Member Spotlight

Getting to know Ausdance NSW Members

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.