Grace Bilbie has been dancing since she was 4, and now her dreams are starting to come true.
The former Taupō-nui-a-Tia College student has been accepted to Ettingshausens, a prestigious dance, theatre and martial arts centre in Sydney, Australia. She left on Monday.
"Dancing has always been something I've loved and wanted to do," Grace says.
Her ultimate goal is to forge a fulltime career as a dancer.
"It's a pretty well-known school. I hope it leads to me being able to perform and travel on cruise ships and that kind of thing."
She has perfected her craft at Taupō Academy of Dance.
"They've helped me out hugely. My teacher there, Lizzie Astwood, has been amazing. At school as well, I had a lot of opportunities there."
Grace finished up at Taupō-nui-a-Tia College last year, where she was part of the Enhanced Performance Dance Programme since Year 9.
Every year since 2017, she has represented the college at the DanceNZMade interschool competition, at both regional and national level. She has also choreographed pieces for Taupō Intermediate, which always placed and/or won at regional and national level.
Last year alone, her Year 9-10 group were first in their category regionally and nationally.
Her open team won at regionals, was runner-up at nationals in the open division, and third overall nationally. She also gained a nomination for her solo.
At regionals, she received two choreography awards, which you can get only if both judges give you 100 per cent for your choreography. At nationals, she was nominated for The Art of Movement choreography award, and two of the judges who had recently returned from dance careers overseas commented that her choreography is at world-class level.
Grace says she started dancing when her mother put her in a ballet class at 4 and has enjoyed it ever since.
She is dedicated to helping others find a love for the art as well.
"I like everything about it, I've always loved it. I also enjoy choreographing and teaching other students. I've made lots of friends and connections through dance as well."
She says moving overseas is a little daunting, but she is up for the challenge.
"Especially with Covid and everything, but I'm very excited. We've got a flat and I'm living with two other girls from New Zealand and a girl from Australia.
"I'm excited to meet all the other dancers and just have a whole new experience. They have a lot of amazing teachers and well-known coaches from throughout Australia who come and teach. It will be really cool.
"I auditioned online because I couldn't go over so I just had to send a few videos of me dancing and a little bit about myself. Then I had a phone interview and then got accepted from there. I got an email and I was very excited."
Grace has had a helping hand with her study in Australia, receiving a $10,000 scholarship from the Peacocke Dance Trust.
"That will be really helpful, it covers the majority of the school fees. I had to apply and give them lots of information about myself and what I'm doing."
At Taupō-nui-a-Tia College's prizegiving, Grace received acknowledgment of her dedication to dance and the voluntary contributions she has made over five years - her passion, her leadership and the legacy she's leaving behind.
She received a Tritt award for Contribution to School Life, the Joan Williams Shield for Community Contribution, Contribution to Senior Dance, first in Enhanced Performance Dance and the Gregory-Gloy Dance Scholarship worth $2000.