Talent on the rise: Energetiks Model Search runner-up Tom Umseher
Tom Umseher is one of many talented male dancers in Australia currently poised on the verge of success - and by success we mean a long and prosperous career in the dance industry. Make no mistake, whilst the past few years have seen Australian dancers consistently over-achieving in nationally and internationally hosted dance competitions and events, it's the boys in particular who've been making a remarkably strong impression (think Lucie Saronova 2018 Gold Medalist Tyler Lindsay, last year's Genée Gold Medalist Harris Beattie, and this year's shared Gold medalist Joshua Green). Evidence that suggests that the skill and quality of Australia's male dancers is only getting stronger.
Tom, a recipient himself of multiple awards including the Kathleen Gorham Martin Rubeistein Award, and most recently, the AICD's 2017 Encouragement Award, is one such dancer with the passion and enthusiasm to carry him all the way - not to mention the feet. Tom's training began at Melbourne Dance Xchange, and four years later the youngster had enrolled in The Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, committing himself to a demanding but rewarding six day schedule balancing dance and academia. We caught up with the now fifteen year old VCASS student, who has the added distinction of being hand-chosen from hundreds of hopeful applicants as the runner-up for Energetiks most recent Model Search. See Tom's photoshoot and check out our Q & A with the talented dancer below!
E: How did your dance journey begin?
TU: My mum said I was always dancing and jumping around since I was three years old. But I only started taking dance classes when I was in Grade Two, purely for fun.
E: At what point did you realise you wanted to pursue dance professionally?
TU: In Grade Four I went to the Victorian College of the Arts (VCASS) open day and I knew straight away that I wanted to get into the school. I suppose it was around then that I realised that I wanted dance to be a big part of my life.
E: What style of dance or type of choreography do you most enjoy?
TU: I study ballet, contemporary, jazz, world dance, tap and acrobatics at VCASS. The styles I like the most would have to be ballet and contemporary, as I enjoy the structure of ballet and I feel I can express myself in contemporary. I also like jazz as I think it’s a lot of fun.
E: What’s the most challenging part about dance for you, and what makes it worth it?
The most challenging part of dance for me is having to work 120% even on a “bad day”. But it’s all worth it when I notice the slight improvements in my classwork over a period of time and even better when I see how far I have come in a term or year.
E: Where do you hope to see yourself with dance in the future?
TU: Hopefully, in the future I will be working in a dance company overseas dancing a variety of styles.
E: Did you ever encounter judgement or criticism from other kids who don’t understand the artform? How did you overcome that?
TU: When I was younger, I didn’t really tell any of my school friends that I danced. I knew of boys that told everyone they danced and then got teased for it. It wasn’t until I surrounded myself with boys that danced and people that accepted me as a dancer, that I felt comfortable enough to let everyone know.
E: Do you have any encouragement or words of advice for other boys who are wanting to try dance?
TU: I would say that the first big step to explore dance is to just take a few different dance classes. After that it often takes a few months before you can figure out which styles you prefer and which ones you’re best at. If you enjoy dance, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s often hard to block out what people say, but if you really love dance then none of the off-hand remarks are important.
E: Who inspires you?
TU: A big inspiration for me would be Steven McRae as he started dancing in Australia and is now a principal dancer for the Royal Ballet in London. I also get a lot of inspiration from my peers and seeing them do well inspires me to work hard.
E: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
TU: I travel a lot with my family and I enjoy exploring new countries and places with them. I also enjoy creating films and funny short videos on my YouTube channel Tom TV.
E: Any hidden talents or party tricks?
TU: I can do fifteen minutes of continuous hula-hooping.
E: You’ve got amazing feet! Any tips?
TU: My best advice is to keep a daily foot stretching and strengthening routine going. Just keep at it and you will get results!
E: Favourite on-stage moment to date?
TU: Last year for the VCASS production at the Malthouse Theatre, I performed a solo in the junior Contemporary/Ballet piece. I really enjoyed the choreography and the exhilaration of performing alone. I also love the opening night of a performance as I’m always excited to show the audience the dance pieces that we’ve been working on.
E: Which outfit was your favourite from your photoshoot with Energetiks?
TU: I liked the LINKD grey singlet and the Urban shorts as the material was light and breathable. They were easy to move in and comfortable in hot conditions.
E: How do you stay motivated when you’re having a challenging day?
TU: I find that listening to music helps to calm me down. I try to get through the challenging day and then start the next day fresh.
E: Favourite guilty pleasure:
TU: Binge-watching TV shows and movies.
E: Lastly, any words of advice for other aspiring dancers?
TU: I think the best thing a dancer can do and probably needs to do is take every opportunity you can. Even if it doesn’t necessarily turn out like you hoped it would, you can learn from that experience.
Keep up with Tom's dance journey by following him over on his instagram: @tom.dancee
Article and photography by Elly Ford