As a young boy, Jake Mangakahia had two dreams: to pursue a career in ballet and to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
From dancing in the family’s backyard at Christmas as a young child to being nominated for the Australian Ballet’s most prestigious prize—the 2017 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award—Jake Mangakahia’s dreams of one day becoming a great ballet dancer are coming true.
He began his dancing career by setting goals and reaching them. The quote “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” by Walt Disney is a favourite of Jake’s.
After starting ballet classes at age five in Queensland, Jake successfully auditioned for the Australian Ballet School and moved to Melbourne at age ten. He completed the Advanced Diploma of Dance and was offered a full-time contract with the Australian Ballet Company. He trained with the National Ballet Schools of New York and Toronto after winning a scholarship.
In 2007 Jake received an Award of Excellence and a Travelling Scholarship for the Overseas Exchange Program. He was also the ballet school’s first school captain. Jake was given a position in the corps de ballet of the Australian Ballet in 2011.
Setting and reaching goals has helped Jake to receive many honours, such as the winner of the People’s Choice Award in 2012. One of his goals since his youth was to dance the lead role in the contemporary piece Waramuk by the Australian Ballet at the London Centre in New York. He accomplished this goal in 2012.
Jake’s second dream was realised in 2014 when he exchanged his ballet shoes for a suit and tie to serve a two-year mission in Toronto, Canada.
With only one hour for physical exercise set aside in a typical missionary day, Jake knew it would be challenging to return to the rigours of ballet training after completing his mission. However, with prayer and step-by-step focus, Jake reflects, “I was able to get back in shape and audition successfully to be readmitted to my dream job—a dancer in the Australian Ballet.”
He adds, “I feel that the experiences I had on my mission have made me a better artist. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my artistic and spiritual side in my dancing again.”
This year, six young dancers are nominated for the coveted Telstra Ballet Dancer Award because of their artistic quality, powerful stage presence and contribution to the Australian Ballet. Jake Mangakahia is one of these nominees.
If awarded this prestigious honour, Jake would use the prize monies to assist dancers in the Australian Ballet to create art as a vehicle to bring people and culture together.