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Aidan Tully has been selected to compete in one of the most prestigious competitions in the world of ballet. PHOTO: RUTH GERMON

Aidan Tully takes on ballet world

Aidan Tully could practically name every person living in his hometown of Kaihere, but it’s his name that will be hard to forget.
The 18-year-old is residing in Wellington, rehearsing day-in and day-out as a ballet dancer at the New Zealand School of Dance.
He spends eight hours a day in front of a full-length mirror; he strives for perfection in what is an influential and challenging art form; and he has now been named New Zealand’s only participant in one of the world’s most prestigious dance competitions.
Speaking to The Profile after it “finally started to sink in”, Aidan said he’d never been selected for anything quite like the Prix de Lausanne.
“I can really only name maybe two other [competitions] that are above it in the world of ballet,” he said.
“I’ve been in New Zealand all my life. I’ve been overseas a couple of times, but I’ll be able to head over and meet the world of dance at the top level and make connections, and hopefully find a job.”
The Prix de Lausanne is an international competition for young dancers, starting on January 29 and finishing on February 5.
There were 429 applicants from 39 countries who submitted video auditions, and only 87 dancers were selected. Aidan is the sole New Zealander to be included out of the seven who auditioned.
He will now go on to spend a week in Switzerland, undertaking contemporary ballet classes, getting coached on two variations he’d have prepared in advance, and performing them in front of “a huge audience in a giant theatre”.
“I’ve put a lot of work into it,” he said. “My time at the school has been full of challenges and ups and downs and obstacles, but I’ve pulled it all together and gave it my all. Even if I didn’t get in [to Prix de Lausanne] I was proud of myself for the work I had put in… but what a fantastic way to finish off my third year.”
Aidan will graduate from the school in a month’s time, and the former Ngātea Primary School and Hauraki Plains College student said he wanted to pursue ballet professionally.
He started practising the art form at age seven, and was a former student of Pauline Germon’s Thames Hauraki Ballet Theatre, based in Turua.
“I didn’t know what ballet was; I knew very little about it as a seven-year-old, and I just turned up to this absolutely alien world, but within five minutes, I was hooked and knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life,” he said.
“That goes for anything – you never know when you’re going to stumble across your purpose.”
As a young, male ballet dancer growing up in a rural town, Aidan said he wasn’t free from receiving mean comments, but his older brothers, and his mum Sarah and dad Ciarán, always had his back.
“Even just: ‘Yes, my brother does ballet, do you have a problem with that?’
“They stood up for me because I was the youngest, and my parents moved heaven and earth to get me where I needed to be and help me grow,” he said.
“They never doubted this was what I wanted to do. Even from the age of seven, they’ve always trusted me to make mature decisions that impacted my life.”
Aidan finished high school when he was 15 and moved, on his own, to Wellington. The New Zealand School of Dance is internationally recognised as one of the southern hemisphere’s leading dance training institutions.
He said classical ballet was more challenging than one could imagine.
“Being stuck in front of a mirror for 7-8 hours a day in a skin-tight uniform, focusing on exactly what you’re doing wrong to make yourself feel better, it really takes its toll.”
But dancers like Aidan love the athleticism and story-telling abilities of ballet, and he said you have to “really, really want it”.
Once the school year comes to an end, he’ll get a couple of days off before he heads straight back into rehearsals anticipating the start of the Prix de Lausanne.
He will be coming back home to the Hauraki for Christmas.
“I am very much enjoying my life at the moment. The fact that all of these wonderful things are happening is just surreal,” he said.
“And just the fact that I came from a tiny town where I could practically name everyone to this… just don’t ever think ‘it can never be me’, because that’s what I thought and here I am.”