Member Spotlight

Getting to know Ausdance NSW Members

Amy Flannery

Amy Flannery shared a first person account of her time in New York City as part of being a recipent of the Young Regional Arts Scholarship.  

Check out the photos HERE

My name is Amy Flannery. I am a Wiradjuri woman from Forbes in the Central West of New South Wales and a nineteen year old developing artist at NAISDA Dance College. I was a Young Regional Arts Scholarship recipient for 2016 through Arts NSW and am using the grant to undertake the International Student Visa Program at Broadway Dance Center in the heart of New York City, which has been a dream of mine for forever.

Monday 12 December 2016

I’ve now been in New York City for 14 days and I’m starting my second week of my program at the world famous Broadway Dance Center(BDC)! So far I am settling in fairly smoothly to the New York City lifestyle. I’m living right in the middle of Manhattan in an area called Hell’s Kitchen with my apartment block being one avenue away from the Broadway district and just around the corner from BDC. I am definitely living in the cultural capital of convenience. I even have a subway entrance at the end of my block which links me to the 42nd street trains.

 

There’s a somewhat manic vibe to Manhattan, with my senses in a constant frenzy, if it’s not the distinctive illuminated Times Square, it’s someone who looks familiar but you’re not one hundred percent sure you just saw a celebrity. If it’s not the sound of constant honking and sirens in the street, its buskers playing on the subway and at the stations. If it’s not the smell of New York City street food i.e. pretzels, caramelised nuts and every type of over-sized dessert, it’s the not so pleasant stench of the pile of trash on the side of the street waiting to be collected. There’s never a dull moment in the city and I can feel the energy as I walk around the streets. I’m excited to explore more and discover as much as I can.

 

My course officially started on 5 December 2016. We had a week full of morning orientation classes followed by a discussion session afterwards where we would sit on the bleachers and go through some rules and procedures for the duration of our course. The first day we were greeted in true New York style by a selection of bagels with cream cheese and boxed coffee. I took a liking to the bagels, I can understand why they’re a thing but true to the reputation of Australians in New York City, I hated the coffee. I discovered that day that Australians are known as coffee snobs… and rightly so I say. There was about 30 people in my orientation group. Lots of people from South America, Scotland, Japan, China, New Zealand, France, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Haiti, America (of course!) and I even had another Aussie mate with me, all the way from downtown Penrith. In orientation week we were given a list of tips from the Director of Educational Programming, Bonnie, which she called Bonnie’s Tips for Success. The list grew each day and sometimes we were required to do bits of homework and self-reflection.

 

I’m looking forward to getting into the studio and dancing in this amazing city, with such an international cohort and industry acclaimed faculty. I’ve been wanting this for so long and the time has finally come!

 

Friday 30 December 2016

I’ve just completed my first month as a Broadway Dance Center program student. There are so many wonderful things not only about this program but also the holistic experience of living in New York City. There are also down sides that come with it all but I guess that’s to be expected with anything. 

 

For me, in Australia I study mainly contemporary Indigenous dance which is fantastic and super unique but I have always wanted to branch out into more urban and theatre styles. At BDC there are so many different styles (over 350 classes to choose from a week!) and each teacher brings their own take to them so I have had the opportunity to be exposed to such a variety. Majority of the classes that I’ve done all have the same sort of layout- a 35-50 minute warm up followed by a combination, or as the Americans like to call it, “choreo”, for the rest of the hour and a half class. A big challenge of mine has been to pick up the choreography as quickly as they teach it. They like to teach in big chunks and often wait quite some time before combining it with the music which is something I’m not quite used to. They also suggest that you add your own style and quality to the combination as you learn it and expect to see your personality by the end of class. That’s the aim at least. I’ve already noticed some improvement in picking up the steps in a short amount of time. I guess just like our physical body, our mind can be trained as well. Because these styles are quite fresh to me, adding my own style at the moment is a bit hard as I’m still trying to find what it is but each day shapes it a little more. Watching all the other dancers in class is super amazing though. It’s so interesting to see how differently people can interpret the same information and sometimes it’s basically a free show! Sometimes it can be frustrating when I see others in class doing the choreo, or even just warm up exercises, as though they’ve been doing it for months but I keep reminding myself that everybody starts somewhere and that I’m still learning so I have to allow myself to make mistakes so that I can grow.

 

Living on my own has been interesting. I wouldn’t call myself an outgoing person but being all alone in a massive city, I have never been more social! I strike up many conversations with people I’ve never met and some I probably will never meet again. This is the way that I met some of the students at BDC who were in the program before I started. Also if I was ever lost or had questions I had no shame in asking nearby people on the street. My cousin from home put me in touch with a friend of hers who played in the orchestra pit for the Broadway Musical Phantom of the Opera. He then put me in touch with a lady who I am going to do a favour and cat sit for in a few weeks. She also plays in Broadway orchestra pits. She invited me for Christmas dinner at one of her friend’s houses who lived uptown and was having a get together. It was an experience. There was a complete mish mash of people at the dinner- musicians, artists, dancers, teachers, martial artists, the neighbours! I was the youngest person there by about 10 years. Before I left for my trip people warned me about New Yorkers and how they can be quite cold so I was surprised when I was welcomed so easily amongst everyone and how interesting I was to them all. My accent was mocked many times and it got worse as the night went on. It was highly entertaining for me! I don’t think I’ve had that much to talk about for have ever talked for that long in my whole life. I think my care factor of what a person thinks of me is completely lowered when my chances of seeing them again are close to one in a million. On boxing day I thought about the evening I’d had and wondered what I would have done if I was in a similar situation back home. Obviously the circumstances would be different but I’m not sure I would have even been willing to attend something like that, where the only person I knew was someone I’d spent maybe two hours with before. Amazing how context changes your perception.

 

Saturday 14 January 2017

A few things I have learnt so far:

  1. There is a big focus on technique no matter what class you’re in. All my classes whether it be theatre, all styles of jazz, or even stilettos, the warm up is mainly based around classical technique. There is a big emphasis on having the technique and strength to then be able to be free and add your own style and still execute the movement correctly without hurting yourself. This is also another reason that we have compulsory ballet classes as it seems to be the basis of everything.

 

  1. I’ve been taking vocal ensemble classes once a week since the first week of my course. We were told that we had to take at least once throughout our course by the co-ordinator but I really enjoyed the class and haven’t missed a week yet! We start with light stretching followed by a vocal warm up. We then split into small groups to practice triad harmonising, trying to find our notes by ear rather than the piano. Before this class I’d never tried this and it was interesting to explore and learn. I didn’t know just how many different ways a vowel can be pronounced or how the shape of your mouth directly affects how you blend a note with the people around you! Also because some people are international, working with them on music that has fast lyrics like Carol of the Bell, you can hear a slight accent or differing pronunciation. I found it really beautiful and so amazing to experience and learn.

 

  1. Everyone is training absolutely for themselves. For myself, going to a training institution where you see the same people every day and you know that you’re going to see them tomorrow and every day for the whole year, you get to know them and then sometimes that effects your class if something happens outside the studio. In our first week we were told about “The Magic Door”, where you leave anything and everything that may be bothering you outside the door. This way every class you enter, you’re undistracted and ready to work. I’m sure there were days when other people didn’t particularly feel like doing a class but you wouldn’t be able to tell that by their work ethic. Everyone is there for one purpose, to learn and better themselves. It’s a great environment.

 

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Because BDC is so international, when I am in class and watching another group do the choreo or even just watching a class through the window, I try to guess people’s nationality. Rather than guessing off looks, I try to guess by the way someone engages in class. I find that in general Australians are very hard workers. Because we live so far away from the rest of the world I think that we feel that we’re behind everyone else. I don’t think this is the case but just a general feeling and because of this it adds to our drive and determination.

 

Everyone has a spirit and for me, being at NAISDA has helped me dance with embodied spirit especially with cultural dance. For the past few weeks I’ve been taking a contemporary Indian class on Monday nights. I’ve never done any Indian dancing before but I really quite enjoy it. The class isn’t only contemporary Indian but is sometimes more of a jazz Indian or is more classical Indian than contemporary. It’s very interesting! There are so many similarities between traditional Indian culture and Aboriginal culture which I never knew before. These classes have reminded me to dance with a purpose and to make sure that I transfer that spirit through all of my classes and not just cultural dancing.

 

It’s amazing just how much goes on in NYC in terms of performances. I’ve seen a show a week since week one! Whether it be a Broadway show, a dance show, or even a performance at a museum. There’s so many theatres and so much happening. I love that! I was walking past the New York City Center one evening and I saw that the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre was in the middle of their season there and so I asked how much a student ticket was. So $15 and a few hours later I was back waiting for the curtain to open. Just amazing how many opportunities are just around the corner!

 

Friday 10 February 2017

Living on my own for these few months has been a learning curve. My apartment is teeny tiny so I don’t spend a whole lot of time there. I learnt that the general size of an apartment in NYC is a shoe box! In my building there’s lot of other dancers from BDC so we often meet up and do things together. I forget that I’m in New York City, especially now that I’ve almost been here for three months. It feels normal to walk the streets and actually know where I’m going!

 

A big (BIG) thing I don’t like about New York is the food. There’s sugar and preservatives and added artificial things, which really don’t need to be added, to EVERYTHING. The veggies and fruit all have a different taste from home, and it’s a bit pricey for organic produce. I guess a positive when eating out is that the portion sizes are quite large- good value for money! I’ve never really looked into other countries food standards before but I’m guessing that Australia and American standards are very different!

 

I have loved my time at BDC so far. There’s so many styles and teachers that sometimes I don’t even know what’s out there or what I’m missing.  I’m definitely inspired to research more and become more versatile. The past few months have passed so quickly and it’s hard to believe that my time here is almost over. I definitely want to come back- there’s still so much to learn and to see and to do! I’m very thankful for this opportunity and I can’t wait to share everything I’ve learnt when I get home.

 


Rakini Devi

  1. When did dance come into your life and what role has it played in shaping you into the person you are today?

Dance came into my life very early, when I began learning ballet at my school, a Catholic convent in Kolkata many years ago. After participating in other school /dance and drama activities, including Indian folk dancing, I began seriously studying Indian classical dance in my late teens in Kolkata, and continued in Australia when my teacher, immigrated from Singapore. Dance and visual art has been an inseparable part of my life, and in fact, as I grow older, it is central and vital to my general well being. Art has shaped every aspect of my life and my interactions with others, and I feel blessed that in this lifetime, I have been able to devote myself entirely to it. The journey has been all the more rewarding because of experiences with fellow artists who share my love of the arts. 

  1. How do you define your role in the dance community? 

I’ve always felt on the “margins” of the dance community since I don’t share the history or practice of many of my colleagues. In spite of practicing and researching intercultural performance in Australia over two decades, to this day I struggle to define this role. As a mature artist who has mentored and taught others, in the past, I feel I have so much more to offer in regards to leaving a legacy, and towards mentoring or inspiring younger artists from a similar cross-cultural background. These opportunities have not been recently available to me, so instead, over the last decade I have built my practice in a multidisciplinary arts, specifically through overseas residencies and performances, and have alternated dance with live art installation.

Since returning to Sydney from Melbourne three years ago, though, I have had a fresh lease of “dance life”. I have learnt that community is vital to the life of an artist, especially a solo artist usually working in isolation, and I appreciate being part of the Sydney arts community once more. In spite of being away for nearly seven years, I feel I am part of this vibrant arts community once more, and I’m happy to report that, through organisations such as FORM and Ausdance NSW, which, incidentally has been a strong supporter of my work since my Perth days, I am in no hurry to “retire”! Currently in the final year of a Doctor of Creative Arts at UOW, I am enjoying this current phase of performance and study. I value every opportunity to continue to contribute to this vibrant arts community, whilst expanding on my own, evolving journey of development. 

  1. What inspires you to continue dancing and maintain your artistic practice?

I’m driven by my visual art and conceptual work, which has been part of my life since childhood. The challenge of realising these ideas into movement or performance is what inspires me. 

  1. What would you say are the highlights to date?

In Australia, being invited by Aboriginal elders to dance at a corroboree in WA, performing Odissi in an open stage under the stars in Madrid, and presenting a full length dance work based on my Burmese mother and grandmothers with my mother and sisters in the audience. 

  1. Who has been someone you have looked up to throughout your career and why?

I don’t have one particular person, but several amazing teachers, and colleagues who I admire and who have contributed to my growth as an artist and person. Besides my mother, who was the strongest female influence in my life, I have been lucky to collaborate with and meet other amazing people who have all contributed to my artistic and personal life. 

  1. If you could offer any advice to other dancers and dance teachers, what would it be? 

Never compromise. 

  1. What is on the horizon for you, long and/or short term?

My short -term goal is to complete and submit my DCA (Dr. of Creative Arts) this year, after presenting my new work in progress, Urban Kali and after that, as always, I have no idea whatsoever. 

Conclusion:

My experience with Ausdance dates back to my Perth days, when I had my own company in the 90s, and was supported by Jody Burton who was a great mentor, as was Sarah Miller from PICA who encouraged me to include spoken word into my performances, and has remained a mentor through to my candidature at UOW. Ausdance NSW has been supportive (since my return to Sydney in 2014), and without the two DAIR residencies I have received, my new work could not proceed. I am thankful that there are organizations that support mature artists who are also engaged in dance research, and who fulfill their agenda, which is primarily to assist artists in need. I would also like to thank FORM dance and Qlab at the Joan, and Ausdance Vic for my opportunity to present at this year’s Dance Massive Open Studio. 


Timothy Farrar

 

  1. When did dance come into your life and what role has it played in shaping you into the person you are today?

Dance arrived in my life when I was 8 years old, when I headed off to jazz and tap classes with my sisters and my cousin. It’s shaped me in so many ways, since then, its integral to who I am. And given me so many opportunities.

  1. How do you define your role in the dance community?

I’m a choreographer, educator, coach and friend.

  1. What inspires you to continue dancing and maintain your artistic practice?

I’m always inspired to learn more, experience other artists work and support current and future generations of dancers.

  1. What would you say are the highlights to date?

As a dancer ,touring overseas with the Australian Ballet, as well as performing with so many great fellow artists in Natalie Weirs , “Where the Heart Is”. As a choreographer , it’s a highlight anytime I get the opportunity to make a work with fellow artists.

  1. Who has been someone you have looked up to throughout your career and why?

Natalie Weir, she has always been such an important person in my career, firstly as a choreographer when we worked together, and as a mentor for my own choreographic work. Also, my first teacher Diane Blaas, who really was responsible for me believing that I could have a career in dance.

  1. If you could offer any advice to other dancers and dance teachers, what would it be?

Learn and listen to and observe those around you as much as you can, drink coffee when you’re tired, do yoga often J

  1. What is on the horizon for you, long and/or short term?

At the moment I’m busy with teaching and managing units at NAISDA, Metro Dance and Joanne Grace School of Dance. Long term I’m hoping to get back into the studio to create something.


​Naomi Adams

  1. When did dance come into your life and what role has it played in shaping you into the person you are today?

Dance came into my life when I was very young. I was that little girl running on her "tippy-toes" everywhere she went. I wanted to do ballet so my mother enrolled me into classes. Since then my love for ballet and all other styles has blossomed into a professional career. During high school I developed a love for technical dance training and safe dance practices. As I have moved through my professional dance career, locally, internationally and now teaching, a passion for safe dance has really developed within my practice and currently shapes the person I am today.

  1. How do you define your role in the dance community?

My current role in the dance community is seen as teaching, nurturing and encouraging little bodies to explore their unique personalities through dance. I feel drawn to educate children, regardless of their ability, on how to use their body correctly in order to avoid injury. I also see my role as keeping the love of dance alive. It is so easy to get caught up in the pressure of competition and performance that I feel we sometimes lose sight of why we started dancing to begin with. 

  1. What inspires you to continue dancing and maintain your artistic practice?

Everyday there is something new to learn; even if it’s something from a 5 year old, it is important to always keep an open mind and thrive to continually build on your knowledge. As choreographic styles come and go and change so frequently, staying up-to-date so that you can re-think how to apply safe dance is critical. We need to address how we can reduce injury. This has become my passion and drives me to continue my dance practice.

  1. What would you say are the highlights to date?

Any opportunity to do what I love is a highlight in my life. Dancing opportunities are vast and few to none so I have developed a love for anything that comes my way; from dancing in India for 6 months to traveling the world on cruise contracts, and teaching dance classes in my local church hall. Each experience has brought its own trials and tribulations, however I have also seeked to find enjoyment in these opportunities. When you're in love with what you do, everything feels like a highlight.

  1. Who has been someone you have looked up to throughout your career and why?

There have been various people that I have looked up to throughout my career. During high school I had a contemporary teacher by the name of Norman Hall; he had such faith in me. I have continued to stay in touch with him throughout the years and its wonderful to have him care so much still about his old students. Moving into my professional career, Steve Bor, owner of Bor Productions based in London, has been someone who I have looked up to. The production shows he and Kim produced were stunning and they always gave each dancer such care and guidance. Currently a woman named Melissa Gelonese is someone I look up to for personal and business reasons. She has always given me the opportunity to flourish within her professional dance team and production company. She helps me learn more about the industry and how to develop skills. I am so lucky to have been in the hands of such wonderful employers, mentors and teachers.

  1. If you could offer any advice to other dancers and dance teachers, what would it be?

My advice would have to be to explore the relationship between muscles and movement. It is important to help children understand how their body works and how to apply this knowledge in their dance training and technique. Also, never give up! When you set your heart on something, give it your all.

  1. What is on the horizon for you, long and/or short term?

I have now taken a step back from regular professional dance work to really look at how I can help shape the industry. I have opened my own dance studio in Western Sydney and Concord. Here I have the opportunity to build lasting relationships with aspiring young dancers and provide them with a dance education that is worth more than just learning how to move your body. I have also taken on a new role as bookings/manager Rogue Dolls Australia in NSW. This is an exciting opportunity for me to develop my business skills within a production company. Along with the owner, I will also be tackling the cheerleading industry to help shape a wholesome/family experience and also give the dancers the opportunities to participate in charitable work throughout their local communities. I’m also looking forward to taking on some adjudicating roles. I love giving dancers contructive and positive feedback and encouraging them to keep working hard.