Elite dancer returns home

Elite dancer returns home

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Liam Blair
Liam Blair with his WA Youth Ballet dancers, rehearsing for their upcoming gala performance. Photograph – Aaron Van Rongen.

Ballet wunderkind Liam Blair is back in Armadale in preparation for a gala performance with the WA Youth Ballet, having spent more than a decade working at the elite levels of dance in Europe.

In a discipline that ordinarily requires dancers to begin training at age five, Liam was a late recruit to the Charlesworth Ballet School when he joined at 15.

“I was always dancing around as a kid, since I could walk, I used to dance down the shopping aisles with my mum,” Liam said.

“Once I realised it was something I wanted to pursue as a career, I looked into starting ballet at Charlesworth.

“They offered a full-time dance program, so I was home-schooled from year nine onwards by my grandmother so I could do ballet fulltime, six days a week.”

Despite a gruelling regime of instruction that commenced each day at 5am, Liam was in good hands, working on his academics under the tutelage of his beloved grandmother – a former teacher in Kelmscott – before the daily drive to ballet school in North Perth.

“It made perfect sense to me to go into fulltime ballet, I was so committed to it,” Liam said.

“When I started, that was school for me, that became so much more important than my academic studies.

“I found I connected with all of these other people – dance was their life as well, that’s where I really formed strong bonds and friendships.”

With the first steps of his journey underway, the 15-year-old dancer visited New York and Europe, where interest in his skills were growing.

A year later, at the age of 16, Liam left his year 12 studies to pursue a professional ballet career at Académie de Danse Princesse Grace in Monaco.

On graduating in 2011, the pirouetting prodigy signed onto Aalto Ballett Essen in Germany, where he quickly rose through the ranks.

His meteoric rise led him to the elite levels of his craft and, by 2018, Liam was performing as the company’s principal dancer, the highest rank a dancer can achieve – an extraordinary feat for someone who started so late.

“Germany is amazing, for such a small country they have 60 ballet companies,” Liam said.

“Comparatively Australia has three. There’s just so much more available. It’s a melting pot of culture and art and I had always known I wanted to dance in Europe.”

In 2021, having spent a year coaching other dancers as Ballet Master at MiR Dance Company Gelsenkirchen, tragedy at home brought Liam rushing back to Australia.

“My grandma became ill, we have a very close bond,” Liam said.

“Family is number one – it was more important for me to be there with my grandma and support my mum through all of that.

“It was an emotional rollercoaster, it was crazy at first, I had been living away for almost 11 years.”

Europe’s loss, it turns out, is Australia’s gain, as Liam has been working with WA Youth Ballet for an upcoming gala performance – INTEGRATE – and he is enjoying returning to the stage with his award-winning choreography.

“I’ll be dancing my own choreography with my students, I’m really looking forward to getting on stage with them and enjoying the experience, they have put so much hard work in,” Liam said.

“It’s a gala showcase, there are many different pieces and dance styles throughout the evening.

“There’s a magic in the theatre, it’s the most important thing in the world for me, there’s something so unique about experiencing live performance and there’s just so much you can evoke and show and make your audience feel.

“It’s a higher power to me, it’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than any one person.”

INTEGRATE will be performed at Crown Theatre Perth at 6.30pm on August 11.

Visit crownperth.com.au/entertainment/live-theatre/integrate