Our People: Dancing in the country

Springfield’s Tara Marshall 32, helps young dancers in Malvern achieve their full potential. She spoke to Georgia O’Connor-Harding about being a Crusaders cheerleader and opening her new studio in Darfield

FINESSE: Dance teacher Tara Marshall has been helping young dancers in Malvern achieve their full potential for the past seven years.

How long have you been dancing for?

I started when I was 11. That is actually quite old to start dancing. I grew up at Mt White Station in the high country. I was home-schooled there. In 1992, we moved down to Springfield and mum is still at the farm now which is Kowai Bush. I went to Springfield School and that is where I met dance teacher Lisa Yaxley. She was coming around with flyers and looking to start up dance. There wasn’t much else on back then. I thought this lady seemed nice and it sounded like fun. It probably took me a couple of years before I really got into it. Then I knew I loved it. I did dancing for many years with Lisa and travelled overseas competing.

Tell me about the new dance studio you have opened in Darfield for TM Dance World?

Opening the new studio in Darfield is something I had always dreamed of doing. It is nice to have a really professional space and to be in Darfield. We were at the Kimberly Hall before that. It was good to move into the actual township. Is it is nice to be able to have the bigger space and join with the Malvern Ballet, which is run by Frances Scott. We have also joined with Creative Spark, which is run by Vicky Peacock. It was never something we could do on our own. Financially, we had to find a way to make it work and bring the studio into the township.

How long had you been planning to open the studio for?

It has been about two years since I really started thinking I am going to do this and how is
it going to work. It has been in the last year we have gone through getting all the plans, council consents and the renovation of the building took five months.

Was it your idea?

Yes definitely. I didn’t realise how hard it was going to be or how big the mission would turn into. We are open now, we got there and we are loving our new studio.

Tell me about the national dance championships, Hollywood Bound Dance Cruise, your students have coming up?

A couple of years ago, we travelled to Showcase Australia. That is run by Peter Oxford. My competition girls are always up for opportunities like that and Peter Oxford brought out the first ever dance competition on a cruise ship. It is on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. It leaves from Sydney and travels to New Caledonia and Lifou. It travels for seven days. I am taking nine girls and they are my senior students. They are going to do four different team dances – contemporary, jazz, a lyrical and a Broadway. It is a dance competition on a cruise ship. The cruise starts on April 15 but most of us leave a few days before that.

TRAVEL BOUND: Tara Marshall with her team of dances ready to compete at Hollywood Bound next month.

Growing up, what was it like to be home-schooled?

I only did it until I was eight. At the time, you didn’t know any different. But looking back, I think it was totally awesome. Mum was a real good teacher, we had our desk all set up in the kitchen. What I remember of it, it was really fun.

What do you think of the arts in Malvern?

What we offer is super important and quite exciting for people living in this area. Dancing offers a lot of opportunities to the students through competition, exams, end-of-year recitals and travel. The Malvern Community Arts Council has been really supportive of our new venture and has offered to sponsor a deserving child a scholarship each year. We have got the Kirwee Players, Creative Sparks and the Malvern School of Music here. There is a good amount offered in dancing. We are doing pretty good for a little community.

Why is providing dance in Malvern so important to you?

When I moved back from overseas, I originally thought I would go into Christchurch and start up a dance school there. But then I met my husband. He is a big a part of being here. After travelling the world you realise you live in a pretty cool place out here. Seeing a lot of the world changes your outlook on how nice it is to live in a small community. I love being in Springfield and love working in Darfield. I am super glad we decided to set up our business here. With our new studios we had a sponsorship proposal which was really well supported. We have a beautiful sponsored dance mural fence painted by Vicky Peacock. I think if you were in a bigger city, you may not see that same amount of support. Out here people really get behind good projects.

What was your biggest achievement as a dancer and teacher?

The nationals was the highest achievement – being in the finals. I also travelled to the Showcase national dance championship at Surfers Paradise and did a lot of competing around New Zealand. I did quite a bit of work for Showbiz Christchurch. I performed in Jesus Christ Superstar and West End to Broadway. I was a Paul Kelly Motor Company dancer, a Crusader cheerleader for three years. Also, after I left high school, I went up to Wellington and did a diploma in performing arts. Afterwards I completed a certificate in personal training at the New Zealand Institute of Sport in Christchurch. When I came and started the business after being back from overseas I was nominated for the Malvern Young Achiever Award and I won that award in 2012.

I understand Mayor Sam Broughton has supported your new studio and you went to school together.

Yes, we went to school together. Sam is a bit older than me and I don’t know him that well. Now that he is mayor I think it is super awesome. Doing the whole dance studio thing I caught up with him for a coffee just to let him know what I was doing and to keep him in the loop. He was awesome to chat to. I asked him to come open the studio up. Even though it was his lovely wife’s birthday he was still there.

How have you managed to stay in the dancing industry all your life?

Firstly, I love it. I have always had a passion for dance. That has never really faded. That was the decision-making behind doing this new venture into Darfield. I asked myself is this what you want to be doing forever? And I thought, yes, it is what I want and love. I love what I do but also I have an amazing supportive husband. I think that is another really big factor for dance teachers. It is funny hours you work and long hours. This year I don’t get home until between 8.30-9.30pm after teaching. It is a different kind of lifestyle. My husband Scott was very supportive and he was a massive part of the renovations for the studio. That in itself helped us financially because he was able to do the work in the building. For five months he was just working in the studio. He stopped working on his own business he had just started up.