Lydia Pedrana began dancing at two-and-a-half years old at Dubbo Ballet Studio. Dancing became more than a hobby when she accepted a place at WAAPA, but 18 months into the three-year course, she decided to withdraw. Pedrana now makes regular appearances on our screens as the Australian ambassador for Lottoland.
Here, Dance Informa speaks with Pedrana about how she has used the skills she learned in the studio in the job now and embracing changes that truly make you happy.
“Every day after school, Mum would pick me up from school, and I’d eat dinner on my lap on the way to the Dubbo Ballet Studio, and here I would stay until 9:00pm each night, Monday to Friday, and three or four hours on a Saturday, too” Pedrana recalls of her early dancing days.
“The training I had was nothing short of incredible,” she continues. “Dubbo Ballet Studio is a small regional studio run by one of the most talented and under-recognised choreographers in the country, Anna Bloomfield. It is, without any doubt, on par with any city studio. Not only was technique highly prioritised, but discipline, patience and dedication were of great importance. These are all life lessons that I still value today, and I owe all of that to my training.”
At 18, Pedrana proudly accepted a place at WAAPA and made the “scary but liberating” move across to Perth. “To be frank, I went from a very big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a humongous pond! And this was a shock to the system.” Feeling almost a sense of obligation to attend the school which only accepts the best, she realised she needed to re-evaluate why she was there. “I got to the point where I knew I wasn’t as passionate about my craft as a lot of the other people in my classes, and this was when I realised I wasn’t at WAAPA for the right reasons.”
With this realisation came confusion and extreme homesickness, but as a self-confessed “bad quitter”, she stayed in the course for another year until making the very difficult decision to leave. “It was so tough!” she admits. “I felt like I’d wasted all those hours of training, all those costumes Mum had made me, all the belief my teachers had in me! I felt like I was letting down the kids and their parents I used to teach who thought I could walk on water! I felt like I was letting down my parents who had paid for years of tuition. But in reality, I was just being hard on myself – like we all are! Bottom line was, I didn’t like what I was doing, and I had no desire to do it for the rest of my life. It took a while to swallow my pride, but I know I made the right decision for me!”
Pedrana went on to study journalism with a career on television in mind. “When I was working as a Producer on the Today Show (Channel Nine), an old friend from Dubbo contacted me to see if I was interested in a presenting job at Lottoland,” she explains. “I auditioned, along with about 50 other girls, and went for a couple of interviews and got the job!”
She quickly mentions that all the skills she learnt as a dancer are never far from her current career, and she has certainly not let down all the people who believed in her. “I use elements of my dance training every single day, mostly without even realising,” Pedrana says. “Discipline, for me, is a big one, as is respect. Dancers are also wired to be perfectionists, and that is a very attractive trait to any employer! Before Lottoland, I’d never actually done any TV presenting before, but my ability to observe and mimic, which I learned through dancing, meant I literally ‘faked it until I made it’!”
Pedrana now finds new ways to engage with dance. “I have such an innate appreciation for dance; it’s imbedded within me, and it’s something that will never disappear. I’m sure every other dancer can attest to this, too! I love seeing shows, whether it be a ballet or a full blown, glitter-filled musical theatre number. As for classes, I’ve just started doing Barre a couple of times a week for exercise. It has a few ballet elements in there, and it makes me feel really nostalgic. I love it. It’s funny, though, I never realised how strong I used to be! Now, my ankles wobble and feet cramp after standing on demi-pointe for a little while!”
A believer that you can create your own luck, Pedrana says that hard work should never be under estimated and to ultimately do what makes you happy. “You get one shot at this life, and what’s the point of living a dream that’s not really yours?” she asks. “As we grow up, we learn more about who we are and what we want out of life, and it’s important to understand that things change. Whether that is a change of mind, or a change in your body, just trust yourself! Your dancing years will always be a part of your story, and that’s something to be very proud of.”
You can read more about Lydia at lydiapedrana.com.
By Elle Evangelista of Dance Informa.