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Dance with ADT

ADT’s premiere season of public classes opens the door on contemporary life … and dance.

By Paul Ransom

What if you could dance with the stars? The dance denizens of Adelaide now have that chance because ADT (Australian Dance Theatre) has announced that it will now run public classes at its Belair Road studios.

Following in the footsteps of Melbourne’s Chunky Move and Sydney Dance Company, ADT are among a growing number of contemporary companies to lift up the curtains and engage more directly with their public.

“Up until now we haven’t been able to share what we do other than through performance; and there’s never really been an opportunity to create, to a professional standard, a good education programme,” states Carol Welman-Kelly, ADT’s erstwhile Assistant Director and the driving force behind the new programme.

“With the rise of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and other such programmes there’s a huge public interest,” she adds. “So this really is the perfect opportunity to say, ‘okay, doors are open, come in and get a handle on what it is we do’.”

Photography Chris Herzfeld

Of course, public classes don’t merely break the fourth wall. In fact, Welman-Kelly hopes the programme will make the company’s dancers seem more human. “I’m really excited that the dancers want to be involved,” she enthuses, “because then there’s this experience where you see these dancers on stage and you can say ‘hey, I know that person’. You get more of a personal feel … and I think that can make watching a performance much more fulfilling.”

One of the teachers, Chris Aubrey, has been an ADT dancer since late 2007. He takes the point further. “It’ll make us seem more approachable. People find that ADT can be quite intimidating and if they walk in and realise that we’re just normal people, that will be a great thing.”

ADT associate choreographer Larissa McGowan repeats the chorus. “It’s really good to be inviting people into our space because it’s going to let them get to know us, so they can work out how we choreograph and how we move.”

But stop right there. This is far more than a PR exercise. By presenting a range of short, four week ‘blocks’ (including classes in contemporary technique, hip-hop and dance fit), the company is offering students a diverse and dynamic range of learning opportunities.

“It’s all about doing, not just the watching,” Carol Welman-Kelly explains. “It’s also about taking bite size chunks rather than committing to some huge thing.”

Apart from the obvious benefits to class participants, these short courses will also help the dancers enormously. The old adage ‘the teacher by the student learns’ certainly applies here.

As Larissa McGowan elaborates, “I seriously think that dancers who still teach learn a lot faster and are able to understand their bodies. I always say that teaching is one of the hardest things but that you learn more about yourself by doing it.”

Chris Aubrey is in complete agreement. “The more teaching you do, the more you’re learning about your own body. Even though you’re teaching others, you’re teaching yourself.”

However, for dancers used to the often cosseted world of contemporary, having to mingle with the un-auditioned public could well be a challenge. Fortunately for McGowan, she has plenty of experience teaching. 

“You need to be able to work with the people on the spot and try to understand them as you go,” she outlines. “With this type of class it’s like throwing everyone into the boiling pot and seeing what happens. Also, as dancers in the company we are constantly teaching each other, so I think the main thing here is that we can share some of what we’ve learnt over our careers, as well as something of what we’re still learning at the moment.”

So, much as dancing with soapie celebrities and rock stars might seem like a fun TV concept, dancing with the stars of one of Australia’s top ranked companies sounds like a much better idea.

For more information about ADT’s new open classes visit www.adt.org.au

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