Melanie Gard is the much-loved and revered Principal of the Peninsula School of Dance in Victoria, Australia. As one of the state’s most established and eminent schools, PSD has been responsible for nurturing and guiding hundreds of dancers since it’s founding in 1961 (then the Rosebud School of Ballet, owned and run by Sandra Allen). However what sets Melanie’s school apart is the incredible environment she has created within the studio walls.
Q: How did your love of dance begin?
MG: I was a twirl loving little - well actually, tall - kid. When I was around two, my Mum was told I was going to be as tall as a Giraffe! Determined that I was not going to stoop, she marched me off to ballet classes. Little did she know she would still be watching end of year performances 35 years later! I was very fortunate to grow up in a studio environment that was more like a dance family. My teacher inspired my love of teaching and nurturing young children. She always saw the potential in people, even when others did not. She saw the potential in me to be a teacher and here I am running my own studio. It is not work it is a passion, and I dearly love teaching my students.
Melanie first began teaching at Peninsula school of Dance (then Rosebud School of Ballet) in 2004, after training for over 25 years with Miss Lorraine Blackbourn OAM (an original student of Madame Saronova, herself a pupil of Cecchetti). And having obtained her Advanced Certificate with distinction, Associate Diploma and Licentiate Status with distinction, she then went on to earn a Cert IV in Dance Teaching & Management, and a Bachelor of Arts in Disability Studies, seemingly fulfilling a desire to teach that had been destined from the outset; “Dance was very much a big part of informing where I headed with my career and something I was very passionate about”.
Just two years later, Melanie was offered the opportunity to take over ownership of PSD as it’s Principal, an opportunity she grabbed with both hands despite being - at the time - heavily pregnant with her son. That same year she gave birth and took over the school all within the space of a few days. She committed herself to continuing the traditions of high quality dance tuition and instilling a love of dance in students that the school had become renowned for over the past fifty five years. And under Melanie’s direction, PSD has grown to cater for over 350 students each week.
What makes Melanie so successful and aspirational as a teacher and a role model in the community though is her ‘why’, a force that drives every decision she makes for her students and her school: “At it’s very core - All I want to do is pass on the gift that was given to me as a child. And I feel very blessed that I was in a dance school environment that was very nurturing, very encouraging and very challenging and it certainly shaped who I became.”