STARTING at the bottom and evolving into its current Artistic Director, Flare Dance Ensemble’s Jun Takahashi talks to us about the club’s direction, its success with overseas students and her own ambitions. Daniel Driscoll has more.
When Jun Takahashi first joined Flare Dance Ensemble in 2007 as an undergrad student, it was one of the only two dance clubs at the University of Melbourne.
At the time, the student-run club offered classes of the more modern styles, including jazz and hip-hop. It was certainly distinct from the other dance club – the Melbourne University Dance Sport Club – which had a stronger ballroom-styled focus.
Like a sponge, she wanted to absorb as much as she could and eventually joined both clubs, despite having “very little or close to no experience with dance”.
But it was with Flare where Malaysian-born Takahashi excelled and found “a lot of comfort and social opportunities to make new friends”.
Starting out as a beginner dancer just like everyone else, Takahashi eventually grew into the choreographer role even though it was never her intention.
“I just wanted to dance [and] learn as many things as I could. A friend of mine wanted to give choreographing a go and he asked if I wanted to do it with him. I thought it would be fun. I had my own ideas… so I decided to do it,” she said.
Today, Takahashi is the Artistic Director of Flare Dance Ensemble, where she is responsible for the growth and direction of the club.
“My aim, as well as the Flare Committee’s aim, is to help as many dancers flourish and grow as much as they can and perhaps realise [their] dreams of taking dancing further than they [would] have initially expected,” Takahashi said.
“The quality of our annual production continues to grow and the club has also been very blessed to [have been] provided with many great opportunities to perform for external entities.”
The club now offers more styles than ever and has increasingly garnered tremendous interest from students of many backgrounds.
“This year we’ve got about 651 members but when I joined, it was around 200,” she said.
Flare’s international student members
Of the 651 current members, Takahashi estimates roughly 70 per cent is made up of international students. When asked why the club has a strong success rate in attracting international students, Takahashi feels it’s a testament to the club’s sense of community that enables foreign students to feel connected to others.
“They’re new to Melbourne and not sure who to go to. Being new to the country, you don’t really know what other activities to do after uni classes. So why not dance?”
Takahashi too admitted when she first joined the club, it was comforting to know that many of its members were originally from her home country.
While students don’t necessarily join with the intention of meeting new people, Takahashi finds that members often end up making new friends; eventually carving out a new family for themselves.
“A lot of the bond built between the members is not just through dance classes and performances. The club also offers a lot of events and social gatherings. We go to uni together, some of us have the same classes. We then go to dance together, and then eat together after, and then maybe head to the library together to study. Sometimes, it can be just Flare all day, every day!”
Takahashi further comments that Flare’s senior students are especially a big help to newer, younger students struggling to adapt to university life, given these seniors have also experienced dealing with their own anxieties and fears.
Inspiring others and dreaming big
For all that she’s done to help dancers develop their skills at Flare, Takahashi too has her own personal ambitions as a dancer.
Each Artistic Director occupies the position for a period of three years. So when she’s done with Flare, Takahashi dreams of one day performing under a bigger spotlight.
“If I am allowed to dream big, I would definitely love or hope to dance on a big stage – be it with a superstar, or even with my dance crew at an international competition.”
But more importantly, she wants to inspire others to follow what they’re passionate about.
“I just hope to be someone who can inspire people like those who have inspired me. I hope to inspire others to want to dance because they love it, love music and want to express themselves through dance.”