SPOTLIGHT …Artistic Director Natalie Weir – Expressions Dance Company
Australian choreographer Natalie Weir is known internationally for her highly physical partner work, her organic movement style and her touching insight into humanity. She has created over 170 professional works in her 30 year career, including major new works for world class companies such as The Australian Ballet, Queensland Ballet, West Australian Ballet, Houston Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, Hong Kong Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.
Natalie was resident choreographer for The Australian Ballet and Queensland Ballet and was appointed EDC’s Artistic Director in 2009, fulfilling her dream to build an ensemble of dancers and contribute to the future of Australian dance. Natalie has also been the recipient of both an Australia Council Fellowship and the Lord Mayor’s Fellowship. Her signature works with EDC have earned 10 Helpmann Award and Australian Dance Award nominations. Her EDC signature productions are where the heart is, R&J, When Time Stops, The Red Shoes, 7 Deadly Sins and Behind Closed Doors.
QA WITH NATALIE WEIR
1. What attracted to you to the industry of dance and what age were you?
Since the age of 5 dance has been a part of my daily life. I was fairly young when I realised I wanted to make a career out of dance – I left school and my home in Townsville early at 16 to do the Associate Diploma in Dance at what we now call QUT, I knew that what I really wanted to pursue was a career in dance. Things just weren’t moving quickly enough for me. So my parents agreed for me to go and so I moved to Brisbane to study. I was definitely the youngest in my cohort but it was the push I needed. I’m so glad that my parents were so supportive of my passion, even at such a young age.
2. Who did you most admire who was your mentor?
My first mentor really was my dance teacher in Townsville. Ann Roberts was a wonderful teacher- she taught me that dance was not about technique, it was about expression and connection- she also said the eyes were the mirror to the soul- which really appealed to me.
3. What was your first job you ever experienced in the industry of dance?
Well it was the founder and original Artistic Director of EDC Maggi Sietsma who gave me my first breaks as a choreographer. She had just founded EDC in the year I graduated, and asked me to choreograph for their inaugural season. It was then that she asked me to join the company’s education program, which meant I was touring a lot, sometimes months at a time. It was full-on but I loved it. I have so many fond memories of this time and of course I continued to choreograph for the company over the years. I didn’t envisage back then that I would be artistic director of the company by 2009!
4. What has been you proudest moments ?
I’m proud of all my works with EDC, and I’m so honoured to say that during my time the company has received several Helpmann and Australian Dance Awards and nominations. I think being recognised on an industry level is so humbling. And I’m so aware that these achievements are because I’m surrounded by such amazing dance artists of whom I am very proud and privileged to work with. Something that I’ve been really passionate about establishing at EDC is a collaborative spirit – we have collaborated with Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Camerata, Opera Queensland, Southern Cross Soloists and this year we’re collaborating with The Australian Voices for my final work as AD, Everyday Requiem. I’m particularly proud of starting the Chinese Australian Dance Exchange project with Chinese Artistic Director Willy Tsao, which involves tours, residencies and exchanges and new collaborative works with three of China’s leading contemporary dance companies.
5. With the now completing with Expression Dance Company with Everyday Requiem being your farewell season Everyday Requiem what best describes the journey you have had over your years with the company?
EDC is the company that gave me my first big opportunities, so my connection with the company runs so deep. When I became AD, it was like fulfilling a dream – to build an ensemble of dancers and to create a company under a philosophy of “art without fear”. My first work as AD was a show called Where The Heart is, which deals with themes of family, time and memory, so I feel like I have come full circle with Everyday Requiem, which looks at very similar themes. The show is about looking back at the past, at the small, beautiful, ordinary moments that weave the extraordinary story of our lives. It’s so beautiful and uplifting, and apt considering that’s what I’m doing right now – looking back at my years at EDC, the big moments, the small moments. Life imitates art and vice versa. It’s a very special, personal work.
6. What is the best advice you would give to emerging dancers?
For me when I’m auditioning dancers, I’m looking mainly looking for a beautiful sense of expression and individuality, but also I really value dancers who have a deep creativity and a maturity in the studio, which I do think comes from studying at a tertiary level. A career in dance is a physical job, mentally, physically and emotionally challenging, maybe a great deal more than what one might think. In the auditions I can see who is ready for the challenges of this kind of career. It’s a mindset that I can see manifested in how someone behaves and communicates. So my best advice is to pursue tertiary study and keep the attitude that learning is for life, be flexible and open-minded, communicate, collaborate and network! And never give up your dreams.
7. What next for you?
I am looking forward to a bit of rest and time to rejuvenate my creativity. Time with the family is a high priority. After that I am keen to go back to a freelance career, and just concentrate on purely being creative.
8. If you were to have a choice of who you could invite to a dinner party living or dead who would they be?
I would invite Sting- I love his music.
9. Given three wishes what would they be?
Health for all of my family, more time going fishing and happiness always.