A young woman from Tasmania has been making a big name for herself in the USA, paving an inspiring path for Aussie commercial dancers.
Renee Ritchie, an alumna of Australia’s leading performing arts centre, Brent Street, first came to our screens in 2010, on season three of So You Think You Can Dance Australia. Despite having gone on to even greater successes since, she still earmarks the experience as a special career highlight, and one that taught her a great deal.
“I felt like a star in dance, and I got to do what I love the most,” she recalls. “That feeling you get from people cheering you on is unforgettable. There is nothing like it. Through this experience, I got to know myself more as a person and dancer.”
Following SYTYCD, Ritchie went on to assist choreographer Jason Winters for over 10 years, sharpening her skills as a choreographer.
Steadily building a solid reputation in her home country, Ritchie took her talents abroad and was chosen to be a part of a TV series called Go90 in the USA. She then went on to another TV show called Every Single Step. Being chosen as one of the top six choreographers made the experience particularly special, and one which Ritchie notes as another high point in her journey so far.
“Brian Friedman was my mentor for choreography, and I was judged by some of America’s best choreographers,” she says. “[It] was unreal, and I will treasure this experience forever. Getting feedback from people I have always looked up to was incredible.”
Ritchie has since performed at the Latin Grammys with MO, Major Lazer and J Balvin (to the song “Lean On”) and with OMI and Nicky Jam (“Cheerleader”). She has been co-choreographer on a music video with Paula Abdul on raising awareness for breast cancer. She’s won an award at the World Choreographer Awards for most outstanding choreography in a digital format. She’s performed with Kylie Minogue, Timomatic, Jessica Mauboy, Rikki-Lee and Redfoo, and has been a choreographer for J-Lo, as well as on So You Think You Can Dance Australia in 2014.
It’s a high-profile trail Ritchie is blazing, and she admits it’s difficult at times.
“When it gets really tough, I have to really force myself to stop and slow down and remind myself how many wonderful experiences I have had, and I make sure I take a moment to be proud of myself and how far I have come,” she says.
She believes it’s common for us as artists to question ourselves, to ask, “Am I doing enough?”, but reminds her fellow dancer/choreographers that “what we do is special and the experiences we have, some people never get to do or feel. To be able to do what I love – I would never trade it for anything.”
Ritchie has been imparting this passion and knowledge to the next generation of performers, having mentored the Brent Street full-timers earlier this year. It’s a challenge she relished and hopes to do more of. She’ll be back in Australia in October, choreographing the Telethon Production and joining the KAR judging team, teaching and adjudicating students all over the country.
And in the meantime, the artist continues to push herself with more training, always exploring new styles to add to her repertoire.
“I want to know more about different movement styles, and be more advanced in the foundations of movement, including house dance, wacking, vogueing, grooves,” she explains, “and I also want to gain more confidence with freestyling. I aim to battle one day.”
Ritchie is truly an inspiration to young performers the world over. For those of you looking to forge a similar career path, she says this:
“Work hard, and never stop learning. Training is invaluable and will help with longevity. You have to be persistent, have confidence and use your resources wisely. Always stay humble, and ask the right questions, but most of all, never, ever give up!”
By Rain Francis of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): Renee Ritchie. Photo by Chris Tsattalios.