Foster-bred dancer and dance teacher Mariah Lawrence has literally spun and mimed and leapt her way to a place in the Character and Parade Department of Disneyland Paris.
Mariah flies via Qatar to France on Tuesday January 7, 2020 where she will have “one day for jetlag recovery, the next day for paperwork and then four days of basic training in the Disneyland characters.”
After that Mariah will join the Department’s cast of 900 performers from more than 100 different countries as they present the universally known and loved Disney figures at, as the French say, Parc Disneyland in Marne-La-Vallée, 44 kilometres from Paris.
She has accepted an open-ended contract with Disneyland Paris, to run for 12 months initially.
Mariah said when she’s “at work, I could be anything from a suit character, like the ones that greet you in the street, through to a dancer in a parade.
“One of the conditions of my contract is that I’m not allowed to say which characters I’ll be performing in order to, as Disneyland says, ‘preserve the magic of the park’.
“Disneyland Paris is similar to the very first Disneyland in Anaheim in America, and everything is replicated, as all has to be the same across every Disneyland worldwide
“I had to go to the French Consulate in Sydney to get a long-term visa that lasts for three months, and then I can apply for residency for up to four years as I’ve been lucky enough to get what’s called a ‘talent’ passport, allowing me to work in France,” Mariah said.
“I’ve downloaded the Duolingo app and I’ve begun learning how to speak French, though I know I’ve got a long way to go, yet!
“Disney Plus streaming has just come out and I’ve been studying that, too, watching all of the cartoons and learning the characters’ different personalities and movements,” she said.
“One of my Disney favourites is Ratatouille, and Mum, who’s got the Latte Dah Café at Toora, likes that one, too, what with all the food and the cooking!”
“I’m pretty excited now,” Maria said, “but once I get the suitcases out and start packing, I’ll know it really is going to happen!”
The 21-year-old daughter of Nancy and the late Kevin Lawrence, Mariah has been dancing since she was five years old, when she started classes at the Susan Green School of Dance in Foster.
Naturally talented right from the first time she pulled on a leotard, and with extra-large dashes of determination and work ethic, Mariah excelled in every style of dance.
By the time she had finished Year 12, Maria held Australian Academy of Dance Advanced Diplomas in classical ballet, jazz and tap, right up to training as a professional dance teacher.
Long before then however School of Dance director, “Miss Susie”, had invited Mariah to be a member of her teaching staff, and even now she leads classes at the School’s studio in the former Masonic Lodge in Foster two days a week.
Since leaving school, Mariah has spent two years as a full-time member of the Ministry of Dance company based in North Melbourne, concentrating on dance and musical theatre.
Earlier this year Mariah found out about auditions for Disneyland being held in Melbourne in June and she was one of about 250 applicants.
She survived the first two calls, “with the classic step forward to the next round, or back and see you later”, before being pulled aside and sent through to the interview stage without having to do the third call of the audition.
Mariah said the Disneyland interviewers told the short list of 12 dancers that, “this is all the information about us; this is what the job will entail should you be offered a position; how do you feel about that, and now tell us about you.”
Over the moon when told she was successful, Mariah said “I’ll be sharing a studio apartment with a group of other Disneyland dancers that’s about 10 minutes away from the park.
“I’m looking forward to seeing who else got through and who’ll be flying to Paris and maybe even sharing the apartment with me!
“It’s going to be a bit strange being so far away from home, but I’ve got Facetime so I can still see Mum every day,” Mariah said.
“And from what I hear, Mum and Miss Susie are already planning a trip to France next year!”