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.
Before taking his final bows forNew Breed , he sat down with us to reflect on his long career with the Company, his performance highlights and what the future holds for him.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I feel surprisingly calm and at ease. But I’m sure there will be a few emotional moments saying goodbye.
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 was a dancer with Sydney Dance Company from 2010-2018. His final performances were at New Breed 2018 at Carriageworks.