Holly McKay's mum Vanessa is happier her daughter is heading to London later this year than when Holly left for Victoria University.

Former Te Puke High School student Holly has been accepted at Ballet Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London - one of the world's top dance schools.

''I'm happier that she is going where she is going than when she went to Wellington, because this is what she really wants,'' says Vanessa.

While Rambert was plan A, even Holly admits it was a long shot - and she had already started on plan B by studying physics in Wellington. Not that she actually ended up doing much study.


''I had the auditions at the end of February - just before I went off to start university. Just after O week had finished I found out I'd got into the [dance] school. We decided it was best for me to come home and start working full time and saving up for it.''

Holly applied and was invited for an audition in front of the dance school principal Amanda Britton who was on an audition tour of Australasia and Asia.

''It was three or four hours long,'' says Holly. ''There was a ballet class, a contemporary class then some improv and then a solo at the end and then an interview as well.''

While she felt she had done well, and was one of only a handful of dancers who were interviewed, she still didn't believe the news she had been offered a place.

''I wasn't confident - I wouldn't put it that way, but I felt like I had a really good chance because she'd been really positive in the interview and it seemed like this might actually be a thing - before that I wasn't really expecting too much,'' says Holly.

''It's a hard world - they would probably have had over 1000 kids audition from all over the world. So you just expect to be knocked back,'' says Holly's dance teacher Gillian Moore.

Gillian, director of Gilliam Moore Dance School has had many students go on to study internationally and become professional dancers, but having a student accepted in the Rambert is a first.

''It's incredibly difficult to get in - I don't think anyone else from New Zealand got in this year.''


Gillian says a triangle is needed for a dancer to succeed.

''It's me, the school and the teachers, the pupil, and the parents. If one of those don't work then it doesn't work.

''Of course Holly has got the talent, but talent is never enough, passion is never enough.
You've got to put in the hard work, got to have the work ethic and got to be able to take the knocks because you get knocked back every now and again. You've got to be able to handle that because that's the reality of the world she is going in to.

''You've got to have the whole package - the right body, the right attitude, the right maturity - something they can still mould into what they want, but you've got to have the technical training - and you don't get that by being a hobbyist.''
Gillian describes Holly as ''a dedicated young lady''.

''She has spent the last number of years every night for four or five hours at the studio, plus weekends, plus never falling behind in her school work, so that's amazing.

She ended her schooling as the 2019 Proxime Accessit.


Many of those who auditioned would have been at fulltime dance school for a number of years, but Gillian had always encouraged Holly to finish high school.

''That's something they liked about her, she was a little bit older, because she's leaving here and going to London all by herself.''

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Holly was 3 when she started asking to go to dance school, but Mum only agreed when she was 5.

She started with Gillian, but the family moved to Gisborne shortly afterwards. They returned to farm in the district when Holly was 9 and she rejoined the dance school.

Holly enjoys both ballet and contemporary dance and says the school is ideal in that it doesn't force students to choose.

The term starts on September 7, although the Covid-19 pandemic means there is still some uncertainty about her travel arrangements.


Amanda says the school has had a number of students from New Zealand in the past, but confirms she is the only one this intake.

''The standard of training is very high in New Zealand and I had the pleasure of watching a number of dancers working in the studio, both in audition and when visited the New Zealand School of Dance in Wellington.

''Holly had a beautiful presence and energy in the audition class we held in Auckland, and I was delighted when she accepted her place at the school.''

With many of the other dancers having fulltime tuition, Holly says she thinks her route to the audition was a little different.

''They couldn't believe I was some rural kid who danced after school. So many come from already being in fulltime training and I was trying to balance everything all at once.''

''And that she has come off a farm too,'' says Vanessa. ''Instead of having access to lots of tutors, she's milking the cows for us.''


A Givealittle page to support Holly has been set up, called Help Holly Reach Her Dancing Dream.