Eliza Cooper

Discovering the malleability of dance with PPY alumnus Eliza Cooper

22 June 2018

Pre-Professional Year 2016 alumnus Eliza Cooper gives us an illuminating insight into her life as an independent dancer in Sydney, and tells us about the impact of the Pre-Professional Year on her developing dance career:

“Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year 2016 was a year of profound thought, creative realisation and emotional discovery. I realised the malleable nature of technique, posture and alignment as unfixed concepts, challenging my understanding of conventional dance rules. Without fixed achievements to work towards, where was I supposed to go? Creatively outwards, not simply upwards.

Voice, spoken word and breakdance suddenly became fundamentals alongside plies and tendus. We explored the creative process by considering character instead of shape, texture instead of line and mindfulness instead of result.

Everything was challenged. What really is the most efficient way to lift your leg? Are there better options not yet unearthed? Why do you tilt your head when you can keep it straight? Or should it be curved? We worked towards unblocking our bodies, finding areas of dormancy and awakening them, and exploring new neural pathways.

After PPY, I had a six month break from dance and saved to travel and study with Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Israel. In this program, the focus was shifted yet again. Absolute strength and agility were valued and we were pushed to extreme physical limits. These processes nurtured my physical body and allowed me to apply my creative ideas to a stronger, fitter and more able body.

Upon my return, I entered the once ambiguous and mysterious independent dance scene. Perhaps a daunting thought for some but after an entire year to reflect upon the teachings of PPY I felt ready and keen.

Now, every week is different, working in different places and with different people constantly. It couldn’t be more stimulating and exciting. It has taken a while for me to find a rhythm in the arrhythmic, however simple things like joining a gym and having a regular side job have given me a sense of stability. It is hard making your work, proposing your own jobs and creating a demand for your services. It is easy to feel crushed at times where jobs are scarce, but you pull yourself out of it. In these down times you have the freedom to explore your own practice, create things and improve yourself. These are the times to write, draw, paint, compose and strengthen. The Sydney arts community is so diverse with artists from many backgrounds such as theatre, circus, martial arts, burlesque, breakdance and ballroom. It couldn’t be a richer environment to work in. I have found that PPY has given me the skills that are needed in task work, improvisation and performance, making this transition to professional as smooth as it could ever be. Some important things to remember: financial gain doesn’t correlate to artistic validity, work take time to develop, have patience, and lastly, believe in what you do.”

Find out more about our Pre-Professional Year.

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