My youngest child has always been ambitious. I knew this from the moment she crawled up the hallway at the tender age of 4.5 months after her older siblings. Thirteen years later and this child we call Anni, is still a go-getter. It’s been a joy to see her grow and strive over the years, pursuing each challenge with vigor. I treasure all the little moments we get to spend together. Recently, we had the opportunity to visit Sydney to look behind the scene of filming the Australian feature Dance Academy. This experience was thrilling for Anni who is a fan of the television series. It’s exciting to support an Australian film production that showcases so much Aussie talent.
Dance Academy will premiere in Australia on April 6 2017 and it’s a movie both parents and teens can enjoy together. The story follows Tara Webster as she pursues her dance dreams, however the movie isn’t just for dance fans. The themes of the movie surround working hard, learning through setbacks, adopting strong role models, equality for women and self-confidence. As a parent of three teenagers, these themes resonate strongly with me as I aim to raise strong, caring and resilient children in this last stretch before adulthood.
Visiting the set of Dance Academy in Sydney
Since starting high school last year, my daughter Anni has been interested in becoming a doctor. She’s a driven person, even to the point of adjusting her learning to align with goals. It’s not uncommon for her to come up to me and say something like, “I need to spend more time on this math investigation – especially the communication because I need to be able to communicate clearly as a doctor.” She’s one focused child! I think that is why Dance Academy appeals to her so much. It’s interesting that a non-dancer would feel such a connection with the show, but it makes sense that the drive required by dancers resonates to other career paths. Thomas Lacey, who plays Ben in the television series, agreed Tara’s ambitious character is extremely relatable to other career choices. I also had an inspiring chat to the co-creator and head writer Samantha Strauss about her own inspiring story how she pursued script writing and movie production. It’s satisfying as a mother to see other female role models that aspire to greatness, pursue their path, get up after failures and try again. We need more ambitious female characters and themes coming out in film.
Thomas Lacey who plays the character Benjamin Tickle
On set: Filming Dance Academy in Sydney
Meeting Anni’s favourite character, Abigail Armstrong played by Dena Kaplan
Fostering ambition in your children is a tight rope to walk on, I’ll tell you! On one hand, you don’t want to push them into a path that they are not sure about and on the other hand, you want to encourage their interests. As a teacher, I know all kids develop at different rates, so it’s a matter of watching for their readiness and being willing to saturate that sponge when the particular child shows they are keen. In the early years, I exposed my kids to a lot of different things they had to commit to for one year. At this point in her 13 years, Anni has discovered she loves the piano and trombone, she enjoys gymnastics and she wants to be a doctor. I foster her ambition by looking for opportunities to enhance it. Looking back over 18 years of parenting, there are four main ways I facilitate ambition in my children:
1. Give many opportunity for your child to try different things.
We have three children and both my husband and I now work full time (I went back to full time work when my youngest was 7). The way we managed this point in our lives is by doing things as a family. So the children and I all did gymnastics for a year, learned ice skating for a year, played futsal for a year. We all did swimming for about 3 years because swimming skills are essential. As the children approached high school, their interests became more pronounced and my role is more about facilitating their personal interests through growing independence.
2. Look for opportunities to develop their passions.
As our children’s interests became known, we began to give them opportunities to develop them. Both our girls are passionate about music, and we chose to pay good money for a quality piano/voice teacher. The eldest child showed a keen interest in voice training 1 year ago and we spoke to her teacher about beginning voice training. My son loves his football and we are fortunate that his school has a good coach. Anni is interested in medicine, and is lucky to have medical relatives to quiz. In these examples, you will see people of influence. Having alternate people we trust to speak into our kids lives is important to the way we parent. It is these people who can support our children’s dreams in specific ways parents cannot. These may be paid professionals or family and friends. Positive role models are important for our kids.
3. Respect their developing understanding of their interests.
It’s easy to have an idea of where you want your child to be, and making sure it aligns with their developing interests can be tricky. For example, Anni competed in gymnastics for 2 years, and then just quit. I didn’t understand it as she always enjoyed what gymnastics teaches her body to do. And we had spent lots of time driving her to meets and competitions. What we discovered together after a year off was that Anni didn’t want to compete; she just wanted to do it for fun. At this point, as parents, we needed to respect Anni’s developing understanding of her interests.
4. Foster resilience by encouraging them to go on despite setbacks.
My eldest child had a major setback in her music at the beginning of this year. She told us that she didn’t want to do piano anymore. Given her constant interest in music for years and years, my husband and I had a dilemma. Was this a moment where we had to respect her developing understanding of herself or was this an opportunity to encourage her to keep going despite setbacks? After many discussions between our daughter and the piano teacher, my husband and I decided this was a moment to foster resilience. Push past this hiccup and keep going! It’s still a bit of a struggle but she is making progress. Resilience is a quality that is coupled with success, and there are many opportunities to foster this on the parenting journey.
Anni and I are looking forward to the launch of Dance Academy on April 6th 2017 – even more so now we’ve seen behind the scenes. I’m also excited to take my almost 18 year old because it’s the sort of movie that can spark important conversations before she heads to university next year. No matter who or what you do in life, you need resilience. My girls have been given the best opportunities in life so far! On this solid foundation, I hope they can learn what it is to push through and try their best. Dancing takes discipline and effort, it takes failure before success. It takes trying again. It takes coaching, learning from others and a willingness to develop. These are messages for everyone.
Sign up to the Dance Academy mailing list for news and updates from the production.