“The 2020/Aussie version of choreo season”

This year I found myself sipping on a cocktail out of a coconut by a pool in Townsville up in North Queensland. instead of wearing a plaid shirt and frolicking in a pile of colored leaves in Iowa. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting but in classic 2020 style I made the very best of it and created some incredible memories along the way.

Typically during the fall of my NYC life I am away the majority of weekends setting new choreography, teaching on conventions or doing critique weekends – it truly is a time of year that I love and look forward to each time it rolls around. Covid ensured that nobody got to play out the year the way they were planning to and my “fall of travel” was no exception. There is so much about it that I loved pre-covid from the WILD dance experience crew catch ups, pumpkin spice lattes at the airport, the annual Halloween party in Iowa and of course seeing the growth in all the students I have come to work with over my time in the States.

So let me paint a picture of what the second half of my working year looked like in 2020. I was still fortunate enough to create many pieces virtually for studios in the states. Directing a group dance over zoom is a whole other beast completely separate from teaching a class, and doing it at 5am adds another exciting dimension to this. We got there in the end! I have to admit it was quite confronting to see all the US dancers wearing masks in the studios. They all seem so at home with it, but each time I saw it I was taken aback. I was so impressed with the way they managed to cope with this extra challenge and still achieve an excellent end product. A standout memory for me is finishing one of the tap groups on my balcony at 5am – the kids from Breaking Ground got to enjoy the sunrise and ocean views with me on the other side of the world which truly is amazing if you think about it. Over here in Australia where I am from, we have been dancing without much restriction since June and certainly not with any masks. In fact all the studios in my state are holding their end of year performances with full capacity crowds in theatres over the next few weeks – I remind all the kids continuously how fortunate they are and that this is not the case for many dancers around the world.

Against all odds I still traveled to judge and teach. I judged in Adelaide South Australia for Talent Tribe Dance Festival and this was particularly exciting because I had never been to this state before. Travel between states in Australia has largely not been allowed until last week during covid and it was very eye opening to go through this process. Border force was waiting when you got off the plane with the police ready to check your ID to ensure you had not entered any hot spot areas, and question your health and wellness. Watching this all unfold did make me very proud to be Australian and I think our strict border closures have been a major reason we have been able to largely get rid of the virus.

I also got to judge a nationals (over a here it is called Finals). I had been dying to go to a Get the Beat Finals and would watch it all unfold on social media each year. I got lucky enough to judge one and walk the red carpet this year! It was held up on the Sunshine Coast which is a beautiful beach city north of Brisbane. The talent was insane and I know the kids danced a little harder this year knowing how lucky they were to be there. I will never forget the Gala night hearing the cheering and clapping from an audience- for almost a second there things felt very normal!

I flew up to Townsville which is right up the top of Australia to set some choreography at an incredible studio called City Studios. I stayed in the Ville in Townsville and it felt like I was in Hawaii. I could hardly believe my luck. This studio is without a doubt one of the most beautiful I have seen in the world with very hard working, talented dancers. I was treated like royalty and to top off a fabulous weekend I even got to have lunch with one of my best friends from high school which was so lovely. The picture featured in this blog is from this particular trip and I have to mention that I am sitting in that gorgeous pool in Winter – I know all the New Yorkers are pulling a face right now!

I guess you could say I have had quite the tropical tour and it wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my fortnightly trips to HQ dance and Dance Egde Studios on the Sunny Coast. I have absolutely loved working with these incredible kids on many different genres of dance and setting some choreography that is very special to me. The road trips with Mr Sam made it complete – singing Donna Summers and Tina Arena full blast after a 2 hr drive is iconic and a memory I will never forget! I have also taught workshops at many studios throughout the Brisbane and Gold Coast areas and have felt fully embraced by the Australian dance scene. The Dance Direction students were actually supposed to be in NYC at BDC the night I taught them which made our class even more special given they were intending to take it on their trip. We brought Broadway to Brisbane!

In amongst all of this I have been virtually traveling each week to New York to teach my Broadway Dance Center classes, Melbourne to work with TDC and Melbourne Dance Theatre and even to Port Macquarie to teach a jazz group. I am extremely blessed that I have been able to stay so busy during this crazy time when others have not been so lucky. Moving across the country and making it work most certainly would not have been the great experience that it has been without the support I have had from the dance community in Australia. The resilience and innovation of the dance scene has really blown my mind. Although it didn’t look like I thought it would, I have absolutely loved my time teaching and judging all over Australia – it is really inspiring to see how much talent and passion is over here. When I owned my studio this lifestyle really wasn’t an option for me and I have loved every second sharing my experiences and knowledge with all the aspiring artists that we have over here.

The travel will continue with the Joffrey Ballet Australia tour early in 2021….stay tuned for more details on that.

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