Regional Hero: Broome Performing Arts Co-op
Developing well-rounded humans is the aim of this West Australian school.
Two thousand kilometres north of Perth in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, the pearling town of Broome is home to the Broome Performing Arts Co-Op. Established in 2012 and transformed into a not-for-profit organisation in 2020, the school was established by Justine De Bruyn and a group of five other teachers who wanted to establish a “different” dance school.
As De Bruyn explains, their motivation was to “help raise whole humans – empathetic, kind and connected kids who just loved to dance and perform”. Envisaged as a welcoming and encouraging space for all, the school promotes body positivity and provides affordable tuition and costume options. De Bruyn says this is important to ensure that “we are accessible for all of the community”.
Originally from Lithgow in NSW, De Bruyn started dancing at the age of two before moving to Nambucca Heads at the age of four and commencing with jazz, tap, ballet, modern dance and hip hop at the Allison Launt Dance Studio. She explains: “Allison was a beautiful teacher who inspired my love of performing”. Moves to Darwin and the UK followed where De Bruyn continued her training, dancing with Tracks Dance and Juniper Tree. When she returned to Australia, De Bruyn successfully auditioned for the Brent St full-time program and was subsequently represented by Detour Management during her performing career. She says she was preparing for a cruise ship contract in the Bahamas when she “noticed something wasn’t right” and she discovered she was pregnant with her first son, Ziggy. Then a 12-month stop in Broome in 2010 to welcome her second baby, Teo, turned into something much more long term for her and her husband. She says, “it’s been a very long year”.
The Bahamas’ loss was Broome’s gain and the Broome Performing Arts Co-Op was founded. The school has a jam-packed timetable starting with the youngest students (18 months to four years) in the Tippy Toes classes through to senior and adult classes. De Bruyn personally teaches 15 classes a week (in addition to home-schooling her youngest child, Ari), and has 10 different specialist teachers who assist with the delivery of over 33 classes per week to 300 students. The school also has an “Xtension Program” for students who want to pursue dance as a career and enter competitions. De Bruyn also teaches a fitness program called Hot Fitness and a cabaret troupe called the Pearl-esque Belles.
In addition to classes and competitions, the Broome Performing Arts Co-Op supports the local community through performances at art shows, theatre, sporting events and fundraisers. Every year the school puts on a themed concert. “A lot of our greater community get involved though building sets, helping with costumes, videography, photography and kid-wrangling.” The concert is always a highlight and the “kids thrive off dancing and singing with their teachers on stage”. In addition, throughout the year the students in the Xtension Program enter competitions throughout the region, competing with much success as well as “creating beautiful memories”.
De Bruyn believes that, while winning awards is “great”, the real success of the studio is being able to support students to have their own successes in life. She says being a part of that is very gratifying. She also says that with all her students, but particularly her adults, some of whom are first time performers, “watching them shine on stage is amazing”.
Broome Performing Arts Co-Op is still going strong after 10 years. “Everything is expensive in Broome – rent, rates, electricity, etc. Many businesses have had to close due to the high costs of just running up here.” Her recipe for survival is to have the love and support of the community. “The atmosphere of dancing in a regional town can be somewhat magical. Our community is very supportive and our teachers and parents are generous and kind.” She adds that the school operates with the adage that everyone should feel free to dance and move without fear of rejection or embarrassment. “If I could gift anyone anything,” she says, “it would be dance or movement. We all deserve to dance.”
- MICHELLE DURSUN
Regional Heroes is proudly sponsored by One Music Australia: licensing the dance community for the music they love.