Experience tiring, but worth the effort

Hazel Couper, Gemma Lew and Bianca Lungu will appear in the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of The Piano: the ballet. Photo: Stephen A'Court
Hazel Couper, Gemma Lew and Bianca Lungu will appear in the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of The Piano: the ballet. Photo: Stephen A'Court
Three young New Zealand dancers have had their dream come true - they have been selected to play Flora, Ada’s daughter, in The Piano: the ballet. The girls tell Rebecca Fox about their experience so far.

For three 12-year-old ballet dancers, the opportunity to perform on stage with New Zealand's national ballet has been ''amazing'' and ''exciting''.

Hazel Couper, Bianca Lungu and Gemma Lew have been selected to perform the part of Flora - a pivotal role in the story of The Piano.

For Couper and Lungu, it meant leaving their homes and schools in Auckland to travel to Wellington for six weeks, while Lew had the advantage of being a Kapiti Coast girl and being able to commute each day.

But it is all worth it, the girls say.

Couper, who will perform the role in Dunedin, was the first to play to role on stage in front of an audience at dress rehearsal.

''It was pretty amazing. I didn't realise how many people there would be.

''I was a little bit nervous, but the dancers were so nice. It's been awesome really.''

She has enjoyed the process of learning the role of Flora - developing a soft spot for Ada's new husband Alistair Stewart, but then realising he does not like her mother.

''I love doing the dramatic scenes and showing a lot of emotion.

''I enjoy Act 2 more as there is more emotion for Flora.''

Part of the role included being lifted in the air by Paul Mathews, who plays Stewart, and is about 2m tall.

Lungu was enjoying ''everything'' about the experience, but admits it has been a challenge to remember all the choreography.

''I forgot one part; I'll not forget that again.''

Lew, who was born in Dunedin and who played an extra on dress rehearsal night, also enjoyed the drama of the role.

''You get to show quite a range of different emotions. It's a cool role to play.''

While Lew had been able to attend the odd day at school during rehearsals, the other two relied on internet-based homework from their schools.

They had to fit that around full days of rehearsals at the Royal New Zealand Ballet's rooms at the St James in Wellington.

''It can be tiring,'' Lew says.

It also poses challenges for their mothers who have had to deal with the young dancers' eating requirements as well as the extra energy and excitement they bring home, especially after a show.

The two Auckland girls were especially looking forward to touring and performing in their home town in front of friends and family.

For Couper, it was also a chance to visit places in the South Island she has never been to.

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