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The Debutante Ball…the journey so far…

The build-up was intense.  Walking up the staircase for the first time for the very first dance rehearsal.  Trying not to show the nerves.  A few Debutantes trickled in whilst the Deb crew were still setting up the finishing touches  with the sound system, filling up all the water bottles and sign in table.  The dance teacher steps out her paces.  The foyer quickly becomes a buzz with nervous Deb participants and their carers wondering what is going to transpire…finding their name, receiving all the paper work and picking out their water bottle.

The sounds of the music track in the expansive Salvation Army Dance Hall can be heard as the Deb participants slowly trickle through the double doors, watching and waiting – the mystery of who would be doing their Deb.  Behind the glass windows the carers peep their faces through the glass to snap a glimpse of the action.

Then at last the dance teacher turned off the music and the introductions begin.  All the Debutantes gathered in a circle filling up the dance space between the pillars and the large stage.  The dance teacher gets the Debutantes to walk around like a crowd to get used to what it feels like to be surrounded by people and to become aware of the surroundings.   Next came the group moves.  Everyone got into lines watching intently toward the teacher – to back and forward rocks and grapevine steps.  Girls then guys; each watching the other.  The final piece of learning at the first dance lesson was how to walk with chins up and dance posture.  Then before we knew it the dance lesson was over and we would be all ready to do it again next Wednesday.

Second dance lesson…more paperwork forms to fill out, and new people came for the first time.  Everyone arrived and was pleasantly surprised to find lovely slices and muffins supplied by the Salvation Army just for us.  Re had been really busy all day collecting Deb Dresses from Morwell, and they were all on display on clothing racks inside the dance hall.  Girls excitedly picked out and tried on different dresses, while the guys watched on and waited in the dance hall.  All this time Lauren took lots of photos to capture all the action and to document the Deb journey for everyone who took part to remember for times to come. The four spot lights highlighted the stage as the Dance Teacher brought all the Debutantes together once again.  Firstly the dance moves learnt last lesson were recapped separately with the guys and girls part.  Then the dancers began to learn how to hold their partners in a formal way.  The guys and girls stood on each side forming the presentation line up.  Couples then filed on through, hand in hand one after the other.  The teacher then got everyone to partner up and learn part of the formal partner dance for the first time.  There was lots of laughter and fun while others sat on the sideline just watching until they were ready to jump in and have a go.  7pm approached once again and thus concluded week 2 of dance classes.

Dance lesson number three arrived at last.  We all gathered, walking past the homeless gentleman sleeping on a bench in the stairwell.  This time we had volunteers converging from everywhere – some wondering where the homeless dinner was, others signing up to be volunteers as well as everyone else involved in the Deb Ball.  A few new people also rocked up for their first dance practice and were quite nervous about not knowing the steps.  Everyone had improved so much and was getting the hang of their first formal dance.  The Dance Teacher took everyone through the steps again to complete the partner dance…Grapevine to Box steps and turns.  While different ones practiced others were interviewed by Lara on what being part of the Deb Ball means to them and what they have loved about dance lessons so far. Finally couples perfected the art of coming down the aisle as a rehearsal for when they are presented.  Much learning was done, and all too soon it was time to say goodbye for another night.

Everyone arrived swiftly ready for the fourth dance class.  Mark, the suit tailor came and all the guys took turns being measured up for their suits and shoes.  Girls got to see the long white gloves that they would receive for the night of the Deb Ball.  The dance teacher gathered everyone in and completed the couples dance and the holds.  There was an air of excitement that filled the room.  So many smiling faces.  New dance partners joined in and everything was coming together.

The next two dance practices seemed all a blur…resounding sounds of music tracks filled the Salvation Army Dance Hall.  The debutantes arrived early with their partners waiting with great anticipation to learn the new formations.  The dance teacher called everyone together and once again went over the dance moves learnt from the week before.  Then came the much awaited formations.  The debutantes lined up and got used to their space.  As the practices went on the formations became well refined and looked really good.  The team was coming together at last, dance partners were being finalised, and now there was only three practices to go before the big night!

The 6th dance practice arrived and everyone was eager.  Kim gave an inspiring speech reminding everyone that there were only 3 practices to go until the big day!  The dance teacher got all the debutantes into their formations for the promenade…box steps, cross overs, grapevines and wilts…everything was coming together, concluding with an elegant bow towards their partner.  At first the dance teacher countered them in, then the melody and beats filled the air as they all danced almost in unison.  Concentration mixed with laughter and lots of questions came forth, and others that knew the steps showed what they had practiced with the newer ones.  It was a lovely and peaceful night…then it was time to leave…three more practices to go!

Young people were eagerly waiting outside early for the seventh dance class to start.  Dance partners were matched and set in their places for the first dance positions.  It was lovely to watch how far they had all come from the first practice until now.  After perfecting the first dance, they were onto learning the second dance – a funky partner dance.  In no time some of the more confident ones were demonstrating the moves to the others.  The team seemed to be beginning to form as they worked with each other.  Everyone was smiling and really attentive.  Before we knew it, it was the end of another dance class…the final countdown was on…two practices to go!

Week 9 dance class had arrived.  Many girls came in their high heels for the very first time…and some had really high heels.  We made sure that we brought plenty of bandaids to have on hand for the inevitable blisters.  There were lots of smiles to begin with, then the dance music began and all the debutantes put on their serious dance faces.  Sheer concentration could be seen on their faces as they remembered the dance steps…step by step.  There was lots of excitement as the big day was fast approaching, but also lots of nervousness…would I be able to get all the dance move together with my partner ready for the Deb Ball???  The last few goal sheets for the introductions were completed as the lead in to the final dance took place.  The dance teacher then laid out the moves couple by couple for the third dance formation.  Anticipation was rising for the final moments when all the practices would come together for a wonderful grand finale…one practice to go!


The final dance class practice had at last arrived...along with a reporter and photographer.  One couple were chosen to get glammed up for the photographer to do some fun shots to represent everyone for the Deb Ball.  They got dressed up in their Deb attire and then were photographed by the grand piano.  In the meantime the newspaper reporter went around and sourced her stories from the other Debutantes to create a lovely article for the Melbourne Times.  Then Dance lessons began for the last time.  The dance teacher called everyone together into their places for each of the dances, counting it out and with the music.  Everyone went over and over each of the three dances until they looked really good.  When some struggled others came over and gave them encouragement to keep going.  As the night was drawing to a close everyone who was watching the dances got to witness lovely formations that looked amazing.  Timing issues were sorted out and it was all coming together.  There were lots of smiling faces, particularly when the couples got to walk down the middle and do their bows and curtsies.  At the end of the last dance class all the Debutantes received their special L’Oreal skin care and make up packs.  Now there was only 5 days left to get ready until the big day which would soon be upon us...

The 2014 Debutante Ball was held on Monday 11 August.  The night was a huge success with 21 debutantes and their presented being received by Minister Wooldridge and Minister O'Donoghue.  With almost 500 guests in attendance the atmosphere at the Melbourne Town Hall was electrifying.



Bernie Geary - Commissioner for Children & Young People, Andrew Jackomos - Commissioner for Aboriginal Children & Young People and Deb Tsorbaris - CEO, The Centre for Excellence in Child & Family Welfare congratulate all of the Debutantes and their partners on a magnificent night.

We also acknowledge the support of Create and Anglicare for their significant contribution to ensuring the success of the night.

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