Julian Ardley lives in Paris where he performs six nights a week in the Lido show “Paris Merveilles”. He is one of 10 dancers who have spoken exclusively to Dance Australia about their full-time studies experience for our 2018 Full-Time Studies Guide.
I was born in Timaru, NZ. My parents moved my brothers and myself to Mount Isa in Queensland where I spent my early teen years driving them both nuts! Then in my late teens through to my mid-20s I lived on my own in Melbourne, trying to be an adult!
I studied for three years at Patrick Studios Australia (PSA). I never had any dance training before going into it full-time. When I moved to Melbourne I knew no one or anything about dance at all. I just worked in several retail stores and then full-time temp. work for Optus. I hated every second of that but, having dropped out of school, convincing someone to give me a job was difficult. I had made great friends but when it came to work I was depressed. I was always leaving work drained while my friends got to dance gigs in clubs, fashion shows and musicals around Melbourne. I used to go watch them on the weekends in envy, wondering how do they remember all these moves?!
But then when I was out at a nightclub one evening, a friend came running over to me and said, “Do you want to do a freestyle set? There’s been a no show and I really need someone to fill-in for him!” Even though I was as nervous as all hell, the rush it gave me hooked me for life! Then and there I knew what I wanted to do was perform.
Not long after that night, I met a woman who was Todd Patrick’s assistant. She asked if I was interested in going to a runway audition for gig in Hong Kong. They were looking for models/ good lookin’ fellas who could dance. I thought to myself that she has had clearly too many drinks but I was like, “Yeah, cool. I’ll start stretching tomorrow.” I mean that dance audition was my first ever!
I didn’t get the job but they asked me to stay until the end to discuss something. They said they loved my look but unfortunately my dancing wasn’t at a level they needed (surprise, surprise!) Then Todd Patrick, who was conducting the audition, came over and said, “Well, let’s change that then!” He told me to come do a trial at a Monday night boys class at PSA and we’d go from there. OMG, on that day something changed within me!
The following week I skipped into work and with the utmost relief I quit my job with such pride and started full-time dance training at PSA.
Walking into a class with those amazing and talented students was exciting. I still remember the smell of sweat and the beauty of those moving bodies and faces. I really felt like I was in a play, playing myself. But the biggest challenge was still to come. I struggled with looking silly in front everyone. I already had self-esteem issues from growing up as a flamboyant gay boy in a small remote mining town. Let me tell you, that place put a huge dent in my confidence. I always had to watch over my shoulder, dodging a few punches or being pushed around. Once I was even spat on! I avoided parties because I would constantly get threatening text messages. I lived most of my youth in fear, which then caused a bit of social awkwardness and not knowing how to interact with people my own age, constantly worrying about what others thought of me. All of that on top of starting dance at 22 with two left feet in among dancers who were already starring in leading roles and shows!
I am now living in Paris where I perform six nights a week as a show boy in the Lido show “Paris Merveilles”, which is the most recent Lido glamazon directed by Franco Dragon.
I still can’t believe, when I think back 10 years ago to the boy I was then, that I was capable of becoming the man that I am today! Life has certainly proven that absolutely nothing is impossible... nothing! If you want it badly enough you will make it happen. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. One thing I had to learn was not to let anybody try to discourage you because they will do that, believe me! If I could give my younger self some advice it would be to leave myself alone, being happy doesn’t mean everything in your life is perfect! In fact happiness emerges when you have learnt to look through the imperfections and judgements. Please, to all the young mes out there, don’t be afraid to jump in and start with what you have now, stop waiting. It’s in the deep waters that you really do evolve!
Pictured top: A scene from the Lido's 'Paris Merveilles'. Julian is left. Photo: Sime Eskinja.
This article was first published in Dance Australia's Full-Time Studies Guide - a pull-out, FREE supplement in the August/September issue. Buy Dance Australia from your favourite retailer, purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app or subscribe here.