After nine years dancing with Sydney Dance Company, we are bidding a tearful goodbye to Bernhard Knauer, who has announced he’ll be retiring from the stage.
Originally from Germany, Bernhard migrated to Australia and joined Sydney Dance Company in January 2010. He holds an impressive list of performance credits to his name, including a Helpmann Award nomination for Best Male Dancer in Gabrielle Nankivell‘s Wildebeest.
Before taking his final bows for New Breed 2018, he sat down with us to reflect on his long career with the Company, his performance highlights and what the future holds for him.
Q. Can you tell us a little about how you started with Sydney Dance Company back in 2010?
I started with the Company after just having moved to Australia at the end of 2009. My partner Andrea is Australian and has previously danced at Sydney Dance Company under the directorship of Graeme Murphy. This meant I knew a little bit about the history of the Company and its spectacular location in Walsh Bay.
After spending a bit of time in the studio with Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela and the dancers, I knew that this was the right place for me and subsequently was offered a contract. Back then, I couldn’t have imagined that this would turn into the best nine years of my life.
Q. What would you say are some of the highlights of your career at Sydney Dance Company when you look back at your nine years with us?
Highlights include working with the vast variety of choreographers of whom I learned so much from. Even though I’m still a German citizen I feel proud to represent the Australian arts scene around the world. Fun fact – the Australian ambassador for Germany called me an ‘honorary’ Australian in front of an opening night crowd in Germany. Last but not least, having been given the opportunity to choreograph my own work in New Breed 2015.
Q. How would you say you’ve grown in your time here at the Company?
I think Sydney Dance Company is very unique in the way we jump between styles. From our daily classes to what we perform on stage, I’ve learned to be open to anything thrown at me.
Q. In your nine years here, what advice has been shared with you that you find particularly resonant and still remind yourself from time to time?
Sometimes, you just have to trust the process. While self-critique is necessary to become a better dancer, it can also be hindering for you to realise your full potential. All it takes is to show up and do the best you can. After that, the rest will happen.
Q. Some dancers like the daily ritual of class and rehearsal, while others prefer the excitement of live performance. Where would you say you lie on that spectrum?
I love spending time in the theatre and performing. However, I still enjoy doing a nice class and definitely will continue to take classes after I retire. I’ve always found rehearsing or creating new works challenging. Maybe I’m just a bit impatient.
Q. What performances would you say are defining moments for you at the Company?
Performing Quintett by William Forsythe was a huge honour for me and I felt very grown up dancing it. Fun fact – just before we started to learn Quintett I ran into William Forsythe in a restaurant in Dresden and we ended up chatting about the work. Also performing Gabrielle Nankivell’s Wildebeest was a great experience in terms of letting the character take over on stage.
Q. Why make the decision to retire now?
I’ve been dancing professionally for nearly 14 years. It is simply time. Also I feel if I need to reinvent myself that the time is now. Unfortunately, a dancer’s career is short and I feel I have achieved more than I could have ever imagined.
Q. What are you going to miss the most when you retire?
The companionship of a dance company is beautiful and I will miss it. I’m curious what other unsuspected aspects of the job I will miss. Certainly the buzz of a good performance will be irreplaceable.
Q. Your final performance with the Company will be for New Breed 2018. How do you feel about this?
I feel surprisingly calm and at ease. But I’m sure there will be a few emotional moments saying goodbye.
Q. What are your future plans?
I’m looking forward to making my own schedule for a while and have several things I would like to try. Teaching will certainly be one of them as I do enjoy it greatly.
Bernhard Knauer has been a dancer with Sydney Dance Company since 2010. Visit his page here to read his bio and find out more. His final performances will be for New Breed 2018 at Carriageworks.