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Nerida Cortese: my perfect partner

Within minutes of meeting them for the first time, it's obvious that Nerida Cortese and Natasha Boon have a huge amount in common. They have the same graceful way of moving and dancer's poise. Their long

Within minutes of meeting them for the first time, it’s obvious that Nerida Cortese and Natasha Boon have a huge amount in common.

They have the same graceful way of moving and dancer’s poise. Their long blonde hair is in exactly the same style – by complete coincidence – and they strike identical poses when asked to smile for the camera.

And when they talk about dancing, it’s clear they share the same all-consuming passion.

When Variety asked Dancing with the Stars favourite Nerida to mentor talented youngster Natasha (11) last year, they could not have chosen a better pairing.

“She is like a mini-me,” laughs Nerida, after watching Natasha perform. “In fact, when I saw Natasha dance, I was a bit choked up, because she reminded me so much of myself.

I remember at the same age, all I wanted to do was dance, and it all came flooding back to me.”

Nerida started dancing when she was four – as did Natasha – and showed talent straight away, but it took a lot of hard work and determination to make her dream of becoming a professional come true.

“You give up everything to train,” says Australian-born Nerida, who started out doing ballet, tap and jazz, and switched to ballroom dancing in her teens. “When I left school I was working full time and training four or five hours a day. It’s tough but you do it because you love it.”

Just like Nerida at the same age, Natasha is certain that a dancing career is the path she wants to follow.

Although she’s equally skilled in ballet, jazz, contemporary and several other types of dance – as well as being an award-winning gymnast – her goal is to join the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

“I danced with them in The Nutcracker and I know that’s what I want to do,” says Natasha, who is in her second year as a Variety Gold Heart Scholar.

All the scholars get financial assistance to help with the costs of following their dreams and are matched with a mentor.

oum-of-two Nerida has been mentoring Natasha since last year, but because she’s in Auckland and Natasha is in Rangiora, their contact has had to be via phone or email.

oeeting for the first time recently was exciting for them both, with Nerida blown away not only by Natasha’s talent, but also her outlook.

“She’s obviously doing this because she loves it,” Nerida says. “Natasha has a great attitude and natural drive.”

Natasha has dance classes four days a week and gymnastics every day but Sunday. The youngest of five children – she has four brothers – she’s able to fit everything in because she’s home-schooled by her mum Trudy.

“We get all my school work done in the first part of the day so I have the afternoons for dancing and gym,” explains Natasha, who also has a singing lesson once a week.

While her schedule does seem punishing, she says she finds time to do “normal kid things”, such as hanging out with her friends. “They think it’s a bit crazy, all the stuff I do, but they know I love it.”

Her dedication is paying off. This year she won top awards in dance competitions in Australia and she has also been chosen to be a member of a national squad which fosters talented young gymnasts for the 2016 olympics.

Natasha took up gymnastics to help with her dancing and it means she can include complicated moves, such as back flips, in her routines.

“That’s one thing I couldn’t do – gymnastics,” says Nerida.

“I was the worst cartwheeler in the world. But these days you have to have it.”

Nerida’s career is on hold at the moment as she’s busy looking after her two little boys with husband Shane Cortese, Kees (4) and Jett (6 months).

She also teaches dancing, but says she’s leaving it up to Natasha’s instructor to help her with the technical aspects of her dancing.

“As a mentor, I’m someone she can talk to about all aspects of dancing,” she says. “When I was starting out I would have loved to have had someone to bounce ideas off.”

Nerida’s role with Natasha will be ongoing and she says she’s only too pleased to help out wherever she can.

“Shane and I have lots of contacts, and we can let Natasha know about lots of different opportunities,”she says. “Then it’s up to her!”

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