Pre-Professional Year 2016 alumna Eliza Cooper reflects on the transformation she experienced during her time in the course. Read her insights below.
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“The Sydney Dance Company Pre-Professional Year was an intense year of introspection, experimentation and creative expansion. Characterised by its focus on creative development and improvisation, the course had a unique approach to education in contemporary performance practice and the traditional disciplines. The experience induced much personal and artistic thought and action in me by encouraging me to expand both creatively outwards and technically upwards. The course functioned with an emphasis on artistic maturity, creative agency and decision making, balanced with self-discipline and guided direction. Within the year, I found some existential purpose in dance and lived a heightened life experience since, finding presence and appreciation in all dimensions of my life.
Photo by Gez Mansfield.
The director, Linda Gamblin, embodied an unmatched philosophical approach to the form, addressing all tasks with a beginner’s mind and body, assuming nothing and questioning everything. Allowing information to be absorbed without judgement, she demonstrated the value of humility and humbleness in artistic practice. She philosophised that ideas that weren’t immediately realised in the body would come to fruition, a proposal that has become truer to me every day.
My year commenced with personal illness and Linda encouraged me to observe my peers each week. In time, some unshakable honesty revealed itself in their movements. I have since found an incredible appreciation for this personal hardship, believing that it strengthened both my critical eye and character. A key figure in my healing was Jolie Brook, a yoga practitioner and educator whose teachings lay at the heart of the program. In her lessons, we learnt to move through difficult and uncomfortable places with a soft mind and body, acknowledging and accepting fear. I learnt to feel at home in the unknown and to embrace disorientation and turbulence. I learnt to discipline myself in an environment where determination and disinclination were both welcomed. Our teachers always upheld strong ethical values, advocated authentic practice and taught with a holistic approach which always endorsed self-care, wellbeing and sustainability.
Photo by Gez Mansfield.
Another key educator in the program was Shane Carroll who led the theoretical component of the course and ballet. Through our critical appreciation and history units, my interest in interdisciplinary practice, theatre arts and somatic practices was deepened. I also gained the essential administrative skills for a freelance career and became aware of other career prospects such as arts management and community engagement. Shane was a wonderful mentor who embodied boundless expertise and guided each of us on a personal journey sensitive to our strengths and interests.
During the year, we were inundated with improvisational tools and methodologies in daily creative sessions and were introduced to both established and emerging performers, collaborators and directors in the field. Playing with form and challenging our minds, we learnt to hone in and divide intention across the body, always pursuing precision and mindfulness. The origins of movements became my obsession and I was drawn to all methods of improvisation whether cerebral, kinaesthetic, environmental, mathematical, theatrical or otherwise.
Photo by Richard Freeman.
Notions of artistic identity came to the fore in preparations for PPY2016 Revealed as excerpts of Rafael Bonachela’s 2 One Another were cast and practised. Rehearsals were abundant with opportunities to personalise material and find our unique purpose within the work, choosing when to perform with character and ego and when to produce a rigorous version of the choreography. In PPY2016 Revealed, we surrendered to the elements in Kristina Chan’s Pacificand placed improvisation and play in a theatrical context in Thomas Bradley’s Corporare. In Zachary Lopez’s Like a Salmon in the Sahara, we positioned ourselves in a political context and explored notions of cultural identity and belonging. In Narelle Benjamin’s Pieces of Cella, two somatic bodies found everlasting harmony, continually unfolding and unveiling new physical truths and possibilities.
The Pre-Professional Year experience is a transformative and invaluable one. It is a period of enriching spiritual growth and meaningful tertiary study undertaken in an environment that cultivates profound artistic development. The course is exceptional and has been responsible for countless metamorphoses, outputting highly skilled and adaptable artists into the local, national and international arena.”
Tickets for PPY19 Revealed are now on sale!