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Two Queensland teens into finals of world’s biggest ballet competition

Andrea Macleod, November 24, 2019 2:45PM Westside News

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Jonathon Carmichael (left) and Jenson Blight will compete in the finals of the Youth America Grand Prix in 2020 in New York. Picture: Andrea Macleod media_cameraJonathon Carmichael (left) and Jenson Blight will compete in the finals of the Youth America Grand Prix in 2020 in New York. Picture: Andrea Macleod


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Two Australian teenagers have danced their way into the finals of the world’s largest ballet competition.

Fifteen-year-old Jonathon Carmichael and 13-year-old Jenson Blight will travel to New York, US, to compete in April in the famous Youth America Grand Prix in New York.

The boys already have a long list of achievements in dance, from performances with the Queensland Ballet Theatre and Royal Ballet Company to securing scholarships* at prestigious* ballet schools. Between the two of them they now have offers in Houston and San Francisco in the US, Monaco, New Zealand and the European Ballet School in Amsterdam, Netherlands, for 2020.

It was just a few years ago that Jonathon was spotted on a beach on Queensland’s Bribie Island dancing in the sand while his father had gone to get a coffee.

“I was quite lucky it all happened,” said the quietly spoken teenager who, since joining the Premier Dance Academy (PDA) in Milton, Qld, has won multiple awards for his performances.

“I just started dancing on the beach and my ballet teacher’s sister discovered me and asked me to come to Premier for a trial and I’m so grateful that she did,” Jonathon said.

media_cameraDancer Jonathon Carmichael. Picture: supplied

Jenson has been putting dance shoes on his feet since he was three years old.

“My sister was doing it first and my mum wanted me to do it too,” said Jenson, who also trains with PDA.

“Then I quit and then I wanted to come back. My sister quit and she does touch football and I do ballet.”

Now the promising duo are about to take their place among some of the best young dancers in the world after being awarded places to the finals of the famous Youth America Grand Prix.

“It’s such a very big competition and I feel very lucky to be part of it,” Jonathon said.

Jenson too says he “feels lucky to be able to go”

media_cameraDancer Jenson Blight. Picture: supplied

They say each success is the result of hours and hours of dedication* and the support of their families and dance family at PDA.

“I love it,” Jonathon said. “I live and breathe it and I love the community.”

“And even though it’s hard I just think of all the people I admire and how they’ve worked all their lives to get where they are and you see them succeed and dream you can be like them one day.”

While Jonathon has moved to distance education to be able to commit up to 30 hours a week to his dance, Jenson is still juggling regular schooling and 20 hours a week at the studio.

“You have to love it,” Jenson said.

“It’s hard work.”

Hard work that is rewarded, said Jonathon, when you “start to see things you are working on finally happen and then something else happens and you can see you’re improving and that makes you feel good about yourself”.

“Ballet is a huge thing on your body. It is not a sport it’s an art but what we do, we are athletes, to look graceful is a lot of hard work.”

PDA principal Tania Whelan is thrilled for the boys.

“They will make the most of it and I know it will lead them to other opportunities also,” she said.

“Dance is for everyone, however you don’t get to this level of competition without natural talent and many hours of hard work. They both have what it takes both in talent and discipline.”

She said the competition ahead would be very tough “as the world’s best aspire* to be there and everyone will be out to do their best”.

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  • scholarships: award, the prize for which is to study at a particular school
  • prestigious: highly regarded
  • dedication: putting your mind to something and working hard
  • aspire: hope for something in particular


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  1. When did Jenson start dancing?
  2. What is the name of the competition for which they have made the finals?
  3. How is Jonathon continuing his education?
  4. What does Jonathon say it takes to look graceful as a dancer?
  5. Who is Tania? How does she know about the boys’ hard work?


1. Timetable your practice
Jonathon and Jenson practise their dancing a lot! To better understand the dedication and commitment of these dancers, write a weekly schedule for yourself that includes 20 hours of practice time for an activity you enjoy. Your schedule must include all of the necessary activities you must do like going to school, doing homework and chores, eating and sleeping, plus the 20 hours of practice of your chosen activity. Don’t forget to allow travel time to and from your activity too.

See how tricky it is to fit all that in?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English; Mathematics

2. Extension
Take another look at the schedule you prepared. I bet there are things you do at the moment that you could no longer fit in if you were spending 20 hours a week on your chosen interest! Make a list identifying some of the things you would need to sacrifice if you were to make a commitment like this.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social Capability

Do what you love
The boys work really hard at their dancing and that is paying off.

What do you love that you commit a lot of time and effort to so you can get better?

Write a short future biography about yourself and an achievement you have made after all your hard work.

Include a description of the sport or activity, how long you have been doing it for, how much time and effort you have had to put in, any hurdles you have overcome and the achievement/award you have just accomplished.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you like to be a world-famous ballet dancer? If not ballet, what would you like to be really good at?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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