A 17-year-old Ballarat ballet prodigy has won one of Australia's most prestigious scholarships, enabling him to continue his dream of pursuing a career in the art.
Josh Ballinger has been awarded the national bi-annual Valrene Tweedie Scholarship, worth $10,000, to pursue full-time vocational dance training once he completes his year 12 studies at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School in Melbourne.
Josh has studied Cecchetti ballet, which is a syllabus and training method of ballet, since the age of two, is currently in year 12 as a dance major at VCASS and is also working towards the Enrico Cecchetti Diploma of Dance after receiving 100 per cent on his exam last year.
He was also selected to be a Cecchetti scholar for five years consecutively and, in 2017, won the Energetiks Cecchetti Australian Young Dancer Award.
While Josh was surprised when he got the call to congratulate him on winning the scholarship, it was not for a lack of hard work.
While going to school at St Patrick's College, Josh would wake up to train for more than an hour before going to school.
Since he started commuting to VCASS daily from 15 years old, Josh's days now start well before he gets on the train at 6am with three hours of dance training from 8.30am, followed by three hours of academic classes after lunch and another two hours of dance to end the day before he gets back to Ballarat at 8pm.
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Josh said his end goal was to work for the Australian Ballet Company, or another well-respected group.
"I'd like to find myself in a well-respected company and then hopefully work myself up to like a leading spot in one of those companies," he said.
With a strong sporting background having competed at state level in athletics, cross-country and surf lifesaving, Josh considers ballet the ultimate physical experience as he has to be an artist and an athlete at the same time.
"I really enjoy just training and working towards that performance and... really pushing myself. That's the side that I enjoy, the training side especially, and then working towards that performance," he said.
"Anne Butler, she's my Cecchetti teacher at VCASS, and Carole Oliver, they wrote my references to actually apply for the scholarship and they're two teachers who were really supportive and they're pushing me to do stuff like this and I owe a lot of my training to them."
Josh's mother, Nicki Ballinger, said the scholarship was 'life-changing' for her son.
"It's mind-boggling. This is life-changing for him. He works so hard. This is a kid who, before school when he was at St Patrick's College, would get up and train by himself for an hour to an hour and a half before school," she said.
"We used to say if your child's sneaking out of the house at 6am to do classical ballet, you don't have too many worries."
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