Dancer adds a touch of glamour

Former Dunedin dance student  Jessica Hart has a leading role in Cabaret de Paris at Christchurch...
Former Dunedin dance student Jessica Hart has a leading role in Cabaret de Paris at Christchurch’s Isaac Theatre Royal.
From Dunedin dance student to showgirl, Jessica Hart is passionate about the creative, beautiful art form. She tells Rebecca Fox about her road to heels and feathers.

Not everyone can walk across a stage dressed in a bra, g-string, feathers and sequins and make it look good.

Yet for Jessica Hart, it is her ''day job''.

The dancer is a showgirl for an Auckland-based entertainment company - a job she loves.

''It's the beauty of it. You feel very beautiful and a little bit sexy, although it is a feeling you grow into.''

It is not a job she envisaged doing when growing up in Dunedin, where she studied ballet, jazz and music theatre with Dunedin School of Ballet and Dance.

Back then there was no YouTube or internet, so while she knew there had to be more to aspire to, she did not know what.

''I always wanted to go where it was bigger and better.''

So, as a 17-year-old, she auditioned for and won a place at Brent Street Studios in Sydney.

''It was a chance to see what else was out there. I was very young and knew I had a lot to learn.''

In those days, she imagined a career as a backup dancer to a celebrity like Usher, but soon learned there was a lot of competition out there.

''I was reaching for the stars. It grounded me. I did not realise there were girls who had been doing dance full-time at school. I knew I had to work much harder to achieve my goals.''

When she completed her studies, an opportunity to work in India's Bollywood music industry was too good to refuse.

So, at 19, she was living in India, dancing alongside Bollywood stars and travelling for event and television advertisements to Dubai and South Africa.

''It was a great experience.

It showed me so much of the world at a young age.

''I was very grateful for the opportunities I had. It was the best thing that I could have ever have done at that age,'' the 27-year-old said.

She returned to Australia and then to New Zealand a few years later.

It was in Auckland that she discovered the showgirl world when she auditioned for Diamond Entertainment, which provides dancers for corporate events.

''This was my introduction into showgirl work. I had to put on heels and learn to walk.''

It was then she realised it was not as easy as it looked.

''You have to make it look good as well as being able to do it and it's not until you put the heels on that you realise how hard it is. There is a lot of technique and hard work that goes into it.''

She attributes her success to her ballet training.

''It would be very hard to do it without it.''

Along with that she has grown in to the challenges of the dance form.

''As a younger dancer, I felt not shy, but it did not feel as good as it does now. It has an elegance to it. It's sparkly and special. You have to have the confidence and personality to hold your own as you walk across the stage.''

She has performed in productions such as Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park, Tribute to Vegas-New Zealand Tour and the Rugby World Cup Opening opening ceremony.

Hart has also gone on to get her dance teaching qualifications.

Now one of the senior dancers in the troupe, she has been selected to dance alongside Marissa Burgess - a legendary showgirl who earned the title of Longest Serving Star in the Moulin Rouge's 120-year history - in Cabaret de Paris, an Australian Parisian-themed burlesque show.

Hart had been blown away by the opportunity to take part in a workshop with Burgess, let alone perform on stage with her.

''It's very exciting, a privilege. It's a great accomplishment and recognition from someone of her stature is a very proud moment.''

To see
Cabaret de Paris, Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch, August 28, 7.30pm.

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