Every six months, International Ballet Workshops (IBW) brings different world-class ballet teachers to Australia and New Zealand for workshop tours, that not only provide inspiring education but also international offers and opportunities. Next month, the Winter 2018 “Classics to Contemporary” Series kicks off, with headlining guest teacher Nadia Thompson, supported by Riccardo De Nigris (in Sydney and Auckland), and Jan Gonscak and Lily Bones (in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane). Registrations are now open, but some classes are already sold out, so hurry and book your tickets if you haven’t already! Read all about the guest teachers here.
We caught up with the Winter 2018 faculty to find out more about their teaching styles and what students can look forward to at the workshops. Prepare to be inspired!
What are you most looking forward to about teaching at IBW?
“I always love to teach students, as I find I learn something every time I teach a new group. To work at IBW, it will not only be a new group of students but students from my home country, where I know the training is outstanding and also the artistry. I cannot wait to see the new generation of Australian and New Zealand students.”
Riccardo De Nigris
“I am looking forward to expanding my code and intention of choreographing with a new generation and new continent of students. I have never worked in Australia, and with students, and it is so different to working with professionals. I look forward to the purity that comes wth working with young, inspiring students, and Australians have such a great energy and reputation. I look forward to this, as I believe it is similar to my Italian roots.”
What is your advice to students in terms of getting the most out of a workshop, and what will your IBW classes focus on?
“When teaching students for only a few days, I like to concentrate on one particular thing, and usually it is port de bras. Of course you cover everything in the workshops, but if I see the arms improve and use my theory that the arms tell the legs what to do, then I feel I have given them something to think about always. I also like to focus on the intelligent artist.”
“To develop dancers who use their mind to turn on their body. I work mostly with intention, as every single step can either be completely the same or completely different with a different intention. Like using synonyms in a sentence. I suggest to students to not be scared but to be interactive with me, and together we’ll find new and exciting movement.”
The theme of this workshop is ‘Classics to Contemporary’. Why is this so important for today’s ballet dancers?
“There are really no ballet companies in the world who do not do a contemporary series in their season. It is super important to be a well-rounded dancer, and with the ‘quad threat’ as Christopher Wheeldon puts it, dancers must at the minimum have a good knowledge of modern and contemporary movement. Great classical dancers benefit so much from moving in a different style and always become stronger and more interesting to work with and to watch.”
“When you understand your body perfectly, you can break your line of classicism, which has already a complex structure, and move forward into any dimension of dance you wish to. Therefore, you need to be capable to break a strong classical structure and augment it into a totally different form, keeping the basic essence.”
“Contemporary dance is in all ballet companies. In fact, more than 50 percent of repertoire these days in ‘classic’ companies is what Australians would see as contemporary or neoclassical. Lyrical isn’t really big in Europe. It’s contemporary or modern.”
You’ve had a very diverse and illustrious career thus far. What is an achievement you are most proud of?
“I am most proud of being the artist I was. I learnt that an actor-dancer was and is the most important thing to be — to be the character, and if there is no specific role, to be the music or emotion that the choreographer wants. No one wants to watch a blank dancer on stage; that is just not interesting. The more colour and depth a dancer has, the more vulnerability they show, the more exciting they are to follow. I am also incredibly proud of the moment someone thought I was Russian in Boston Ballet, because of my arms. I had always admired the beauty of the Vaganova port de bras and felt I finally conquered one of my worst faults after that comment.”
“That the audience through my dancing and choreography remembers me for not only the movement but for my individual personality. The way I have touched so many audience members both as a dancer and choreographer for many totally different reasons.”
“Dancing and working with dance stars of our time and royalty. The proud moments do not come from prestige or the achievements or roles. They come from acknowledgment from those most important to you. My dad seeing me perform a lead in Spain. My mum seeing Aurora at home. Jan is most proud of his independent work, which was presented in his National Theatre in Slovakia, and in film — a one-man hour-and-a-half performance which received an award from the Ministry of Culture and toured internationally.”
In today’s competitive world, how can dancers stand out in auditions?
“Dancers need to be individual without being fake or forced. Natural, musical and emotional dancers will always catch my attention. Learning choreography quickly is a skill you must master, as how fast you pick up choreography and exercises will be noticed. Also being able to do many styles is a great thing.”
“Being real, being what they want to be without pretending.”
“Work from the side to the front. Be very quick at seeing what is going on in the room, but not pushy. Be aware that you need to be seen. Get a private audition.”
What can you tell us about your teaching method/style? What can students look forward to in this regard?
“My method is very mixed. I have taken the best I have learnt from my basic training in RAD and added as many things that I could from amazing teachers I have had over the years, adapting a style of my own in some respects but always being based in RAD, I believe. I enjoy using a lot of movement that can be similar to the Balanchine work I danced for many years. However, I do spend a lot of time and energy on basic work, posture, arms and just the real bare bones of our beautiful art form. Every style has its appealing traits, but in the end there is only one technique, so adding many different methods together is perfect for bringing out the best in each individual dancer.”
“To have fun. Very important in our job that is so full of so many sacrifices. Learning to give intention to every thing you do, to tell me why you do something, not just what you do.”
“I like to make dancers think. And to ask them the questions that lead them to find the answers. Jan works with modern techniques like release, Limón and Laban.”
What do you hope students will take away from your classes at IBW?
“Every student is different, and I hope that with me they will see that failure is something we must go through to achieve anything and that every day you must learn something new. Your body is your meal ticket; take care of it and be intelligent about the fact that dancing is not a job; it is a lifestyle.”
“Inspiration and that they feel they have explored a new way to express dance.”
“That there is a whole world out there, and even though Australia is far away, we can help students to access the amazing world of dance.”
In your opinion, why is the work of IBW important, and what do students stand to gain from attending?
“Bringing in diverse international artists is a wonderful way to expose students to an overseas experience without leaving home. Of course, there is nothing quite like being immersed in another country and culture; however, from an Australian who is very proud of her heritage and training from her home country, I can firsthand tell you that experiences like IBW are the reason we, as Australians, are so incredibly admired around the world for our artistic, technical and athletic prowess in this field.”
“Any time anyone is dedicated to giving an opportunity to students, it is incredibly important. This is the future generation of our art form, and this is the age they are most responsive and are huge sponges with open minds and hearts.”
“Contacts. While the world is wide, it is possible to know a dancer in common in every dance company. IBW opens that door to young Australians.”
There are still places available in some cities on the International Ballet Workshops Winter 2018 “Classics to Contemporary” Series. Don’t miss your chance to work with these amazing world-class artists! Visit www.internationalballetworkshops.com for more information.
Perth: July 1-3 at The Perth School of Ballet
Melbourne: July 6-8 at Melbourne Academy of the Arts
Brisbane: July 11-13 at Australian Dance Performance Institute
Sydney: July 16-18 at The Conlan College
Auckland: July 20-22 at Dance 24Seven
International Ballet Workshops is supported by Dance Informa, Capezio and DanceSurance.