2 October 2023

How a Weipa boy bullied for doing ballet went on to inspire the next generation

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Weipa raised ballet dancer Douglas Stewart danced professionally in Romanian theatres before returning to rural Australia.

GROWING up as the boy who did ballet in Weipa didn’t make for the easiest childhood, but Douglas Stewart’s passion never faltered.

He’s now inspiring the next generation of dancers.

After a professional stint in Romania, he has now returned to country Queensland and is a source of inspiration for the kids at Emerald Academy of Dance.

Douglas said a major part of his successful career was his first ballet teacher at Weipa Dance Academy.

“We always called her Miss Amanda … she was very supportive,” he said of Amanda Seawright.

“She saw that I had potential and she actually pushed me towards dance.”

Since starting at the age of five, he was the only boy who participated in the female-dominated art form for most of the time.

“It was really terrible for myself growing up in that period; there was a lot of bullying in regards to that,” he said.

“Even though for the majority of it I tried to ignore it, there were days where it did get a little bit too much and I did feel a bit embarrassed if somebody asked me what I do after school.”

Ballet is an extremely difficult profession to enter, with limited job availability and low turnover rates making it very competitive.

It can be even more so for rural dancers who aren’t exposed to different styles, syllabuses and teachers.

Taking classes in London and Brisbane helped Douglas to overcome these challenges, but he felt like he “sort of lived under a rock”.

As the only boy doing ballet in Weipa, Douglas faced years of teasing but he never let it affect his passion.

“When I first went to London, I found it very hard to adjust because the teacher at the time was trained under a syllabus I’d never heard of,” he said.

Despite the difficulties, he believes that anyone with enough passion and work ethic trained under a great teacher can be a contender.

“It’s like any sort of athletic sport, people can come from all walks of life in this sort of profession. How much you put in is how much you get back,” he said.

“Even in these small communities, you can produce one of the best dancers in the world…it all depends on the teacher and the student.”

Douglas dreams of making ballet more accessible and recognised by everyone, especially in rural communities, and was disappointed in hearing that Weipa no longer has an active dance school.

He explained that the closing down of dance schools was a common theme in bush communities.

“I feel sad for the kids that don’t get to have the experiences and opportunities that I did,” he said.

He hopes that ballet can be recognised and supported as an important art form so that studios like Weipa’s don’t have to close down.

Though he is only able to teach part-time currently, Douglas hopes that he will be able to support aspiring rural dancers full-time in the future.

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