Champion swimmer Hamish Giddens poised to leap into the world of dance

Rising ballet star and teen swimming sensation Hamish Giddens has mastered the art of fluid movement.

The Christchurch 16-year-old, who holds four national age-group titles in the pool, will fly to New York City next month to compete in the world’s biggest student ballet competition – the Youth America Grand Prix.

Giddens will perform a variation and modern solo judged by a panel of top ballet school and dance company directors, and take part in adjudicated classes in the hope of winning a scholarship to train in Europe.

After placing third in the men’s classical category at regional semi-finals in Sydney last September, Giddens is poised to leap into the world of dance.

“When you dance it’s like nothing else is really happening. Expressing yourself through movement feels like a completely different world to expressing yourself through words,” he said.

“Being on stage is the best feeling, I can’t describe it. It’s just amazing, it makes everything worth it.”

The talented teenager’s growing set of medals and awards includes gold in the 1500m freestyle at last year’s New Zealand Short Course Swimming Championships, breaking a decades-old Canterbury record for 15-year-old boys formerly held by an Olympian.

Giddens also claimed the 800m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 200m backstroke titles, and silver in the 1500m open men’s category, making him the youngest swimmer in the country to win an open medal.

“That was surreal. I was not expecting to get that silver medal and a Canterbury record as well for my age group. It was a great feeling,” he said.

Christchurch teenager Hamish Giddens is a champion swimmer as well as a rising ballet star.

Part artist, part athlete, Giddens said he benefited from the complimentary aspects of swimming and ballet.

“Ballet has helped me take on a lot of stroke corrections for swimming. Swimming has definitely given me an endurance part for my ballet, which is definitely needed for both sports,” he said.

Giddens – who hails from a family of six – took his first ballet steps at the age of four, copying his older sister practising in the lounge.

He has also followed in the footsteps of his great aunt Lorraine Peters, Southern Ballet founder and Christchurch master tutor and choreographer.

His father Kelvin Giddens said Hamish showed an aptitude for dance at a young age.

“He’s a clever boy, he’s really driven, he’s very committed, determined and goal-driven, and quite unique in his ability to set out to achieve what he aims to do,” he said.

“Both physically and mentally he picks things up really, really easily. He’s very focussed, so I think he has the head game to make things happen.”

Christchurch ballet dancer Hamish Giddens.

Giddens wakes at 5.30am for swimming training between 6am and 7.30am five mornings per week, including Saturday.

He also trains at Convergence Dance Studios four days per week, all while managing Year 12 studies at Burnside High School.

Kelvin said he enjoyed seeing friendships blossom between Hamish and other swimmers and ballet students, and his achievements in two technically and physically demanding pursuits.

“A number of his swimming coaches have commented how quickly he picks up corrections. The corrections in ballet are minute so he can apply that to his swimming. His core strength he gets from ballet is an amazing platform for him to swim off and the fitness he takes from swimming transfers really well to ballet,” he said.

Giddens trains at Convergence under artistic director Olivia Russell.

She said he stood out for his ideal proportions, long lines, musicality, stage presence and quick ability to apply corrections.

“For the majority of even exceptional dancers, it takes a good chunk of time to process a correction. You give him information and he processes it very quickly to his body,” she said.

“He applies it and keeps that application, so when he comes back to your next coaching session it’s still there, which is really rare and a brilliant quality. He’s not just a technician, he actually has a great future as an artist as well.”

Russell said swimming had given Giddens the power of endurance, which was vital in the world of professional male ballet dancing.

“They have to be as fit as a swimmer, as fit as a runner, they have to be strong enough to lift humans above their heads and they have to make it all look easy. They have to be musical, they have to be artistic and then there’s the ballet technique itself,” she said.

Hamish Giddens and Olivia Russell

Despite the physical, technical and artistic skills involved, Russell said perceptions about boys and dance still needed to change.

“My own son had a period of time last year as a wee eight-year-old hiding in the library at lunchtime because he was a ‘ballet boy’. I think that’s quite heartbreaking,” she said.

“I think we should promote it rather than ridicule it.”

Russell said international competitions like the Youth America Grand Prix and Prix de Lausanne could help to launch the careers of aspiring professional dancers, by creating global connections with elite ballet schools and companies.

While tuition fees are often included in scholarship offers, travel and accommodation is not, so the Giddens family has set up a Givealittle page to help financially support Hamish overseas.

He has been offered direct entry to The Royal Ballet School’s 2025 summer intensive, when he will spend up to five weeks training in London.

Christchurch ballet dancer Hamish Giddens.

He is also taking part in the The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s national mentor programme, under which he will be mentored by dancers and the company’s artistic team over the course of the year.

Russell said Giddens had a bright future in dance.

“I am very proud of him, on all levels. Everything that he has pushed through technically, emotionally, mentally. He has really grown as a whole person and dancer. I’m really excited to see his dreams come true,” she said.

Giddens dreams of one day dancing for The Royal Ballet in London or Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.

“Ballet feels like my heart is fulfilled when I do it and it’s my passion. Ballet is definitely what I want to do with my life. It’s my favourite thing in the world,” he said.

That dream is taking shape, one step at a time.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button