“No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”
~ Taylor Swift
What is the legacy of a life spent in dance? Until very recently dance has stubbornly remained an ephemeral performance craft, prompting me to ask; what is left behind at the end of an artist’s performance career, what is carried forward and what has been built for those following to build upon?
With more and more dance and dance moments, both in the rehearsal room and on stage being filmed, captured and stored for all of digital eternity; how might technology now be re-shaping how we understand, appreciate and even value dance and the dancers craft?
In this series we spoke with three prominent Australian dance artists to discuss the legacy left behind in the minds of the audience, in the choreographic language grounded in the dancers body and spirit, the toll that the professional dancers life can take on the body, and what is left to pass on to others that they can build upon the experiences of the past.
“Hopefully, we can build a rivalry and we’ll able to do this a lot. Make a legacy, then retire champions.”
~ Serena Williams
In PART 2 we speak with
Director, Choreographer, Producer, Park Life Productions Pty Ltd, Company A and Director at Kelly Aykers Full time & Casual Dance
How old are you/or how old would you like to tell us you are?
Kelly : I am very proud to say that I am 49 years young and still dancing everyday (except Sundays!)
How many years did your performance career span?
Kelly : Professionally 31 years (16-47yrs) and as an Amateur 44 yrs (3-47yrs).
Now retired from the physical demands of performing multiple shows per week, what residual strengths and vulnerabilities; physical, emotional and psychological, do you feel dance has left you with?
Strengths: Confidence, self-awareness, flexibility, co-ordination, dedication, patience, determination, drive, wisdom, posture, self-worth, strength and poise.
Vulnerabilities: Body image, wear and tear on ankles, knees, lower back and hips and financial insecurities.
The dancer’s art is traditionally an ephemeral one. What do you feel you’ve left behind in others, in the culture, from your time in dance?
Kelly : Definitely inspiration. What I mean by that is I hope I’ve inspired others to know that their dreams and desires in this industry can be achieved with hard work and focus.
I’ve been very lucky to not only be a leading creative in choreography in dance and direction in Musical Theatre but have had the pleasure of performing lead and principle roles in mainstream musicals and commercial dance companies across Australia and the world, all from a pure dance training background.
Now in my mid-life, I’ve turned my career into a business owner and Producer while continuing to be involved in the industry as a Director and Choreographer.
A legacy of choreography and teaching with compassion and fairness and showing an openness and a humility in regard to my ego with the dancers. This is something very different from the choreographers and teachers I had when I was a young professional dancer in the 80’s & 90’s.
Making sure young dancers keep up and learn a deep appreciation of Broadway Dance. This is VERY important to me 🙂
Are you able to discern any specific qualities in your dancing, crafted over time, that you’ve been able to pass on to others?
You can be a strong commercial dancer and be employed on that level, and yet still be an incredibly strong technician and Broadway Dancer. In the 80’s this was unusual, and I am proud to be able to encourage all my dancers/students that, having a strong ballet background does not mean you cannot do Hip Hop or Commercial or be a Singer and Actor on a professional level.
In what ways do you feel dance has changed or is changing due to the increased presence and access of digital video? In your experience, what might we gain by access to this technology and what might we lose?
A wealth of knowledge regarding steps and style is now available to all young dancers across the world. This is fantastic as it is the best way to inspire and involve all aspects of this incredible life we have as dancers.
Unfortunately, this can lead to short cuts in training rather than learning correctly in a safe dance environment. This can effect placement, technique and skill sets which can potentially shorten a dancer’ professional life if not applied correctly.
As a choreographer – copyright is also an issue nowadays because of the world wide web.
Having had time to reflect; what is the one piece of advice — general or specific — you’d like to share with dancers starting upon their paths?
I have been saying this for years and I believe this to be essence of my success and longevity in this industry.
“It is your journey and nobody else’s. Don’t look at the dancer next to you, It’s a waste of energy. Look only at what is in front of you in the mirror and move forward to that person. If you do this, the industry and universe will reward your hard work.”
“I don’t fight for the money. I fight for my legacy. I fight for history. I fight for my people.”
~ Khabib Nurmagomedov