Rising ballet star recognised as elite athlete

Queensland Ballet dancer Joseph Moss. | Newsreel
Queensland Ballet dancer Joseph Moss is the first male dancer to win QUT's elite athlete scholarship. | Photo: David Kelly

By Susan Schwartz

When Queensland Ballet dancer Joseph Moss first enrolled in ballet school, he often hid the fact he could pirouette his way across a stage – now he is the first male ballet dancer to be recognised as an elite athlete by QUT.

Moss was a 10 year-old athletic all-rounder, juggling soccer, basketball, cricket, athletics, swimming, and cross-country, when he first tried on a pair of ballet flats and found dance to be the most challenging yet rewarding of all his pursuits.

“Ballet really helped my other sports, especially with my coordination. It pushes your body to the limit most days,” Moss said.

Ballet is also widely recognised as being beneficial for whole-body conditioning, and for building athletic cognitive ability, speed, cross-training, strength, stamina and endurance, flexibility, reflexes, balance, and lean muscle growth.

Moss wishes he would have found the confidence early to tell his sporting peers he was a ballet dancer.

“I was so insecure about it. I would never talk about it. I would never bring it up if I had to skip school for a rehearsal I would just say I was sick,” Moss said.

“I hid that part of myself for a long time, and I just wish I hadn’t because when I started being open about it and was more accepting of myself – that’s when people accepted that I was a dancer as well.”

Another decade later, and the now 20 year-old was recently awarded a $10,000 Elite Athlete Scholarship from QUT year to study a Bachelor of Business part-time.

Finding like-minded friends also helped him discover his confidence boost. In 2015 he was selected to be a 12 year-old extra in Queensland Ballet’s The Nutcracker where he had exposure to experienced dancers.

“I was seeing all of these Queensland Ballet dancers performing and at rehearsals, and seeing how they worked, and I fell in love with it at that point,” Moss said.

“I really didn’t know until I went full-time how much work you had to put in, and had inspirational teachers who guided me through, and they would tell us how amazing their career was.

“One day my teacher Paul Boyd showed us a highlight reel of his career, and from that moment on I knew it was something serious I could do.”

Paul Boyd, now Resident Choreographer and Academy Ballet Master at Queensland Ballet, said it was clear from the beginning that Moss had natural physical potential that could be nurtured with the right training.

“He was very focused, diligent, well-mannered and took on a ‘no fuss’ attitude to his work, an absolute pleasure to teach, always supportive of his colleagues and I knew that we were raising a wonderful young man in Joseph,” Boyd said.

“He  involves himself wholeheartedly in whatever character he undertakes.”

Moss’s first introduction to ballet was via his mum Katherine, a psychiatrist.

He remembers being taken to her ballet classes as a child. “She would go to her studio in a warehouse in Oxley that opened up into this concrete staircase and I would be running up and down the stairs while she did class,” Moss said.

“At the time I was involved in my other sports but she asked me if I wanted to do a class.

“I agreed to give it a go, and then after that first class, to tell you the truth I didn’t like it.

“But when I got into her car, she asked me if I enjoyed it or if I wanted to go again, and I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I said sure. And I ended up sticking with it and it just evolved from there.”

Now Moss spends most days engaged in nearly seven hours of intense dance training with some heavy weights classes thrown in as part of his full-time commitment to Queensland Ballet’s Jette Parker Young Artist Program.

The program each year allows 12 dancers from Australia and the world to refine their technique, and access performance and mentoring opportunities.

Moss’s performances in The Little Mermaid and Strictly Gershwin last year were some of his career highlights so far. Costumes are often shared between ballet companies and in Strictly Gershwin he got to wear the pants of Vadim Muntagirov from the English National Ballet in London.

“Wearing his pants is like wearing your favourite AFL player’s jersey. It was a really special moment and one of the best experiences of my life.”

Moss said two years ago his nerves would make him literally cry before going on stage. But he has learnt to control them by listening to some upbeat music to get him in the right mindset, warming up his body and eating just the right amount.

“Now it’s just those five seconds before I go on where the nerves start to build up. When I’m on stage and I take that first breath it all just goes away. And it’s just me on stage. It’s quite an unexplainable feeling, but it’s a good feeling,” Moss said.

“Group work is the least nerve wracking because you’re up there with 10 or 20 other people who are doing the same thing and you feel supported.

“A lot of steps are really challenging to find the right coordination – especially jumps that turn in the air are quite difficult to master, but when you’re learning there’s days when you get them and days where you don’t.

“You just have to work at finding the right consistency.”

At night he heads home to his computer where he studies his first business subject online. The scholarship means he also gets flexible study, assessment and exam options.

“I have no time left for in-person lectures or tutorials so I’m very grateful for the freedom the scholarship gives me, as well as the extra financial help,” Moss said.

He hopes that after a successful career in ballet, he can use the degree to transition into the business side of the arts.

“With ballet, I just love the fact that I can keep working and still not be perfect – there’s always something to work on, something to keep pushing for,” Moss said.

“There’s no one thing where I go, yep that’s done, I don’t need to ever do that again. There’s always more to do.

“And also the people here are very inspiring. Seeing other people with the same ambition and determination, all striving for excellence is really motivational.”

Joseph Moss in Queensland Ballet's The Little Mermaid.
Joseph Moss in The Little Mermaid. | Photo: David Kelly
Behind the scenes at Queensland Ballet where Joseph Moss rehearses for The Little Mermaid.
Joseph Moss prepares for his role in The Little Mermaid. | Photo: Angharad Gladding

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