Our professional teaching artists tour alongside the Company, bringing education workshops to schools and communities around Australia.
In this interview, Teaching Artist Patricia Wood discusses her role, from observing the Company in rehearsal to teaching primary students repertoire and instilling them with confidence and creativity.
When and how did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was 11 years old because my best friend started jazz so I wanted to join in too. My friend stopped dancing soon after but I kept going and it just snowballed from there. I was also very excited to wear my dance outfit, which was black swimmers with lime green circles and a matching lime green skirt.
What is a Teaching Artist?
I am a Sydney Dance Company Teaching Artist, but this is one part of my practice as an independent dance artist.
As an independent artist, my practice is multi-faceted. I make, perform and collaborate with others in my own projects as well as in other choreographers’ works. I teach professionals and children contemporary dance and improvisation at different institutions and schools, including Sydney Dance Company’s youth classes. I manage a dance space called ReadyMade Works and I am also part of the Sydney-based Writing Dancing group, which is a collection of artists, writers and academics who meet on a regular basis to write about and around dancing.
All of these roles, skills and experiences tie into what I offer as a Teaching Artist. I am able to incorporate my own interests and experience of working alongside Sydney Dance Company into the studio and share these ideas with others.
What does an education workshop on tour entail?
It often starts really early in the morning, and hopefully with coffee! But before we get on the road, we get the opportunity to work closely with the Company and see how the different choreographers make work and how the dancers embody the choreographic ideas. It is also quite exciting to watch how the ideas transform from the studio onto the stage.
This year there are 10 Teaching Artists, which is great because we all share ideas and experiences with each other. We then travel around the country delivering workshops to different school and community groups based on some of the processes of the Sydney Dance Company production. At the moment we are working on Frame of Mind, which is a double bill with Rafael Bonachela‘s work Frame of Mind and Gabrielle Nankivell‘s Wildebeest. The Education team creates two different workshops – one that is aimed at secondary students, the other at primary-aged students.
Each workshop includes a warm-up, learning some repertoire excerpts from the show, and a creative task where we look at the choreographic process of how the piece was made. I feel lucky that I have been able to travel to different towns across Australia and connect with different people from around the country.
How do these workshops impact students, particularly when it comes to dance?
Sometimes when I am teaching the Wildebeest repertoire I take a moment to look around at all these faces so engaged in what they are doing, and I do wonder what their future will be. It does feel special that we are able to facilitate an experience for people who may never have had the opportunity to do any kind of dance and provide insight into how Sydney Dance Company works, but also, more importantly, how to appreciate being physical while building confidence, creativity and camaraderie.
Any favourite reactions from students?
I have had a couple of students get so excited that they scream ‘This is so much fun’ as we are dancing, which is a pretty cute reaction. Also watching students who perhaps were a bit shy or nervous at the beginning make awesome choreographic tasks with their peers and then be brave enough to share them with the rest of the group by the end of the workshop is very rewarding to watch. I also get blown away by their courage to try new things and take what we are proposing and turn it into something really complex and interesting to watch.