A little while back, I wrote an article on Sophia Natale (which you can read here) one year on from diagnosis of her back injury. I asked her about what the past year had been like for her, the lessons she has learned, her new practice, other interests and future goals. I liked this idea of reflection – especially after a whole year – and my wonderful Editor, Deborah Searle, supported my decision in making this an ongoing series.
Introducing the first person (and very exciting upcoming dancer) of the One Year On series: Zachary Lopez.
What was it that you did last year and why did you decide to do it?
“I was accepted into the first Sydney Dance Company Pre-Professional Year in 2014. There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to have another year of ‘training’. I did begin to think of it as another year to gain more as a technical dancer, but these preconceived thoughts diminished as the weeks went on. I soon realised I was developing myself as an artist. My initial reasons for wanting to do something tend to evolve within time into something completely different. Looking back, last year had no remnants of what I planned to ‘try’ and achieve coming into 2014.”
What did you do before this?
“I began my dance training in 2011, aged 17, at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. Graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2013 and receiving the Patricia MacDonald Memorial Scholarship for most outstanding graduate.”
How were you able to do this last year?
“I was only able to attend the Pre-Professional Year at Sydney Dance Company due to the ‘Exceptional Young Artist Scholarship’ given to one student in the course. After not being able to work in the last couple of years and accumulating university fees it was very difficult to save money on my casual weekend job. I didn’t want money to determine whether I continued on searching for another adventure in dance. Without the generosity of Mary Zuber for her sponsorship, Linda Gamblin, Rafael Bonachela and the company for granting me the scholarship this would not have been possible. I would not be where I am and where I’ll be going without it.”
So tell me about last year. The people you worked with, techniques you discovered…
“Not only did I work with amazing choreographers and teachers last year, but I really got inspired by my peers in Pre-Professional Year. They brought something different everyday to the studio – something to bounce off and learn from. I was introduced to an array of national and international dance artists, so many inspiring people and I couldn’t pick a favourite. I was invited into the rehearsal space of Sydney Dance Company, understudying works by choreographers Andonis Foniadakis and company dancer Charmene Yap – both invigorating experiences.
Improvisation was definitely one of the techniques which I could immerse into both emotionally and physically. I was introduced to this technique just last year and with the help of artists such as Dean Walsh, Iratxe Ansa and Riley Watts I would not have had such a continual connection kinesthetically. This is something I will continue to investigate throughout my practice as a dancer/mover.”
It can be hard being away from home with a physically and emotionally demanding schedule. Was there ever a moment where you no longer wanted to do it?
“To be honest, there never was a time where I thought to just pack my bags and be done. It really wasn’t an option or an option to think about. I knew wanting to try and succeed in this profession would be a difficult journey, but a journey I was willing to take whether successful or not. I don’t think I will ever be in a situation where I think I am ‘successful’ because I haven’t yet defined what that is – and I don’t think I will or need to.”
And the most exciting question, what has happened since and what does this year have in store for you?
“Well! It’s been a whirlwind since ending 2014 and a very busy beginning of 2015. I was successful with my application for the Artstart grant from the Australian Council for the Arts for 2015. This grant will enable me to explore, create, grow and experience other avenues within dance throughout Australia and Europe.
I have assisted Rafael Bonachela as a temporary Rehearsal Director for his new work Frame of Mind, whilst accepting a role as an Associate Artist with Sydney Dance Company doing project based work.
I am currently working with Dean Walsh (Sydney independent choreographer) on his creative development residency fully DIPPED at Critical Path whilst also working seasonally with Opera Australia before returning to Sydney Dance Company. I will then start a new adventure in Perth that I am extremely excited about – new environment, new people, new beginnings.”
The biggest lesson you have learned over the past year is….
“Not to think too much into the future. Live in the now. Acknowledge and experience who and/or what you are in any given moment, try and see things in a positive way and divert unnecessary energy into productivity.”
Three words that describe your current place in your career are:
“Submersible, journey, electric.”
Where would you like to be this time next year? Both the physical place and in your career.
“I’m not fascinated or have a sought out plan to the ‘where’ I would like to be. And I actually don’t want to plan so far ahead that this ‘where’ becomes my set goal. If I’m still physically, mentally and emotionally available and learning and experiencing and growing, then that’s where I would like to be. It’s not necessarily about a career, but more of a lifestyle.”
And finally, besides dancing, what else do you do?
“My life does revolve around dance and not much else! I love the outdoors though, anything related to the natural environment. Whenever I have a substantial amount of free time I try and go hiking, submerse myself in a forest or bush, trekking up mountains seeking those hidden waterfalls. I’ve also always been fascinated with astronomy – the infinite and not knowing excites me. The inner geek gets excited about new planets being discovered that could possibly harbour life. I think all planets harbour life, life meaning anything living. My life dream is to experience that infinite view, floating into the unknown.”
By Elle Evangelista of Dance Informa.