Kate Grima Farrell

Kate Grima-Farrell: Life as a Sydney Dance Company Teaching Artist

04 July 2018

Our Teaching Artists are a vital part of Sydney Dance Company. Every year, they tour regional Australia to bring dance to communities and schools around the country.

One of our Teaching Artists, Kate Grima-Farrell, discusses life on the road and teaching ab [intra] repertoire to young people in her educational workshops.

When and why did you start dancing?

I started dancing when I was around three years old. My parents enrolled me in a local dance class as I was apparently very shy and didn’t speak much. I always loved to boogie! Dancing was one of those things that just stuck and hence it’s still very prominent in my life.

What has your career journey been like?

When I was in high school I got my first paid job as a performer in Billy Elliot the Musical. After school I took a particular liking to contemporary dance and completed my tertiary training at WAAPA in Western Australia. WAAPA also allowed me to study dance in New York, where I met and worked with several remarkable creative artists including Shannon Gillen and MADboots Dance Company. Since 2013, I’ve performed in dance works by Australian and international artists including Oded Ronen, Sue Healey, Sue Peacock and Kynan Hughes. I’ve also toured to Singapore and the United States, as well as nationally as a dancer, choreographer and guest artist.

Describe a typical day as a Teaching Artist for Sydney Dance Company.

As a Teaching Artist for Sydney Dance Company, we’ll often travel in pairs all over the country, visiting big cities and regional country towns Australia-wide. On the road, a typical day would include visiting three or so schools to teach a series of dance workshops to students ranging from primary to tertiary level. We love learning from the students as much as they learn from us in the short two hours we have with them. Our workshops usually begin with a warm up contemporary class, then we move onto some Sydney Dance Company repertoire and a creative task exploring composition and how to create unique choreography.

Outside of being a Teaching Artist, what do you do in your independent dance practice?

I enjoy working as a freelance dancer and artist by collaborating in diverse dance projects and performances Sydney-wide. I’m also involved in Sydney Dance Company’s Make Your Move program, where I get to work with wonderful participants who have a range of mobility limitations. It’s a completely different and extremely rewarding experience to meet and work with these people in a dance context.

What does a Sydney Dance Company ab [intra] workshop involve?

During an ab [intra] workshop we treat the students as a professional ensemble and take them through a condensed ‘day-in-the-life’ of a Sydney Dance Company artist. We always commence with a warm-up consisting of contemporary technique exercises. Students then learn a section of ab [intra] repertoire taken directly from the show, and get to perform it to the same music. Finally the participants are guided through a structured creative task that was used in the creative process to shape the final product of ab [intra]. Here, students are prompted to express their own ideas and ways of moving in solo and group situations. We draw on the students a lot to fearlessly dive into unfamiliar tasks, reflect on their experiences throughout and express their unique ideas towards dance and creating beyond the workshop.

How do these workshops impact students when it comes to dance?

We often find that the workshops are a nice tool to expose the students to alternative approaches to contemporary dance that perhaps they haven’t yet explored in their regular classes. Universal skills such as team building and problem solving are explored, sometimes without the students even realising. Workshops are always focused on creativity and enjoyment first and foremost, so we try to create fun, safe and relaxed environments for all students regardless of their dance background to fully and comfortably express themselves.

What kind of reactions do you get from students during these workshops?

Students are initially a little bit scared and nervous, but mostly super excited to work so closely with the Company in their hometowns. As the workshop progresses, we tend to see bodies relax and faces light up – especially when we move into the repertoire and creative sections of the class. It’s awesome seeing them try to contain their enormous enthusiasm!

What do you enjoy most about being a Sydney Dance Company Teaching Artist?

Getting to travel to new places that I often haven’t visited before. We always tend to seek out hidden gems in unfamiliar places, and get to meet and work with wonderful people from all over the country.

ab [intra] is touring regionally across QLD, NSW and ACT until 1 September.

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