CREATING MOVEMENT IN MAY WITH
SYDNEY DANCE COMPANY
& CHARMENE YAP
“I THINK MOVEMENT IS SUCH AN INTEGRAL PART OF WHO WE ARE AS HUMANS, WE ARE PHYSICAL BEINGS.”
SYDNEY DANCE COMPANY HAS HAD TO CHANGE THEIR WHOLE TEACHING STRUCTURE AND THE WAY THEY RUN THEIR LIVES AS DANCERS AND CREATERS DUE TO COVID-19. WITH THIS WE WANTED TO COLLABORATE TO HELP EXPRESS AND CREATE A FOCUS ON KEEPING MOVING. THE IMPORTANCE ON PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH WITHIN THIS BEAUTIFUL INDUSTRY IS PARAMOUNT. HENCE THE CREATION OF MOVEMENT IN MAY, AN ONLINE PLATFORM FOR DANCERS TO KEEP MOVING, KEEP CREATING AND KEEP CONNECTED. MOST OF ALL, INFLUENCING OTHERS TO EXPRESS THEIR EMOTIONS.
1. You are such an accomplished dancer - what is your favourite dance to perform?
I love to perform contemporary dance, but I also enjoy doing other styles just for the pure love of moving. With contemporary dance, it’s the freedom of expression, the continuous exploration of new movement and its capacity for individuality that makes it my favourite dance style to perform.
2. Who inspires you to dance?
I don’t have a particular person who inspired me, but I am inspired whenever I see someone move who is incredibly in tune with their body. This doesn’t have to be a contemporary dancer, it could be a tap dancer or a random person having a boogie. To me there is something very rewarding in seeing anyone who understands how to use their physicality to express something clearly. Music is another big inspiration for me. Put on a good tune and it’ll spark me to dance!
3. Every dancer’s body is different - how do you look after yours?
When I was dancing full time with Sydney Dance Company, I always gave myself an hour before work to prepare my body and mind for the day. This would include 20 minutes on the exercise bike, some pilates strength work, stretching and lots of rolling out on a foam roller. Since stopping fulltime dance and moving into a rehearsal directing role in the last six months, I’ve tried to keep this routine up as it keeps my body limber and strong, and my mind in tune with it. I still love to do a dance class whenever I can whether that be contemporary or ballet; nothing gets me more energised and feeling like I’ve used my whole body. In addition to this, yoga and riding my bicycle everywhere gives my body and mind some variety.
4. We have all had to adapt to the new norm and SDC have led the way with their virtual studios. How have you found this transition?
This transition has been a really interesting time of adapting and self-discovery for me. There have been some struggles like dealing with technology and drawing a line between when is “work time” and “home time”, but overall this period has invigorated and challenged me to reconsider what I appreciate most and how to work with what I have. Dance is a physical artform and appreciated when shared. To teach dance online has been a dramatic shift, as the physical cues and the real tangible experience of moving is muted by the two-dimensionality of the online platform. This has been a challenge, but a rewarding one to navigate in that we are able to still connect and bring some normality to peoples’ lives. It may sound ridiculous, but I got a bit teary after teaching the first Feel Good Friday dance party. It was about a week after the country introduced isolation restrictions. After all the confusion and stress of what was happening, to see one hundred people daggy-dancing with me online that Friday night, was incredibly moving. We are distancing ourselves physically but socially stronger.
5. How do you fill the hours when you’re not working with Sydney Dance Company?
When I’m not working, I tend to want to create something. Usually I’m either painting, sewing or building something for my home like a bedhead. I also live with my fiancée Cass who was a dancer previously and is now a choreographer/film maker. We like to make little dance clips for fun and to keep creative. We’ve also whipped out the boardgames, attempted some cooking recipes, watched a whole lot of Netflix, ridden our bikes and hosted Zoom Bingo nights with family and friends. He and I use to dance and tour with Sydney Dance Company together, so luckily this isolation period is kind of familiar and quite easy on our relationship!
6. Movement is so important for the body - how do you integrate this with the health of the mind?
If I’ve been getting frustrated, anxious or having difficulties sleeping, I find a part of that is because I haven’t given myself the time to tune in and move my body. I’ve noticed how things have changed since shifting away from full time dancing. As a dancer, I could focus solely on my mind body connection. Too much focus can be all consuming, but I think the underlying principle of bringing awareness to connecting your physical and mental being is incredibly important. For me, it’s really about being present in the movement, so you’re not just rinsing and repeating, but you are actively choosing to participate. Mindfully work your body and get those endorphins going!
7. It’s never too late to learn to dance - how would you encourage people to learn during COVID?
I think this is the perfect time to start learning how to dance! Going into a dance studio for the first time can be quite intimidating. Now with the new Virtual Studio you can be in the comfort of your own home. You have the option of turning your video off if you’re feeling shy, but still be live with the teacher actively learning and interacting with a community. It’s never too late to learn to dance. I think movement is such an integral part of who we are as humans, we are physical beings. Be kind to yourself, have some fun, it’s not about getting it right or perfect, it’s about freedom of expression and the joy of moving. Try out all the different styles to see which suits you!