Dancing to success

Emma Macdonald

It’s fair to say that when Julie Scheer left Canberra as a 19-year-old, she never wanted to return.

The ambitious dancer and fashion PR was on the way up and a series of promotions landed her working for some major national and international companies while she was living the life in Bondi, Sydney.

Her passion for dance, meanwhile, earned her a spot with the British Ballet organisation where she performed jazz, ballet and tap. She had an agent and danced in a number of videos including one for British group the Sugar Babes.

Julie was living a life a long way away from her humble beginnings as a dance-mad child, growing up in Cooma and moving to Canberra to complete Years 11 and 12 at Merici College.

But a lot changed by the time she was 25. She married the love of her life William, and his career in IT necessitated a move back to Canberra.

“Honestly, I remember the blood draining from my face. It was such a different city back in 2005 and I couldn’t imagine how I would ever feel excited to be here. Again.”

But Julie had an inkling of an idea. She would focus her energies on setting up a dance class for toddlers.

“Blueberries” would teach 2-4 year-olds their first lessons in movement. Julie would help them to discover confidence, coordination and joy in dance. And while she was only aiming small at that stage, Julie determined that where there was an interest in dance in Canberra, she would teach it.

Dance Central students

More than ten years have passed and Julie how heads Canberra’s largest dance studio, Dance Central.

From a tiny space measuring just 300 square metres in Phillip, Dance Central has celebrated extraordinary growth and success. Thousands of students have leapt across its wooden floors and this week Julie expands the space – bringing the total number of studios to six and floor space to nearly 1000 square metres.

The expansion will allow Dance Central to cater for increased demand and waiting lists across many of its classes. There are more than 1000 students currently on her books.

Dance Central students

Every week the studio offers 150 classes in Hip Hop, Contemporary, Ballet, Jazz Funk, Lyrical, Funk Tap, and Acrobatics for children through to adults, beginners through to professionals. The youngest dancers are two, the oldest have been nudging 80.

“Everybody can dance. And everybody can find joy in movement to music,” says Julie.

“I look back over the last few years and I think I was brought back here for a reason. I can honestly say that I found my passion and purpose here.”

Julie Scheer

Julie cites dancing as “better than meditation”.

“You still go on a journey but you have music vibrating through your body, the blood is pumping and the endorphins are released. Your mind switches off from the day-to-day and you can absolutely get lost in the moment.”

Her own preference for letting loose is to play something upbeat and very commercial – think Taylor Swift or Lorde.

Dance Central students

But it is not all fun and freestyle.

When she opened her doors to Dance Central, Julie wanted to nurture new generations of Canberra dancers and to give them the same performance opportunities that are afforded to larger cities of Sydney and Melbourne.

Dance Central has fostered the development of some of Australia’s best hip hop dancers through their elite “crew” program. Crew members have represented Australia more than five times in international hip-hop competitions, where they ’ve competed against the best hip hop dancers in the world. One such home-grown competitor was Alex Carson, who emerged out of one of the elite crews to dance alongside Janet Jackson, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, and in MTV Video Music Awards.

Dance Central students

In recent years Julie has also begun using her influence to campaign for healthier head-spaces for her students, spearheading a local anti-bullying initiative #goturback. She said the program encapsulated her approach to dance and to running a studio.

“The most important thing to me is that everyone is welcome and everyone is supported.”
This core value means all dancers feel that they have each-other’s backs.

“We said to ourselves, ‘if only all young people in the world could have this level of acceptance, support and love, the world would be a better place’…and #goturback was born.”

Once the studio expansion is bedded in, Julie hopes to expand access to the program, which is aimed at 12-17 year olds. Meanwhile, her beloved Blueberries program is still going strong and Julie wants to take it regional – to small towns such as Cooma, where opportunities for dance instruction are limited.

Dance Central students

“I’d love to encourage all children to find their feet and their confidence through Blueberries. It is still a class I teach personally because I just love it. It is always amazing to see children come out of their shells, to start moving, to start expressing themselves freely. Ultimately, I’d love to take the program international.”

Julie said exposing children to movement at a young age gave them the basis to enjoy dance for the rest of their lives. And for those who are no longer children, Dance Central offers a range of mature-aged classes for men and woman.

“You are absolutely never too old to start,” Julie states with conviction. “You are never too old to find joy in dance.”

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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