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Terri Charlesworth OAM and Margita Chudziak, a ballet teacher educated at the Rotterdam Dance Academy, had a vision to establish an advanced, full time dance education program. Part of the motivation was their recognition that in order for talented students to further their training, they were needing to leave Perth at an early age. With an incredible expanse of knowledge between them, this led to the formation of the new organisation The Creative Dance Centre (WA).


The Creative Dance Centre opened with a comprehensive first year level curriculum, comprising of fourteen subjects. Classical Ballet, Pas de Deux, Pointe, Repertoire, Modern Dance, Dance History, Music, Drama, Kinetography, Functional Anatomy, Classical Theory, Basic Design, Choreography and Production, and Character Dance.

Above: Students in 1976


An inaugural Board of Directors was established. Lady Court, the wife of Sir Charles Court accepted the position of Patron and Verdon Williams, conductor of the WA Symphony Orchestra was appointed Chairperson. Fellow members of the organisation’s first board included founders Terri Charlesworth and Margita Chudziak, Rosemary Coates (university lecturer), Trevor Dodd (dance teacher), Frank Lisle (administrator of the WA Ballet Company), Barbara Ahern (board member of the WA Ballet Company), Valerie Pitman (personal secretary to Robert Holmes á Court), Frank Ticehurst (accountant), Shirley Wheeler (head of PE within the Education Department) and Anthony Wilson (lawyer).


On the 14th May, The Creative Dance Centre was formally changed to the Graduate College of Dance (WA).


Diana de Vos OAM, a former dancer with the WA Ballet Company, replaced Margita Chudziak as Principal of the Graduate College. Working with Terri Charlesworth and Margaret Atkinson, she developed the Besobrasova syllabus and firmly established the College as an elite training facility.


Secondary school collaboration with Western Australia's Ministry of Education began under the chairmanship of Peter Reynolds (professional management consultant) and the board, to establish a full time training program integrated with academic subjects.


Through the remarkable efforts of the board and faculty, with the support of the Swanbourne District Officer of Education, Ray Maher, a full time dance training program for Year 11 commenced at Swanbourne. Dance studies included Classical Ballet, Contemporary Dance, Character Dance and Spanish, while the theory studies included Kinesiology for Dance, Theory of Classical Dance Exercises, Music, Dance History and Art Appreciation. Students were also required to study either English or English Literature, Maths 1, Human Biology, and either French or History. The program was then extended to a five-year course, with students commencing Year 8 accepted at the beginning of each following academic year.


The success of the five-year course at Swanbourne Senior High School provided the foundation for the introduction of the College's Preparatory Dance Performance Course with one preparatory year, followed by the inclusion of Year 6 primary school students in 1995 and Year 5 students in 1997.

The College marked its twenty-first year in July with a Gala evening at the Burswood Showroom, titled Western Australian Stars of World Ballet. Former graduates who graced the stage included Sian Stokes, Kim McCarthy, Vanessa McIntosh, Jacinta Ross, Katie Ripley, Anita Taylor and Cristina Federici.


Due to the closure of Swanbourne Senior High School, as part of it's amalgamation with Hollywood Senior High School to form the new secondary school Shenton College, the Graduate College of Dance moved to the purpose built ballet studios at Subiaco's Perth Modern School.


Dawn Weller OMSS, former Artistic Director of the South African State Theatre Ballet, was appointed as the new Director of the Graduate College of Dance.

Dawn Weller appointed Diana de Vos and Leslie Hutchinson to restructure The Graduate College of Dance Classical Ballet Syllabus, bringing the coursework in line with the professional standards of the 21st century.


On the 9th March, a formal ceremony was held at the College to mark the occasion of Sir Charles Court's retirement as Patron of The Graduate College of Dance, and to welcome his son, the Honourable Richard Court AC as the new Patron of the College. In appreciation of Sir Charles' valued contribution to the College, a studio was named in his honour.


Russian ballerina Irina Baronova FRAD, one of the Baby Ballerinas of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo visited the College.


On the 1st July, Nathan Coppen, former Principal with the West Australian Ballet, English National Ballet, The Royal Ballet and The Australian Ballet was appointed as the new Director of The Graduate College of Dance.


Nathan Coppen re-established the Full Time Training Program and introduced a new Prep Full Time Training Program, for students working towards the transition to full time training, whilst continuing their academic studies at their current secondary school.


With the extraordinary efforts and perseverance of the Board and faculty, the College moved into its new home at 37 Oxford Close, West Leederville. A critical milestone for the College, the building was purposely fit out to include two large studios, a Pilates studio, boardroom/lecture room, modern bathrooms and change rooms, and an ample reception area to welcome students into the building.

Words adapted from Silver Celebration: Twenty-Five Years of the Graduate College of Dance (1998) by Ken Spillman.