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Hilary Kaplan
0414 337 624

Archibald Mckenzie
0411 707 419



Alegria was founded as a proprietary limited company in early 1998 by Hilary Kaplan and Archibald McKenzie. The central studios have always been located in Holt Street near Sydney's Central Station, where the principals have conducted classes in ballet and Spanish dancing, and also teacher training, since 1997. The first intake of formal Full-Time students was in 1999.

Alegria's teaching staff has included major professional names in Australian and international professional dancing, balletic and contemporary, since the beginning, although Hilary Kaplan has always done the bulk of the ballet teaching – with gradually increasing assistance from the other principal first as a pianist and then as an assistant teacher and coach.

One by one, Alegria has acquired several suburban branches to feed into the main major school, first in Vaucluse (a branch which was successfully moved to Bondi Junction), then in South Turramurra, Parramatta (subsequently merged with North Ryde), Orchard Hills, and North Ryde. The Chatswood branch was fitted-out and opened in early 2005 from scratch in a new development which is proceeding in a very promising way. All Alegria's teachers are carefully chosen for their knowledge and experience, teaching skills and personality, and the principals get to know ALL the students personally through the exam preparation seminars which the principals conduct in person for all the ballet students, and through the annual concert preparations and performances.

Alegria's Full-Time Course has produced a number of successful professional dancers, perhaps most notably – (for now there are several very promising talents working their way up through the training) – Steven McRae who won several prestigious international competitions – the Genιe Competition of the Royal Academy of Dance, which marked a turning point in his maturity and technical mastery, and the Prix de Lausanne – as well as some prestigious Australian competitions such as the Cecchetti Senior Medal 2002 – it was partly through the direct and indirect support of the Australian Cecchetti Society that Steven McRae managed to get started so well. He has been rapidly promoted to First Artist and the Soloist with the Royal Ballet, and is the current (2006) International Rising Star. However, Alegria's graduates have mostly done well, and they can be found dancing professionally in great Australian, English and European ballet companies.

Alegria's Teacher's Course has also proved exceptionally successful, and virtually all graduates of this Course have started successful teaching careers, some of them subsequently making the move into management of dance schools. Alegria has operated the Fundamental Teacher's Course in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, with the help of distinguished professionals in Melbourne and Perth, also personally supervised by the principals by visits and coaching and mock exams in those cities. In 2007, Alegria launches the Advanced Teachers Course in Sydney.

Spanish Dance has always held a special place in Alegria's teaching and concerts. The international Spanish Dance Society syllabus was originally modelled on principal Hilary Kaplan's progress through her years of studying Spanish dancing in South Africa as a child. She rose to become Dual Examiner for the Spanish Dance Society, and Spanish dancing has always been taught at Alegria Dance Studios by Hilary Kaplan, increasingly assisted by Archibald McKenzie.

Martha Graham-style Contemporary has also been important to Alegria ever since the first intake of Full-Time students in 1998. Patrick Harding-Irmer, with whom Archibald McKenzie had occasionally worked since 1990, has taught the senior students Contemporary for all that time, occasionally alternating with Anca Frankenhaeuser. Patrick Harding-Irmer, who is still performing from time to time in a very distinguished international dancing career, has also regularly choreographed and mounted Contemporary works for solos and ensembles. Other distinguished Contemporary teachers who have taught and choreographed for Alegria students include Susan Barling, Jane Beckett, Paul Boyd, Anca Frankenhaeuser, Bill Pengelly and Sergiu Pobereznik. Students have done well in competitions and professional Contemporary dancing, and even where the student is primarily a ballet dancer, we find that the Contemporary work strengthens the depth of expression and the technical integrity in general.

In Alegria's other styles, jazz and tap, we make a priority of strong technical skills which will make our students versatile and employable. Alegria has been fortunate to have a series of excellent jazz teachers and choreographers such as Ronnie Kerr, Jane Beckett and Aleesha Paul, and Alegria's graduates have in some cases gone into professional work involving jazz and tap, such as cruise-lines – and our groups have been well-placed in competitions such as the City of Sydney Performing Arts Challenge.

Hilary Kaplan
Hilary Kaplan was born in South Africa. A child prodigy in various styles of dancing, she trained with the late Reina Berman (ballet) and with Mercedes Molina (Spanish dancing). For a number of years, she won most of the first prizes in Ballet, Spanish, Character and Modern in all the major dance competitions in Johannesburg. Having done outstandingly well in all her Royal Academy of Dance examinations including Solo Seal, she was awarded the RAD Bursary, which enabled her to complete her training at the Royal Ballet School in London. She then returned to South Africa where she danced with PACT and CAPAB. She married and settled down to open her own highly successful ballet school. While teaching she completed a BA at the University of Witwatersrand majoring in languages.

She was subsequently appointed a Dual Examiner and Tutor for the Royal Academy of Dance – and a Dual Examiner for the Spanish Dance Society – and she is a sought-after examiner and teacher all over the world, appearing regularly on the faculty of international summer schools and seminars. In 1996 she moved to Australia with her husband and five daughters. While examining in that year, she met Archibald McKenzie, with whom she conducted a number of courses for the RAD and others from 1996 on, and with whom she went on to found Alegria in 1998. Since then she has qualified as a Cecchetti Associate.

Archibald McKenzie
Archibald McKenzie was born in Western Australia, but has lived in many parts of Australia, as well as in Denmark, Belgium, France and England. He originally studied music at the Royal Danish Conservatoire, majoring in piano – his main teachers being Erik Starup (German school) and Stanislav Knor (Russian school), and Chinese (with Soeren Egerod) and Classical Philology (with M Herman Hansen, M Skafte-Jensen, J Blomqvist and J Christensen) at the University of Copenhagen. Later he studied conducting with Dobbs Franks (Barsin/Toscanini school) and more piano with Victor Makarov (Russian school). He holds firsts in Chinese (supervisor P Ryckmans) and Ancient Greek (supervisor K Lee), and an LLB from the University of Sydney, and has lectured on Chinese and Central Asian matters at several universities. He has worked in various capacities (pianist, composer, editor, musical director) and various styles of music and theatre and has performed in Australia, Europe, and Asia. He chairs the Spanish Dance Society Australasia and is a founding committee member of the Kudos Foundation which supports Greek and Latin studies in Australia. He has curated and co-curated exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art, including the work of significant Chinese artists such as Ah Xian, Guan Wei, Shen Shaomin, Shen Jiawei and Xiao Lu.

He had worked as a pianist/accompanist for many Australian and international ballet companies, and with many outstanding dance teachers, and had gradually formed a framework of ideas and values relating to classical dance in the theatre and to approaches to teaching ballet, when he met Hilary Kaplan in 1996, with whom he eighteen months later decided to form Alegria after an injury to his right elbow which meant he could not play the piano or conduct for several months. Since then, he has taking several dance exams himself in the Spanish Dance Society, RAD and Cecchetti systems, and has qualified as an RAD ballet teacher, largely thanks to the patient coaching of Hilary Kaplan. Never a professional dancer himself, he nevertheless brings his professional experience of music and theatrical work, and the aesthetic values distilled from that experience, to bear in his teaching and in the policy directions that Hilary Kaplan and he set for the school.

Archibald McKenzie continues to pursue the occasional external teaching or artistic performance project from time to time, but is happy to be in a position where he can work independently towards keeping the awareness of the best of the classical traditions – in dance, music and the written word – alive and relevant in a world where few have the time to get to the pith of these traditions.