TEENAGER Paige Ristevski already embodies the drive and natural talent needed to succeed in the world of dance.
At the start of last year the young ballerina from Highton left behind the comforts of home to take up a position at the prestigious Queensland Ballet Academy.
Paige, who turns 17 this weekend, says while it was tough moving away from her parents and three siblings, she relished the opportunity to push toward her goal of joining a professional ballet company.
“I’m absolutely loving it here to say the least,” she said. “My classmates at Queensland Ballet Academy have the same goal as me to be a professional dancer and it’s inspiring seeing everyone work to their full potential every day.”
Academy students train from 8am until 1.15pm Monday to Friday and for a further five hours each Saturday, while also attending school for about three hours each weekday afternoon.
Paige, a conscientious student, says the academic focus was an important factor in her move to Queensland.
“I definitely wanted to find a ballet school that focused on both academic studies as well as dance training,” she said.
“I really like maths which might sound a bit unusual,” she adds with a laugh.
Paige took up ballet at the age of nine and attended Expressions Ballet Academy in Newtown where she flourished under the tutelage of Emma Madden.
Her list of recent awards is testament to her talents.
She won the Robert and Elizabeth Albert Junior Classical Scholarship and the Wenkart Foundation Ballet Championship at the 2018 Sydney Eisteddfod and in 2019 she won the Royal South Street Energetiks ‘Dance For Life’ Competition.
Paige said performing on stage was pivotal to growing in confidence.
She said the pandemic made it tough for young performers last year and she welcomed the return of competitions such as the Sydney Eisteddfod which attracts 35,000 performers competing for more than $400,00 worth of prizes and scholarships across 300-plus events.
“Definitely winning at Sydney Eisteddfod was huge for my confidence,” Paige recalled.
“The prizes are obviously incredible but I really enjoyed the atmosphere – just coming off stage and being proud of what you have done.
“You come out with not only the experience but also friends from all over Australia which is really cool.”
Paige gets emotional when asked how important her time at Expressions was to her achievements to date.
“Expressions is really close to my heart – I could not get anywhere without what they did for me,” she said.
Wonderful family support has also been integral to chasing her dreams.
“My parents have been very supportive and it does get tough obviously and you don’t realise how alone you are until move two states away,” she said.
Paige said determination and resilience were important traits for any dancer.
“There is not always going to be someone there telling you ‘point your foot harder, get your leg higher’,” she said.
“Sometimes in the morning you get up and you just don’t want to do five hours of training and you have to find within yourself how you are going to get through the day without wasting it.
“Nothing will ever go perfectly with ballet. There’s always setbacks but it’s really how you handle those setbacks that makes you a better dancer – and a better person too, I think.”
Entries to the Sydney Eisteddfod close on March 22. Visit sydneyeisteddfod.com.au/events. Follow Paige on Instagram @paige_danceeee