The 2020 Pre-Professional Year dancers reflect on their first term


1 March 2023


Pedro Greig

We’re thrilled to welcome the seventh ensemble of Pre-Professional Year (PPY) dancers to Sydney Dance Company in 2020!

We spoke with a few of the dancers in Term 1 about their experiences, what was surprising and the things that inspired them. Keep reading to meet some of the dancers!

With the Sydney Dance Company studios currently closed, Pre-Professional Year have been busy learning from home. Stay tuned for an update on their new routine.

Q. What was unexpected about your first few weeks in Pre-Professional Year?

Sophie Carathanassis: I always thought full-time dance was go go go and never stop, but we’ve begun the year with classes which have stripped us back to the basics. This has helped us to fine tune our bodies and address our bad habits. I already feel a sense of freshness in my movement from this change in practice!

Saskia Ellis: I feel that so much of the ability and understanding I had developed over many years has been challenged considerably. I realised that I have to break many unhealthy habits that have been ingrained in my training and perspective, a process which can feel like a backwards step a lot of the time, but is so necessary for growth and development.

Coco Wood: In my first few weeks I wasn’t expecting to feel so comfortable. We have a really great group of people and I feel comfortable to try new things without being judged. I also feel like I have developed so many new skills and expanded my knowledge, particularly in improvisation, in such a short amount of time.

Jada Narkle: I wasn’t expecting the total respect and awareness around mental health, particularly how beneficial it is to have an environment that supports you in order to develop as an artist and person. Dancers have a lot of autonomy over their bodies and mental health at PPY which I think is really refreshing to see, particularly in dance training. Its something I’ve really enjoyed so far in the course.

Q. What are the benefits of working and learning in this environment?

Saskia I believe that this unique approach to dance training encourages us to incorporate a broader sense of knowledge and understanding into our individual craft. The way we are learning and absorbing information allows for a much broader sense of open mindedness. I am finding that this course is consistently challenging my perception, opinion, perspective and knowledge. I am in constant awareness that none of us can ever be completely correct and there is so much knowledge to acquire.

Coco: I am able to really investigate my own thoughts and experiment with many different movement qualities. I am not embarrassed if something doesn’t turn out quite right, and in fact when things don’t turn out, they can end up being even more interesting. Knowing that you are in a safe and supportive environment is so beneficial to my training and it helps me develop as a dancer as well as a human. Because we have so many different teachers and workshops it makes us more diverse dancers and shows us that there is so much more out there that we just haven’t experienced yet.

Q. How will this benefit your future self?

Sophie: I intend for my future to involve being a professional dancer. When I one day get to this stage, I will have a metaphoric tree filled with branches of knowledge, technique and skills which will help reduce my chances of feeling overwhelmed, falling behind or obtaining unnecessary injuries because I know how to take care of my body.

Saskia: The information and training I am receiving from this course is not only refining my technique and dance, but also the confidence and versatility within my current and developing ability. I feel as though I have a much better understanding of exterior stimulus, and externally relevant information and how such concepts can be brought into the context of dance and the arts.

Coco: Being able to explore so many different techniques and styles will help me to choose which pathway I am interested in continuing on and it will also make me a more diverse dancer.

Jada: I believe it will benefit my future self as I am starting to become so much more self aware. Even if I don’t become a dancer there are so many valuable lessons I am being taught everyday.

Q. What were you up to before starting Pre-Professional Year?

Sophie: I was in Year 12 at Hunter School of the Performing Arts completing my High School Certificate.

Saskia: I was training full time for two years in contemporary ballet and classical ballet.

Coco: I was in London at Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance where I completed my Bachelor (Hons) Degree in Ballet and Contemporary Dance.

Jada: I did full time ballet in Perth at Charlesworth Ballet Institute for many years. I then did a year at WAAPA before coming to Sydney Dance Company.

Q. What do you like to do when not training?

Sophie: I love to spend time with my roommates, getting to know each other, going out and sightseeing with my friends from dancing. Downtime I love to read, draw and watch Netflix. On the weekends I travel back to Newcastle and teach at Newcastle Dance Academy on Saturdays and work at Coles on Sundays.

Saskia: I’m currently living in Wollongong. Outside of PPY I work part time as a barista and waitress. Most of the time I really enjoy it as its nice to be focusing on something so different from dance for a few hours a day. I’m also increasingly interested in philosophy and psychology and am fascinated by ways in which both might be incorporated into dance.

Coco: I live in Potts Point and when I’m not training I love walking around the area and exploring other places in Sydney. I love to spend time with my friends from PPY and finding nice cafes as well as going to the beach, art galleries and the movies.

Jada: When I’m not training I like to be anywhere in nature, whether that’s swimming or hiking and I have an unhealthy addiction to watching Netflix.

Q. What are three things you are inspired by or are interested in at the moment?

Sophie: A book that I’m reading at the moment and that I recommend to every single person is The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama. I am inspired by my friends that I dance with everyday at training and also the Company dancers of Sydney Dance Company. I am interested in learning new things to cook and also how to cook seeing as this is my first year out of home!

Saskia: I am mostly inspired by the people I surround myself with, both inside and outside of PPY. I think it is wonderful to witness the immense ability and diversity of skills in those who are closest to us and also the ways in which we might embody such qualities ourselves. I am also inspired by all the women who are currently in politics that are making a huge impact on the way we live. Women such as Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Coco: I have always loved to read and am still really into that at the moment. I also love music and choreography. I am always listening to different types of music and creating phrases or pieces of choreography. I also recently went to the Art Gallery of New South Wales to see the Japan Supernatural Exhibition which was really inspiring as well as the Cornelia Parker exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I am also interested psychology, biology and neuroscience which is just something I like to read about in my spare time.

Jada: I have been extremely interested in art created by women of colour. Being a woc myself I think representation is so important and I love seeing that in any industry. I’ve been obsessed with woc in dance but also in things like books and theatre. It’s so refreshing to see their work and understand their experiences and works as artists. I want to channel my being a woc into my art as it is who I am, my authentic self.

Interested in joining Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year? Click here to find out more about the course.

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