After sixteen years off the dance stage, Sydney Dance Company alumni dancer Sheree da Costa is making a grand return with Us 50 in Sydney this November.
Sheree has been busy taking Ballet and Jazz classes at our studios in preparation for Us 50, which brings together 50 of our current and former Company dancers plus members of our community.
Sheree chats to us about getting back into the studio after her hiatus, performing with the Company during the 1970s and what she’s looking forward to most in Us 50:
Q. Can you tell us a little about your career with Sydney Dance Company? What are some personal highlights?
I joined Sydney Dance Company in 1977, shortly after Graeme Murphy took over as Artistic Director. I spent the next few years experiencing some of Murphy’s most pivotal early work, such as Glimpses, 3 Conversations, Sequenza VII, Scheherazade, Fire Earth Air Water, Rumours, Poppy and many others.
Working with Graeme and other guest choreographers opened my mind to a new way of moving and expressing myself and I’ll forever be grateful to them for providing me with this opportunity. The highlight of my time with Sydney Dance Company was when Graeme and Janet Vernon entered me into the International Ballet Competition in Mississippi. This was when he started work on Scheherazade by choreographing my solo, which eventually ended up in the full ballet, pretty much unchanged from what he did for the competition.
Q. What do you love about dance?
What is better than moving to music? Not much in my book – surfing is the only other thing that makes me feel so alive. Dance keeps your mind active, lengthens out every muscle in your body, improves balance and stamina and can give you such a high, even when the smallest improvement is made.
Being able to dance, even with limitations at the age of 61, is such a gift, and one I thank the universe for every day because it has defined me from age seven when I started lessons, and continues to define me as I make my way back to being a full time dancer once again.
Interview with Sheree filmed by Dance Class Member Candide McDonald.
Q. What was your initial reaction after being asked to participate in Gideon Obarzanek’s Us 50?
My initial reaction when I got the invitation was “this got sent to me by mistake.” I was at a friend’s wedding reception in Auckland and grabbed my phone to take some photos when I saw an email from Gideon. I was in complete shock to say the least. Then my mind started whirring with all sorts of crazy thoughts such as “does Gideon realise how old I am?” and “I can’t dance again after not doing anything remotely dance-related for 16 years, I’ll make a fool of myself” to “you can’t say no, you have to do this, what an honour to be asked, just say yes and worry about how later.”
Q. What are you most looking forward to in Us 50?
I’ve never worked with Gideon before but have admired his work for the longest time, so to be one of his chosen dancers from the last 50 years is such an honour. Also there is the chance to reconnect with some of the alumni that I have worked with in the past and also those that I haven’t worked with before. All of the alumni are exemplary artists and it will be very inspiring to perform alongside such talent.
Finally, there is the opportunity to work with the current crop of Sydney Dance Company dancers who are all simply superb. Rafael Bonachela has taken Sydney Dance Company to new heights since he took over as Artistic Director. I think it will be quite intimidating to dance alongside all of these people come November 2019.
Q. What classes have you been taking at Sydney Dance Company?
I’ve taken mostly Ballet classes, primarily beginner level, but also a few Level 2 classes and I’m about to try a Level 3 class soon. I know I won’t be able to keep up and that’s fine, but it’s time to push myself that little bit harder now.
I’ve also done Seniors Jazz which was a hoot! That was a great way to reintroduce the art of picking up choreography again and remembering sequences without looking like I’m lost.
I also love Ramon Doringo’s Jazz Workout – apart from the fact that it’s a fun workout, I also love that my brain gets a workout too. They say that learning a language is great for keeping Alzheimer’s at bay – I think Ramon’s class is just as beneficial!
Q. Has it been challenging returning to dance after a long break?
It’s been very challenging and also very time consuming, but totally worth it. I’ve not danced professionally since I was 45, so that’s 16 years of no ballet classes.
What is wonderful however is that I am improving incrementally overall – probably no one else would notice the tiny gains I’ve achieved, but each improvement spurs me on and I’d never have thought that I could make those gains at age 61.
Q. What has been the most enjoyable aspect of taking class at Sydney Dance Company?
The camaraderie amongst the teachers, the clients and the staff at Sydney Dance Company make it a very welcoming place and although I was quite nervous about anyone recognising me and being a disappointment to them because I can’t dance like I used to, in fact the opposite has been true.
I’ve had so much encouragement from people who are cheering me on and telling me I can do this. That’s a beautiful thing and I’m so grateful for everyone’s support.
Sheree da Costa appears in Gideon Obarzanek’s Us 50 in November. Subscribe now and save 15% on tickets.