The stereotype of the lazy teenager is being shattered by Esta Downing.
The Oamaru 16-year-old has a schedule that makes others feel faint just thinking about it. She brought 2018 to a close by staging an Alice in Wonderlanddance concert. Not only did she teach all the participants their moves, but she also created the props and costumes.
That was in between completing her year 12 studies at Waitaki Girls’ High School.
Esta has been running her own dance school, called AIM – Arts In Motion – since she was just 14.
AIM was established by Sara-Jayne Lind, whose family was friends with Esta’s.
When Sara-Jayne was leaving Oamaru, she selected Esta as her successor.
Esta teaches ballet, jazz, hip-hop and contemporary dance, making it “as fun as possible”.
She wants her pupils to enjoy the exercise and creative aspects of dance, without the formality of a conventional ballet school.
Esta divides her pupils into different classes according to age and ability. She has two groups of under-6 dancers, each with six or seven members, nine in the 8 to 10 group, and six girls up to intermediate school age.
As they get older and grow in confidence, she focuses more on technical skills and interpretations.
Esta has been dancing for nine years, after starting out as a gymnast.
Her desire to perform led her to the Anne Harris School of Dance, which she attended for a year and a-half before Mrs Harris stepped down due to ill health.
She now studies ballet and jazz under Victoria Cooper, a former pupil of Mrs Harris whop re.
As well as studying dance, Esta has performed in concerts and taken dance exams.
Last year, she spent about four hours a week teaching her young pupils. Extra time was dedicated to preparing their classes at home beforehand.
Her school homework was also factored in.
“I’m not the brainiest, but I’m motivated. I try quite hard,” she said.
“I have times when it’s quite full-on.”
Esta says she likes to have a list to keep track of her tasks. That helps when her workload mounts up, so she can allocate times to fit everything in.
Dancing in the evenings “takes my mind off all the other stuff”, she said.
She appreciates being able to master time management when so many other teens are notoriously bad at it.
“I’m learning it all very young. I’m very lucky to get the opportunity at such a young age.”
Esta will return to Waitaki Girls’ for year 13, where her subjects will be digital technology, textiles, mathematics with statistics, English and media studies.
“I picked subjects I’m actually interested in,” she said.
“I’m not too confident what to do when I leave school. To do something with dancing would be a dream.
“Or early childhood – I love working with kids. My mum is an early childhood teacher and my dad does a lot of kid ministry [at the Elim church].”
Esta’s whole family is musical – older sister Lily and younger brothers Ethan and Joel, along with the extended family, perform items in a “Christmas show” that has become their tradition.