Sydney Eisteddfod alumni and 2016 Ballet Scholarship Quarter-Finalist Jaimee-lee Camkin moved across the world at just 17 to pursue her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.
Born in Sydney, Jaimee-lee started dancing when she was four years old at Wendy Gibbs School of Ballet. Growing up, she quickly realised her passion for dance.
“Words cannot explain the feeling of joy or excitement that you get when performing on stage. It’s the best part of dancing for me. I love it when we get to perform...it is the reward for all our efforts in the studio.”
At the age of 16, Jaimee-lee convinced her parents that full-time training was necessary to achieve her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer. She continued her HSC via distance education and commenced full-time dance at Alegria Dance Studios under the guidance of Hilary Kaplan and Archibald McKenzie.
“I was so fortunate to have these incredibly passionate and caring teachers. They encouraged me to work hard and be the best I could be.”
At just 17, Jaimee-lee moved overseas to accept her offer into the BA Modern Ballet Program (2nd year) at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Since then she has received countless opportunities to dance her way across the world and learn from the industry’s most respected teachers.
Since then, Jaimee-lee has performed at renowned theatres including Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Glasgow Theatre Royal, Joyce Theatre New York, Place Des Arts in Montreal and the Royal Opera House. She has worked with respected names and companies in the industry such as Hélène Blackburn (CAS Public) and Kerry Nicholls.
In her graduation year, Jaimee-lee was selected to go on tour with Scottish Ballet in their reproduction of A Fairy’s Kiss (Le Baiser De La Fee) by Sir Kenneth McMillian.
She has attended summer schools at Royal Ballet School, English National Ballet School and international ballet masterclasses in Prague and taken masterclasses at Alvin Alley, New York City Ballet, Mark Morris and Bill T Jones Company.
Jaimee-lee remembers the best experience of her life was the trip to New York with The Scottish Ballet's Youth Exchange Program. Over two weeks she collaborated with NYU TISCH School of the Arts to create a piece which was performed at Joyce Theatre in New York.
After graduating from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Jaimee-lee accepted an offer into Northern Ballet’s Professional Graduate Program. She worked alongside the Company in their children’s ballet and production of Nutcracker. A few months later, she accepted a Corps des Ballet contract with The Baltic Opera Ballet.
For Jaimee-lee, living overseas has been a steep learning curve. She has learnt a lot about herself, and what it means to be independent and resilient.
“When times get tough you don’t always have someone there to give you a hug or give you encouragement. You are forced to develop thick skin and seek new ways of overcoming obstacles."
Jaimee-lee says the most rewarding aspects of living overseas are the travel and dance opportunities.
“It’s a different world to the dance world in Australia. You can see big name companies perform in real life that when you were back home could only watch on YouTube. You have repertoire such as Kylian, Forsythe and McGregor at your doorstep. You can attend workshops with famous European choreographers to broaden your dance language. Nothing seems impossible here. You just have to do your research.”
She hopes one day to have the opportunity to move back home and dance in Australia near her family. For now, she plans to go with the flow and take every opportunity that comes her way.
Jaimee-lee remembers performing at Sydney Eisteddfod at a time when she was still learning to cope with performance nerves.
“Sydney Eisteddfod was a fantastic way for me to be pushed out of my comfort zone and allow myself to gain performance experience…I learnt new skills about dealing with nerves. Looking back I can really see the difference that having lots of stage experience makes. Now I feel so at ease when dancing on stage and can enjoy every minute.”
To those performing in Sydney Eisteddfod, Jaimee-lee advises dancers to take the opportunity to learn from others and enhance their own technique - rather than getting caught up in competitiveness.
The most powerful performance advice Jaimee-lee has ever received was from the Director of the dance program at NYU TISCH School of the Arts Sean Curran, who said, “the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming freight train and the only way out is through”. She says you should not be scared of what is yet to come but enjoy every moment along the way.