Since Year 9, Bignami has studied by distance at the Cairns School of Distance Education in order to realise her dream of becoming a professional classical ballet dancer.
The dedicated teen attends a full-time dance school in Brisbane, and lives a short distance from the centre.
“It can be a bit challenging sometimes, but as long as you’re very organised and self-motivated, it’s easy to stay on top of your work,” she said.
Every day, while her peers are in class, Bignami attends the Queensland College of Dance, formerly known as Promenade Dance Studio, which is run by a “big Italian family”.
“My schedule changes daily, but a typical day starts at around 8:30 am with a conditioning or Pilates class,” she explained.
“After that we usually have a ballet class for around two to two and a half hours.
“We then have lunch and afterwards, we have one or two more classes, for example contemporary class, jazz, pointe class, pas de deux, solos or theory.
“My dance day usually finishes between 3:15 pm and 4:00 pm.
“I then go home and do my schoolwork.”
The young talent is studying four VCE subjects: English, mathematics, Italian and tourism.
Her heritage influenced her choice to study Italian: her father was born in Milan and migrated to Australia when he was eight years old.
“I’ve always wanted to learn a second language as it’s so beneficial for many things in life, including future career and study opportunities,” she said.
“Most of all, I chose to study Italian so I can speak Italian with my family, like my dad and my nonna.”
Bignami likes the musicality, expressiveness and poetry of the Italian language.
After four years of distance learning, she doesn’t miss “normal” school too much.
“I prefer being able to do my schoolwork in shorter intense periods of time to fit around my dance schedule,” she said.
“However, I do miss my friends and I’m sad to miss out on things like the Year 12 formal and graduation.”
Bignami began dancing relatively late – at the age of nine, after doing gymnastics for several years – but it was love at first sight.
Emilia Bignami in action
“I remember coming out of my first ballet class so excited to tell my family how much fun it was,” she said.
“I decided I wanted to do ballet professionally a few years later, when I was around 11 or 12 years old.”
At the age of 13, she began studying classical ballet full-time at Promenade Dance Studio, which has three course streams: ballet, commercial dance and musical theatre.
The school has always supported Bignami in her journey, which has already led her to perform in Europe: earlier this year, she was selected to participate in the prestigious Prix De Lausanne ballet competition in Switzerland.
“It was a week of ballet classes, contemporary classes and coaching with some of the most well-known teachers from around the world,” she said.
“At the end of the week, we performed our ballet and contemporary solos in the beautiful theatre 2m2c in Montreux.
“It was such an amazing experience and I will never forget it.”
Emilia Bignami (centre) during a class at the Prix De Lausanne, in Switzerland
After high school, Bignami dreams of working for a ballet company in Australia or Europe.
“Being a ballet dancer can be quite difficult, physically and mentally, but it’s all worth it when you perform on stage and immerse yourself in the story of the ballet,” she concluded.
“But unfortunately, the career of a classical dancer is not very long.
“So, after my career, I’d like to be a wedding planner, because I just love everything about weddings.”