Sharon Alback Dance Centre celebrates 70 years

Published 12:00pm 10 August 2022

Sharon Alback Dance Centre celebrates 70 years
Words by Kylie Knight

The magic of Sharon Alback Dance Centre has drawn generations of dancers to the iconic Redcliffe school where its masterful namesake has taught more than dance steps.

Sharon Alback’s positive influence on young dancers has been lasting, with former students still stopping her when she’s out and about to say hello.

Others have phoned to ask if she remembers their dance routines, so they can teach it to their own students, and many have stayed on to nurture the next generation as teachers at Sharon Alback Dance Centre.

It’s a phenomenon not lost on Mrs Alback, 86, who describes the school community as a family.

“Most of them remember concerts and remember getting ready for exams … memories that stay with them all their lives,” she says.

“All of my teachers, except Lauren, have come through the school from preschoolers to full teachers. They’re family forever here.

“It’s really nice to know that they stay on and they continue what we are looking for … to teach children to dance and to teach them to be nice people, to be caring and considerate, to be our dance family. I think that’s as important as being able to dance.”

How it all began

Mrs Alback’s mother was a dance pianist who played for a ballet school in New South Wales when her daughter was young.

A move to Queensland and connection with dance teacher Sylvia Curry, who had moved north from Melbourne, set the young Sharon on a course that would shape her life.

Sylvia started Sylvena School of Dancing in 1952, with Sharon’s mother playing the piano.

“That was in Woody Point Memorial Hall. We had 12 students to start off with. I was 15, I think,” Mrs Alback recalls.

|“In 1958, Sylvia Curry’s husband was transferred back to Melbourne, so she asked me if I would take over the school and I thought, ‘yes, I could do that for maybe a year or two and see how it goes’.”|

She was 21 years old at the time.

“At that stage, I was married and I had a 12-month-old little girl and we were living in Ipswich. So, we just moved back to here.

“We decided we’d see how it went for a year or so and it just kept growing. At that stage, we had a school at Caboolture and Kallangur and Woodford and here (Redcliffe). The Caboolture school is still running with an ex-pupil of mine (now called KC Dance).”

In 1982, when Redcliffe Cultural Centre was built, the then Redcliffe City Council asked if she would like to run a dance studio at the facility.

Sharon Alback Dance Centre has been there ever since.

Sharon Alback Dance Centre celebrates 70 years

Passion driven by pupils

“At one stage, I thought maybe we would stop but then there were always students that were halfway up the ladder. I’d think, ‘I really want to see them through to the end of their diploma’ and by then there was another one coming up,” she says laughing.

|“I used to say, ‘my husband kept me and I had the studio because I liked it’. I liked seeing all the children develop. I liked being able to decide, ‘we will do this’ and do it … the creativity of it keeps you going.|

“All the parents were always very supportive.”

Highlights have included travelling to Japan and the United States.

Dancers have also performed in Queensland sister city Winton, even on the back of trucks.

“I think one of our big highlights was when the Redcliffe City Council had sister city program with Japan and we came on board with that and took a group of dances over to Sanyō-Onoda, Yamaguchi. It was a very magic time,” Mrs Alback recalls.

“All the children were home-hosted by Japanese families and we performed in Japanese schools as well as their flower festival. Of those 13 that we took over, at least seven of them have stayed in the entertainment industry.

“We were invited back again and when they had the World Expo in Yamaguchi, Onoda, and they asked if we would represent them.”

Big changes in 70 years

Music, dance and pupils have changed significantly in 70 years, so what has Mrs Alback noticed?

“Some of the grandmothers whose grandchildren dance here now, say ‘it’s not like it was, when we were dancing but I think we were as good as them’,” she says laughing.

“These days, everything is so specialised in dance. They have their own special acro, musical theatre, ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop classes and they all have their own specialised teachers that study those genres.

“When we first started, everyone came all day Saturday and we did everything … you’d do some tapping, then some jazz and ballet … now they have their own special timeslots.

|“The biggest change is that dancers need so much more now to be in the industry. There’s so much demanded of them, they have to really excel if they want to be in the entertainment industry.|

“It’s more competitive and the fact that there are more opportunities now. Back in the early days, you would hope to join a ballet company or a musical theatre production company and there were only about two in Australia at that stage.

“It used to be a hobby for most people but for a lot of them, now it’s a lifestyle, a paying job.”

Sharon Alback Dance Centre celebrates 70 years

Profound impact

Former student and teacher Donna Dyson (nee Rex) is an internationally awarded songwriter, choral composer and lyricist who says her latest album Dance! Dance! Dance! was inspired by Mrs Alback.

“I think back to the young teenager who devoted every waking moment to schoolwork, ballet and tap dancing. Mrs Alback trusted me to start teaching the very littlest dancers as her assistant. A new seed was planted in my heart, and a new passion was born ... to teach.

“The live piano music I heard day after day being played on the piano by Sharon’s dear mother also sparked my love of music. These formative gifts would flourish in my life as I walked into my professional life as a teacher, education leader and university lecturer. I certainly have Sharon Alback to thank for sparking those initial seeds of loving to teach.”

|“This Dance! Dance! Dance! album is much more than just another album ... It is a full circle ... of where the inspiration started and now, where it ends. Mrs Alback gave me the gifts of dance, music and teaching.|

“In Mrs Alback’s 70 years, I’m merely one of thousands who received such incredible life lessons, career guiding inspiration and love from this remarkable lady. In her fold, we have been truly blessed.”

Plans for the future

Generations of dancers have learnt their first steps in Mrs Alback’s studio including her children and grandchildren.

Her daughter Diahann Maude, who has taken over management of the school in recent years, says she has big dancing shoes to fill.

“People always say, ‘your mum’s amazing’ and I say, ‘I can’t keep up with her’,” Diahann says.

|“She’s a legend. Everyone has fond memories of their time here. Not all of them become dancers but they all still have fond memories of their childhood here.”|

After a tough couple of years, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school has bounced back with Mrs Alback’s trademark resilience and Diahann’s mastery of online lessons.

There are no huge plans for the future, but the desire to develop young dancers into nice people remains.

Join in the celebrations

Sharon Alback Dance Centre will celebrate its significant milestone during its Disco Inferno 70 Years shows on August 27 at Redcliffe Entertainment Centre. There are shows at 3.30pm and 7pm.

They will feature dancers from as young as two years old through to the school’s senior ranks and promise to be plenty of fun for past and present pupils and teachers, and supporters.

And for those keen to bust out some dance moves, there will be a flash mob at the end of each performance.

Diahann says the steps are being distributed and she’s hoping the audience will join in the fun.

Tickets are $55 adults, $50 concession, $40 children + booking fee.

To buy tickets, visit the website or the ticket box office on Friday from noon-4pm.

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