine Coast, Sera represented Australia as a finalist in the 2012 Prix de Lausanne. Through this experience, she was offered a full scholarship to the Swedish National Ballet, but after careful consideration, she declined the offer and returned to Australia to complete her Grade 12 studies. She recently accepted a place at Canada’s National Ballet School and will begin training there in September,
The three dancers are thrilled to be dancing in the Sydney Opera House final and with previous Gold Coast winners Claudia Dean (2008), Jordan Mullen (2110), Courtney Macmillan (2011) and Kelsey Stokes (2012) flying the Queensland banner before them, they will all be starting at very short odds.
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