Strictly Ballroom's Ellie Belonogoff and Wesley Muir.
Strictly Ballroom's Ellie Belonogoff and Wesley Muir. Allan Reinikka ROK150818aballroo

Months of work behind school's Strictly Ballroom staging

WHEN even the choreographer has to take some ballroom refresher classes, you know this isn't any ordinary high school musical.

Rockhampton Grammar School's bold decision to stage Strictly Ballroom this year means students have spent hundreds of hours learning skills most performers take years to polish.

The amateur rights to Baz Luhrmann's iconic musical, based on the 1992 film, were only made available last year and Mrs Kennedy said it was "quite amazing” for a school to be able to stage it so soon.

But exciting as it was, Mrs Kennedy said the realisation that every student would have to learn ballroom dancing was daunting.

She had to brush up on her own ballroom skills, and also brought Justyn Manderson (from Manderson's Dance Centre) on board to help bring the students up to speed.

Leads Ellie Belonogoff and Wesley Muir had opposing, but equally challenging hurdles to overcome for their roles.

Wesley had no dance training, but needed to perform the role made famous by Paul Mercurio who played Strictly Ballroom's Scott Hastings a year after he left his decade-long roll as Sydney Dance Company's principal dancer.

Ellie, who has been dancing since childhood, had to reign in her talent to play uncoordinated, inexperienced Fran.

"Both Ellie and Wesley have worked exceptionally hard to get to where they are,” Mrs Kennedy said.

"The students have all done an amazing job. It's very fast and very colourful - visually this show is spectacular.

"I always have to remember I am working with students, young adults. I push them as hard as I would adults.

"As long as they go out and do the best they can, I'm very proud of that.”

Strictly Ballroom's Jan Kennedy.
Strictly Ballroom's Jan Kennedy. Allan Reinikka ROK150818aballroo

Strictly Ballroom is a family affair for Mrs Kennedy whose children designed and constructed the set which provides six to seven scenes in one clever package.

Her daughter, who teaches dance in the US, has also come home to help polish those sambas and tangos.

The school orchestra will add the finishing touch to the production with Mrs Kennedy promising audiences will be "blown away” by the sounds.

"Put that component with the skills the students have learnt, plus the visual aspects and this is going to be quite a spectacular show,” she said.

Strictly Ballroom runs on Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm and Sunday 1pm at the Pilbeam Theatre.

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