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  • Mark Parker

Broken Back & Broken Heart to Bachelor of Dance Performance...

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

After blowing two disks in my lumber spine either (L3&4 or L4&5) in My Fair Lady 2006 I thought that my life was over & I'd be left a cripple for months. The doctors told me to rest I laid on the floor & the only way I could momentarily ease the pain was via masturbation. However, of course as soon as I came the pain would come back worse & even though I had an abnormally high libido there is only so much of "that" you can do in a day. My friend who was a physiotherapist basically said the doctors were full of shit & that I needed to build core strength & keep moving, & after thoroughly checking me out referred me to either one of two Pilates studios in Adelaide that she claimed had the equipment & expertise to help me. As I'd previously met Leanne (I believe) as a Contemporary Dance instructor via Aus-Dance & her studio Queen Street Pilates was cheaper I went to her.


After a thorough assessment where she took at least an hour & a half to measure every aspect of my body for roughly $70 she put together a treatment program tailored to my needs. After that it was basically $20 per hour in a room set up for a maximum of 6 that rarely had up to four people in it at a time where either herself or other staff would basically provide one on one individual treatment whilst rotating between clients. It use to be absolute torture to the point I feared going there. However, the relief was so profound that I'm pretty sure I maintained at least 1 - 2 sessions per week until I was strong enough to slowly back off.


As at the time TafeSA only offered two Bachelor Degrees which were the Bachelor of Dance Performance & another preforming arts degree relating to "Acting" & although several attempts at repeating I had never completed high school - I had to sit the Australian Council of Educational Research Special Tertiary Admission Test aka STAT test which from memory was about a 2 hour test. In the end I sat the test twice & got similar results. From what I recall a friend who went to University recons my score was high enough to get into just about anything but I am yet to come across evidence of the results which if nothing else would be interesting. Nevertheless, my confidence was extremely low.

In addition to the STAT test I also had to pass a medical & physiotherapy examination. As I knew they would never risk accepting me with a pre-existing spinal injury I had to lie in my physio assessment. I'm unsure what order things came in but when it came to the audition I took pain killers & worked within my limitations. I'm unsure how I went throughout the audition in general. I remember not feeling very confident at certain points. The main bit I recall was an exercise where I think we were asked to move from one corner of the room to the other in a manner representative of our lives. The exercise was perfect & after my life had virtually unlimited artistic scope. Whilst some floated across the room in a delicate manner like a gentle spring breeze & others were interesting in different ways when it came my turn I gave a dramatic reflection of internal & external struggle, & being pulled in all directions, contrasting between my gentle nature & abrupt violence of life challenges. I wish I had a recording of it as I recall the intensity of the improvised performance & the stunned looks on certain peoples faces as I came out of that back into normal composure.


This time I passed which was probably as much due to the fact that one of the teachers stated we were overall the lowest standard of dancers they'd ever had & also had the most male dancers they'd ever had.


As the Bachelor of Dance Performance was full time 9-5 x 5days per week & which mainly involved a range of physical training mainly being classical & contemporary dance classes but also strength building such as Yoga & Pilates - I was able to cease work at Queen Street Pilates & maintain enough core strength via dance school to manage the spinal injury I'd spent 3mths believing was the end of my life.

As the course involved mainly physical training to make it a bachelor degree the theory was of an extremely high standard to the point that I was lead to believe that we did the same level of anatomy as physiotherapists. Although due to the way my mind worked & growing up building stuff with grandpa & Dad - I was mechanically minded enough to understand how things worked physically. However, my literacy skills & poor ability to recollect large Latin names reduced the overall grades by which I was able to pass.

Although, my heart was there & I was probably at the most physically healthy times of my life. I found dance school a very lonely period of my life. I was a bit older than my peers & a shy male which didn't help. However, I also found that there was an unhealthy overcompetitive ego based attitude where people were often more interested in protecting their "tricks" that working together as a team so we could all improve faster. I also found some of the teaching styles questionable & outright dangerous to the extent that I witnessed one girl's career end dramatically when we came back from holidays & the new floor finish was so sticky that her first pirouette her foot stuck to the floor & severely dislocated her knee. Rather than warming us up in the morning some teaches would start us off with running patterns into floor work such as roles first thing on winters mornings. But what would I know I was just a "student" . I also questioned they're insistence on providing feedback to the group as opposed to individual adjustments which resulted in no one know who was right or wrong. their response to this was too many people would be disheartened which would have been more constructive than everyone being confused.

In the end I failed one class due to tearing a ligament in my big toe which mean I would have to repeat first year. As I couldn't repeat classes that I'd passed & they didn't believe I could maintain the physical fitness just doing one class they agreed to leave the theoretical classes I'd passed & fail the physical training classes I'd passed so that I could repeat them the following year. Although I initially accepted the offer it left me with some huge considerations to make over the break.


Although I dated several women throughout that year one was a millionaire who was a bit of a psycho & after inviting me to Newcastle & then treating me extremely cold including realising she couldn't introduce me to her family as I didn't know how to say three or free. This resulted in me teaching myself how to say three & free but repeating over & over as I walked into Tafe each day. I still get them confused sometimes but that's basically how I cam to teach myself to say three.


On one hand my heart was with dance but on the other I had a responsibility as a father to undertake a sensible career choice. It gets a little bit messy here as I applied for the Australian Defence Force just before learning I could possibly get into University without going through the Army (which would never have suited my personality). In the end after questioning my drug history the Army accepted me & I held them off awaiting my university entry results.

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