Like many girls growing up on the Gold Coast, Savanna Haenel had dreams of becoming a star, but what makes her different to many other girls is that she was able to turn her dreams into reality.
The former Merrimac State High School student became an international success after leaving Australia to become a showgirl in Paris.
The 20-year-old now dances at the prestigious Lido de Paris.
Haenel is not the only person in her family to break into the entertainment world.
In fact, many of her extended family members have a history within the industry.
Her mother was a showgirl and her father was in a very successful ice skating duo with his sister.
“They were one of the fastest in the world,” Ms Haenel said.
“They performed for Elvis Presley, they performed everywhere around the world, they were friends with movie stars,” she said.
Not only that, but her parents were both performing at the Lido de Paris when they first met.
Haenel’s grandfather was an acrobat and an ice-skater, and her grandmother was a ballerina.
Both of her aunts and uncles are still in the entertainment business.
But despite all the entertainment blood in the family, Haenel said her family had always been clear that they would support her whatever career path she chose.
“I didn’t mind one way or another as a parent if she did continue on the career that her family had been doing,” Corina Burgess-Haenel said.
Although Haenel knew her family loved and supported her, she said she felt there was pressure on her to perform knowing her family’s reputation was at stake.
“I had a big stress because my family all succeeded and became the highest version of themselves in the show business world, so they were the top of their game,” she said.
“Everybody knew them, everybody knows them still.”
“I’m coming into it at 18 and I want to make an impression too, and I want to continue my family’s name.”
And, after two years of working hard and performing for the Lido de Paris, Haenel is thriving in her new environment.
“I feel like I’ve done well and I’ve succeeded in my way,” she said.
“I’m definitely happy with where I am now.”
From a young age, Haenel showed a talent for all types of dance, from ballet to contemporary and hip-hop.
As a school student at Merrimac State High School in Mermaid Waters, she undertook a range of extra curricular activities, including the school ambassador program, a dance troupe, student council, and school musicals.
Merrimac State High School performing arts teacher Emily Kite said she believed the opportunities provided through the schools arts program helped to prepare students for their future.
“The arts encourages students to be creative, confident, resilient, to work as a team and, most of all, [to] communicate effectively.
“In addition to this, students gain an awareness as to how the professional industry operates, which may inspire them to seek out careers,” Ms Kite said.
The highlight of Haenel’s performances during school was an event called the Creative Generation.
The Creative Generation is a televised performance by state schools across Queensland, with a cast of more than 550 students.
Out of the cast, Haenel was one of only 15 students chosen to perform as a feature dancer.
Haenel said the audition process was very long, and meant spending around six hours auditioning before receiving a call back.
“We did one dress rehearsal and three shows in one day, so we really did four shows in one day,” she said.
“And it was actually really difficult.”
“We had to run here, there, I was so fit.
“I remember it was full on,” she said.
Savanna Haenel’s mother, Corina Burgess-Haenel, said she believed that although the school provided great opportunities for her daughter, all the extra-curricular activities eventually took a toll on her schoolwork.
“As she got up to the higher levels at school – year 11 and 12 – obviously it got a lot harder and the dancing became more,” Burgess-Haenel said.
“So at home sometimes she would be very stressed out.”
The transition from her school life to a career was not easy, as Haenel found it difficult to find a dance contract on the Gold Coast.
“In the Gold Coast when you finish school you don’t have any commitments anymore,” Haenel said.
“You’re lost,” she said.
“I thought to myself the ball should be rolling already if I wanted to be a dancer, and its not.”
“So I stopped.”
“I actually got really upset.”
“I didn’t know what else to do.”
Haenel said she lost hope for a few months, but a family trip to Europe provided a chance of redemption for her dance career.
During a stop off in Paris, she auditioned for the Lido de Paris.
“I was sick that day and it was on my birthday,” Haenel said.
“[But] I walked in like I had already got the job, I said to myself I’m not leaving here without a job,” she said.
When Haenel found out that she had gotten the job, her mother was particularly proud of her.
“All the acts at the Lido are the best in the world,” Burgess-Haenel said.
“It’s very prestigious to work there.”
Haenel said her life in Paris was always busy, leaving for work at around 6pm and returning home at around 1:30am.
“Life here when you’re a showgirl, you have your day free, but because you work in the evening most girls don’t do much during the day,” she said.
“The job is the most important [thing].”
“We lose most of our energy there because we work and give the audience our energy.”
Even though Ms Haenel said she thoroughly enjoyed her job and her new life in Paris, she said it was difficult being so far away from her loved ones.
“I miss my family,” Haenel said.
“When you’re all the way over the other side of the world and you can’t see your family [and] you can only talk to them, it’s not the same,” she said.
“So many things have happened in my family since I left and I haven’t been there.”
“But I’m going home in October, and I haven’t been home for two years.”
Savanna Haenel will return briefly to the Gold Coast in October this year where she will be presenting a dance/balancing workshop with boyfriend Igor Gavva at Mudgeeraba Memorial Hall.