From the moment Australian dancer Fabian Mack first realised the movie Moulin Rouge was a world famous production in Paris, she dreamed of being a showgirl. Since then, she has made a career that has taken her far beyond her original hometown of Adelaide.
“I wanted to wear the big feather back packs, jewelled head pieces and smile like how the iconic, red lipped, showgirls smile,” Mack says. “However, only being 170cm tall, I was told by many peers, choreographers, teachers that I was too short to be a showgirl and to find a better avenue of dance to follow. I never gave up! On my 24th birthday, I received an email inviting me to be a part of the spectacular cabaret show Palazzo in Germany.”
She continues, “I left Adelaide when I was 18 for Melbourne. Not having money like all my friends back home who were already working full time, was hard. I missed out on a lot of fun holidays and birthdays. Being a dance student is tough; you have to pay for schooling, dance attire, makeup, rent, gym, food and more! I danced five days a week for seven hours and worked in hospitality five nights a week and every weekend just to be able to support myself and this crazy dream. What I’ve gained now makes all those hard times worth it.”
Mack has had to apply her dance knowledge across many different platforms since becoming a professional, most notably as a magician’s assistant! “I have been so lucky to have worked alongside the well-known Australian magician Michael Boyd,” she explains. “Michael has taken me all over Australia as his magic assistant, choreographer and dance captain.”
Mack elaborates, “Being a dance captain wasn’t something I ever really thought about. When I was asked to be dance captain, I was definitely a little nervous. It can be a lot of pressure at times. You always want to encourage your fellow dancers, keep them motivated, and make sure they’re not becoming complacent. However, at times, dance captains need a little motivation, too. Being a dance captain is a great opportunity to understand a little more about the scene of the show, the lines of the dancers, the height order, costumes and set design, and what works and what doesn’t. I’ve learnt that no matter what role you are in a production, the lead singer or the sound guy, dance captain or dancer, everyone is equal. It’s one big family, and we all have to work together”.
Although describing her time overseas at the Palazzo as her dream of “wearing feather backs and jewelled head pieces”, Mack also discusses the homesickness involved with pursuing your dreams overseas.
“There have been plenty of times I have felt home sick,” she says. “Your body is constantly sore, and you are constantly tired. I think rehearsals are the most grueling times for us dancers. Always listen to your mind, body and soul. It is always talking. If you’re feeling emotionally and mentally drained, plan something special just for you, call your Mum, get a massage, have a bath. Always take time to heal. But as soon as the show starts, you forget how hard the rehearsal period was, and it all becomes so much fun! You’re living your dream; nothing beats it!”
Mack continues, “The most memorable part of my experience with Palazzo was my final show. The artists and dancers all gathered for our final bow, and my dear friend Lisa Bryant held my hand and squeezed it. We smiled at one another. The friendships you make with dancers in any show are like no other; they are what make this career just so magic!“
Mack is still continuing to work on new goals and training new skills. “For the past year, I have been fascinated with the art of burlesque – performing, the costumes and its history,” she says. “I am currently based in Singapore, and I have my own solo burlesque act. I would really like to pursue burlesque more. I think as performers, we are always looking for that next high, the next challenge, so I’m always open to whatever pops up in the future.”
In addition, she says, “I have always planned to open my own dance studio one day. I love teaching, so within the next few years, I will begin my journey in owning my own studio.”
Even with such big sights ahead, Mack is still thankful to still be dancing and never forgets her small roots. “Coming from such a small city, I think my advice would be never get discouraged, there is always something to gain, never stop learning. Take every good and bad experience as a lesson, and you will succeed. No matter if it’s live TV or a live performance, the thing I always do is make sure I danced my heart out so I leave feeling proud of myself and grateful to live my dream another day.“
By Elle Evangelista of Dance Informa.