Summer Duyvestyn, 12 year old winner of the Shelley King Award for Excellence at 2019 Youth America Grand Prix shares her experiences and insights with Dance Australia's Susan Bendall.
Susan Bendall: It's been a few weeks since your success at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP). Looking back, what are the things that stood out most for you?
Summer Duyvestyn: Learning from different teachers and directors was one of my favourite parts of YAGP and performing at the Lincoln Center is a magical moment that I will never forget! I also made some lovely new friends from all over the world!
What are the main things that young dancers should consider before starting on a competition process?
I wouldn’t be the dancer I am today without my wonderful training at Classical Coaching Australia (CCA), so I think it is very important to ensure you are getting quality training in a healthy environment. Make sure you are ready to put yourself out there and be as confident as possible (I struggle with this!). I am not a social person, so I always try to remember that the purpose of attending competitions is to get noticed by directors and teachers, so just enjoy the experience and show your passion and hard work.
What advice would you give to young dancers experiencing an international competition such as YAGP for the first time?
I always have a positive, focused mindset going into an international competition like the YAGP, otherwise it can get very stressful and you won’t get the most out of the experience!
Tell us about your award and what it means to you.
It was such an honour to receive the Shelley King Award for Excellence and place in the top 12 at my first YAGP New York final. I have been so inspired by YAGP in New York for many years, so I am very grateful to have received this award. I know that Shelley King was such an incredible role model at YAGP.
How do you balance school work with your dancing?
I have always loved learning, but balancing school work and dance can be very tough. I always plan out my week so I don’t get overwhelmed, and I have wonderful communication with my distance education teachers.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not dancing?
Sometimes it can be hard to switch my brain off from ballet! But I am learning French at the moment and I really enjoy the challenges of learning a whole new language! I also love reading and listening to music.
Tell us something about the role of your mentors and support network in your success.
My family and friends are always very supportive of my dancing because they know it is my passion. They’re always there for me in so many different ways. My dance teachers always push me to be the best I can be, and always encourage me to continue working hard and achieving my goals.
Are there any other comments or insights you would like to share with our readers?
I just wanted to add that I believe anyone can achieve their goals if they have enough passion and work ethic. I used to love jazz, tap and contemporary, I didn’t really enjoy ballet until I was was 9! I followed my sister to CCA, and after just one term I fell in love with it, I knew it was what I wanted to do. It is so important to put in the extra work at home, because just working hard at the studio isn’t enough. I have a daily exercise routine and it really makes a difference. In saying this, it is also so important to have down time! I think it’s just all about using your time wisely and doing what is right for your mind and body. I always stay humble and be kind to others, because ballet is not only about being a beautiful dancer, it’s about being a generous person. I love performing onstage, because I always try to make the audience feel like they are dancing with me, giving them a magical feeling.
Photos of Summer by Tom Baker.