By Linda Badger
Amy Campbell came to national attention during her time on So You Think You Can Dance Australia, but she was no novice before her exposure on the show, already having worked professionally for ten years in the industry. Amy is now an even more sought after performer, choreographer and teacher and is still definitely one to watch.
Recently, Dance Informa’s Linda Badger chatted with the talented and effervescent Amy about her life as a professional dancer, where she has come from and where she is going.
Tell us a little bit about your training.
I am originally from the Central Coast, NSW, where I trained in a little school called Gosford City School of Dance, which my sister now owns. Both my sisters are ex-dancers and I only went because my older sister went – I thought I was missing out on something! I completed my ballet exams through Tanya Pearson’s Classical Coaching Academy in Sydney, finished school at Newtown Performing Arts High, did circus training with Brophy’s Circus School and completed my formal training with the International Student Visa Program at Broadway Dance Center.
How did the ISVP at Broadway Dance Center come about for you?
I came out of my first musical, auditioned for the next one, and I didn’t get through the first round. I thought “I’ve just done a show!” I thought I was ready for it, but I didn’t even make the first cut. So I took that as a big sign to continue my training. I moved to New York for about a year and did the six month ISVP Program. I took amazing, diverse classes, like technically-based classes of ballet and theatre as well as afro-jazz, hip-hop, JFH and everything else that they offered there. It was a really great, high quality program. I was so stimulated by the experience. I still take class because dance as a style evolves. You have got to be able to stay current – you never stop training. The second you stop doing technique it is the first thing to go.
Have you worked overseas?
I did my first trip dancing overseas when I was 14, which was doing ballet in Japan on an exchange. Once I was out of high school I danced with the Royal Caribbean cruise line for 18 months, then came back to Australia and did my first musical. Then back to New York.
I danced all over the world with Royal Caribbean. That’s where I first started training on silks. This month I am going to Abu Dhabi for the first time to dance with Kylie Minogue.
Definitely studying in NY was a highlight. It helped me decide that this is definitely what I want to do, even though I had already worked and had some success. So You Think You Can Dance was amazing for me. I hadn’t worked for some of those choreographers, and now I get to call them friends and work with them. It was also a major step for me in terms of really creating a profile – there are lots of 5-foot-4-inch brunette dancers out there! I was excited about dancing for Kylie Minogue at Mardi Gras. On top of being amazing, she is like a childhood idol. I loved doing Fame the musical, it was a really unique cast with lots of my friends. I have loved assisting Kelley Abbey on I Will Survive. That’s a major milestone for me. To learn [from] somebody so legendary in the industry is awesome.
Most confronting or challenging role that you have had to do?
I understudied Talia Fowler in Fame. Growing up, I always loved ballet but knew I was never great at it, so to be compared to a ballerina en pointe was kind of confronting because she is a stunning dancer. To have to try and live up to that, knowing ballet is not my strength, was challenging. I had to do eight shows on my own, so putting on pointe shoes and worrying about the line of my feet and all of that kind of thing was hard. In the end, I loved it because it involved acting, singing and doing all these scenes with lots of pas de deux work, which I love.
I think my dancer doubt drives me. You can either let that get to you or you can use it to motivate you, so I try most of the time to use it to motivate me.
Where do you go for your choreographic inspiration?
It can come in any form, be it a picture or a certain song. When I’m teaching and giving master classes, it is usually musically driven. If it’s a piece for a performance then it could come from an image I’ve seen or a story I’ve read, or something that I was feeling that day. I try to watch a lot of dance on the internet, good, bad or different, just to open my mind to everyone’s creativity. Whilst I would never, ever recommend copying anything, you are definitely allowed to be inspired by other people’s work.
Where would you like to take your choreography?
I’d love to be involved in a theatrical concept show. Not quite like a Cirque du Soleil show, but that kind of show where it’s about creating new things and you have a blank canvas. I think that’s exciting. It would be nice to make a living from doing what I do and not be restricted by “Amy’s that type of choreographer,” which limits you to “that type of job.” It would be cool to just be known as a creative person. In Australia we don’t box ourselves. The work is so diverse you can’t just be one type of dancer or choreographer.
Top three things that are essential to your work?
Music: in every form.
Passion: it’s too hard to do and create when you are not passionate about what you do.
Fun: I think you always have to have fun with what you do because it’s so hard, and a lot of it is out of your control.
And probably some water…And a good pair of socks!
So what are you doing at the moment?
This has really been a great year for me. I have been fortunate enough to be crazy busy. I did a magic show at the Opera House at the start of the year, with a really great company that I used to work for many years ago, (I’ve also done magic and illusion in my career – I’ve been impaled, I’ve levitated, I’ve been the “Ta-da!” girl.) Among other things, I’ve worked a lot for The Squared Division this year and I assisted Kelly Abbey on I Will Survive. I was cast as the dance captain on Everybody Dance Now. Although that didn’t last very long it was a really great role to be cast in. I’ve been working on Dance Academy season three, and then I am off to Abu Dhabi to dance with Kylie Minogue again. Next year I am doing King Kong: The Musical…so I can’t complain, I’m really lucky.
I am happy to work and learn off anyone really. There’s always something to be learnt. If there’s an opportunity, I’d love to move to the other side completely. I will still dance for as long as I physically can, but creating really stimulates me as well.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I would love it to be that I believe in dance as an art form, that I am passionate about dancers, educating dancers and creating dances. I am totally mad about dance, I always have been, and I think it’s important to recognise what we do and be passionate about it, and to never stop learning. You can never know enough in dance because it evolves way too quickly.
I like to share, be that collaborating with people or sharing my knowledge, because if people don’t support each other then our industry is never going to get any better. Yes, we fight against each other for jobs, I lose out to my best friend, and she loses out to me – that’s the nature of the game. But you’ve got to support each other. Otherwise it’s a dying art form.
Photos courtesy of Amy Campbell.