Saturday, 29 February 2020


First competition for five-year-old En Pointe dancers

By Jordan Gower

Five-year-old Arnika Bainbridge-Tout of Whitianga has recently participated in her very first dance competition in Tauranga. According to Arnika’s mum, Clair Bainbridge, Arnika has been dancing since she could walk - and possibly even before that.

“It’s all she’s ever known,” says Clair. “Three of Arnika’s four older siblings are dancers, so she’s just grown up with it. It comes naturally.”

Arnika trains at En Pointe Dance Studio in Whitianga, where Clair is the manager. Clair has no dance experience herself - other than being a Zumba instructor - but with four of her five kids being involved in dance at some point in their lives, she has just fitted in with their schedules.

Arnika trains three days a week in ballet, hip hop and acrobatics. Her teacher is En Pointe owner, Lisa Gifford. “Arnika just loves dancing and she really enjoyed her first competition,” says Lisa. “She came away with three medals and that’s quite a big achievement. But if you were to ask Arnika how she did, she’d tell you she won the whole thing. In her mind she won, because she just had such a great time.”

Arnika trained for almost three months for the competition. One of the routines she learned during that time was a two minute classical ballet item that she performed alongside Benjamin Turner. Benjamin is one of three triplets - two girls and himself - who all train together at En Pointe with Lisa. The competition was Benjamin’s first too and Lisa and Clair said he had a blast.

“Watching the kids have fun and succeed in what they love is absolutely the best part,” says Claire.

“There’s a really nice family feel here at En Pointe,” says Lisa. “They all genuinely care for each other. The older kids watch out for the younger kids and the younger kids really look up to the older ones. It’s great to see.”

There are more than 100 students dancing at En Pointe, from very young all the way up to nearly 75 years of age. Lisa is the only full-time teacher at the studio, but with assistance from the studio’s more experienced students, she manages the workload.

Many of the En Pointe student dance at competition level. “Arnika and Benjamin were only two of the about 20 students we took to the recent competition in Tauranga,” says Claire. “It was awesome to see a large proportion of our students dancing at such a high level.”

Several of the En Pointe students are preparing for upcoming assessments which will take place over five days. An outside examiner will come to the studio and watch the students perform their learned pieces and assess their work. “After the assessments we’ll crack straight into preparation for our end of year performance,” says Lisa. “That happens in December, so it’s a few months of practice, but the kids all love it so much. Everyone gets involved and it’s a pretty spectacular event.”


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.