When Jake Mangakahia’s parents noticed the former Shepparton boy bouncing around the living room as a baby, they knew he was special.
At five years old, Mr Mangakahia started his dancing journey, joining Shepparton’s Daphne Learoyd School of Dance.
‘‘I’ve never looked back,’’ he said.
‘‘I love being a male dancer at this time in the world.’’
The Australian Ballet dancer was recently nominated for the 2017 Telstra Ballet Dancer of the Year which would see him win $25000.
‘‘You know, it’s really an opportunity for me,’’ he said.
Passionate about connecting people to culture, Mr Mangakahia would use the prize money to buy film and photography equipment for the Australian Ballet dancers.
‘‘I believe that the more we connect to culture and cultures, we feel a sense of belonging and of identity in which I feel like we so badly need,’’ he said.
The former St Georges Rd Primary School student had his own challenges when it came to identity growing up as a male ballet dancer.
‘‘A lot of guys in high school said ‘isn’t ballet a gay sport?’’’ Mr Mangakahia said.
‘‘At the time my friends were cool with me because I did hip hop so I redeemed myself.’’
But after entering the industry, Mr Mangakahia realised male dancers had much to offer.
‘‘People love watching what power and depth men can offer on stage,’’ he said.
And with such a technically difficult genre of dance, it pays to have strength, according to Mr Mangakahia.
‘‘The technical aspect of ballet is without a doubt the most difficult of the dance forms,’’ he said.
‘‘It requires all of you have to give; there have been times where I’ve wondered if I can do this — it’s in those moments when you really learn who you are and learn how strong you can be.’’
Up against a strong field of contenders, Mr Mangakahia encouraged people to vote for him in the Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards.
You can vote for your favourite Telstra Ballet Dancer nominee by sending an SMS to 0439225538 with the first name of your chosen nominee.
For more information, visit www.telstra.com.au/thanks/arts/telstra-ballet-dancer-awards