Young dancer Sofia Chavez-Hyde recently participated in our Contemporary Youth Course, a series of contemporary dance classes running throughout the school term for teens and kids to explore their creativity and improvisation skills.
She spoke to us about what she learned during class with choreographer and teacher Omer Backley-Astrachan, including exploring new possibilities of movement and learning to let go in dance!
Tell us a little about your dance background.
I started dance when I was eight. I took one class a week at my local studio starting at the Sydney Dance Company school holiday workshops. I fell in love with dance and began to pick up hours. I still continue to grow as a dancer. Every studio I attend I feel I develop more and more.
What do you love about dance?
I am drawn to the way I feel when I dance. I feel I can be whoever I want to be. I love listening to dancers and choreographers speak about their love of dance. I love hearing all the different aspects which make up a passionate dancer. I love the way dance gives you something to offer to others. I’m drawn to everyone’s talent and the way they inspire me.
Why did you decide to enrol in our Contemporary Youth Course?
I first enrolled two years ago because I saw an opportunity to learn authentic contemporary dance with the incredible Dean Walsh at Sydney Dance Company. Mum encouraged me and told me it was a good opportunity. I was petrified, but the minute I entered the studio I knew I was going to grow as a dancer.
What have you learned in our Contemporary Youth Course with your teacher Omer Backley-Astrachan in these eight weeks?
I’ve gained so much amazing knowledge over the term with Omer. I have learned what truly makes up contemporary performance. I discovered the importance of composition and the way it provokes certain perspectives and emotions. I have learned different ways to interpret music, learning to identify rhythm or lyrics, choosing which to follow and allowing my movement to either oppose or accompany the sounds. Omer taught me the importance of awareness in my movement, being able to really understand my body. I have ultimately learned to allow myself to be free when I dance, to let go and allow my body to explore without fear of judgement.
Did you have any eye-opening experiences during this course that changed the way you think about contemporary dance?
An eye opening moment for me was when Omer explored with us the idea that as young dancers, there is so much pressure to constantly be at a top standard even if it means bringing our body or mind pain. Having Omer tell us about a famous choreographer with a fragile body producing spectacular work made me realise that pain does not equal gain, if anything, the opposite. I was blown away by this because Omer made me realise that you can’t grow as a dancer if you’re suffering. Sometimes you need to say no. Omer saying “before you say no, forgive them” has truly stuck with me, and has allowed me to analyse myself as a dancer and learn to grow as an artist. It’s a lesson I won’t forget.
What has been your favourite part of participating in this course?
My favourite aspect of the class has been the learning, the endless possibilities, and growing further as a dancer. I honestly love Sundays! Hands down best dance class of the week for me. Plus, being able to work with such an inspiring teacher.
What has been the most challenging aspect of this course?
The hardest part of the course was learning to let go and be silly with my movement. Learning to be a dancer that doesn’t take themselves so seriously is something I need to practise but I feel I have improved on that. I want to learn to laugh at myself and find my own unique qualities in contemporary dance.
Would you recommend these courses to your friends?
I would strong recommend these courses to anyone! Omer caters for all levels and knows how to allow everyone to feel comfortable while they are growing and developing. Everyone has something to give to contemporary dance.
Do you have any future plans regarding dance?
My plans include auditioning for McDonald College’s Senior Contemporary Dance Program in association with Sydney Dance Company. I would love to be able to be apart of the Pre-Professional Year in 2021 and explore the world and what is has to offer regarding contemporary dance. I would love to work internationally with companies, teach professionally later and continue to grow.
Find out more about our Contemporary Youth Courses for ages 8 – 18.