Ruby Jack’s wide-eyed enthusiasm for dance at just three years old set her on a course to fulfil her dream career.
The St Peter’s Catholic School Year 8 student wants to dance ballet on the international stage. Now aged 12, she seems to have what is needed to get her there … single-minded determination, commitment to a gruelling work schedule, demonstrable talent, and grit.
“I want to get a scholarship to dance full-time in a ballet school programme, preferably in Europe. That has always been my dream,” said Ruby. “It is really hard work … but I love it, and now I can see it coming closer and closer.”
Far from being starry-eyed, Ruby is working hard to earn her dancing stripes. Early training was with Hamilton’s Valerie Lissette School of Dance, and a couple of years ago she was selected to dance with the Imperial Russian Ballet on one of their tours here. While at that school, she was also having private lessons with Hamilton dance teacher Leona Robinson, who was so impressed by Ruby that she steered her towards the Mt Eden Ballet Academy in Auckland, a prestigious school linked to Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) and the NZ School of Dance.
Ruby started there at the beginning of 2020, continuing her training via Zoom during lockdown and travelling weekly to Auckland for lessons. At the beginning of this year, she was one of a selected few offered a position with Future Dancers, a transitional programme designed with a professional ballet career in mind.
Her current schedule is tough. With the school’s permission, she skips Thursday’s tuition for a couple of heavy training sessions in Auckland. Then it’s home again, and back to Auckland on Saturday for additional training. She also swims with the St Peter’s School swim squads before school on Mondays and Thursdays.
“We know how exhausting her schedule is and understand the pressure, so we make sure she has down time at home … time when she just blobs out,” said mum Ally Jack.
Examinations and competitions are part and parcel of the effort. Ruby’s most recent achievements include winning the title of the most promising dancer for the Waikato, winning in a 12-14 years’ category for a scholarship, and numerous other firsts, seconds or thirds. She also danced her first ‘variation dance’, a gruelling technique-based challenge, and got second runner-up, and did well in a four-day exam prep workshop, picking up the Excellence Award for the Auckland Academy of Dance.
She mixes with dancers from the RNZB from time to time, attending warm-up sessions for recent performances of Giselle.
Ruby also starred in St Peter’s Catholic School’s recent production, The Lion King. School principal Anita Asumadu is especially proud of her charge: “Through it all, Ruby achieves excellence in her academic achievement due to her diligence and commitment. She is well balanced, has a wonderful attitude and is really lovely with the other children at the school.”