2015 NAISDA Graduate Berthalia Selina Reuben is a force to reckoned with. A proud Torres Strait Islander woman from Darnley Island, Berthalia is currently studying for her Bachelor of Arts at The University of Newcastle and developing her corporate skills through an internship with engineering firm GHD.
She’s also a Cultural Sessional Trainer at NAISDA Dance College and in September, will be touring Canada with physical theatre company Force Majeure.
If this isn’t already impressive enough, Berthalia has achieved all of this while raising her young son.
A personification of NAISDA’s commitment to lifelong learning and connection, we caught up with Berthalia to learn about her journey since coming to NAISDA, and what’s in store for the future.
When did you attend NAISDA? What inspired you to attend?
I always loved dancing and grew up doing traditional dancing ever since I could walk.
I would also love to watch the ballet on TV, but it was pretty foreign to me. I had uncles who attended NAISDA and they would share their experiences with me and show me videos of them dancing on stage – that’s what really sparked my interest in attending. My grandparents were also the Cultural Tutors at NAISDA in 2003, so we always had a strong family connection.
I first went to NAISDA straight out of high school in 2005, back when NAISDA was located at The Rocks in Sydney. I left, came back for a year and then left again to have my son. I returned to finish my studies in 2013 and graduated in 2015. I feel like I’ve spent my whole adult life at NAISDA!
How do you think it has changed since you attended?
Each time I’ve come back to NAISDA, I’ve seen a change in the skills that you can learn. The curriculum keeps evolving with new ways of looking at dance and how to teach it. There’s been lots of change, but all for the better.
What was your most memorable experience during your studies at NAISDA and why?
In one word, I’d say family.
I love the sense of community and the family-oriented environment at NAISDA.
When I went to NAISDA, I found family and connected with relatives who I hadn’t seen for a really long time. I also made close friends and formed my own NAISDA family with them.
How do you think your time at NAISDA has helped you grow as an artist?
By giving me opportunities to work with and engage with people in the industry. Being able to talk to and learn from the teachers and industry professionals and getting exposure to the industry.
While I was with NAISDA I developed a good network with trainers and artists-in-residence and was surprised at some of the offers I got when I graduated. I received a lot of good recommendations. I feel like I was prepared.
What have you been up to since graduating? What’s next for you?
While I was at NAISDA in my Diploma year, I was lucky enough to complete two secondments. One was Transmit 2015, where I was able to experience how to work in a workshop environment working with youths. My other secondment was with a company called Force Majeure on a work called Mura Buai by NAISDA graduate Ghenoa Gela, which was initially presented for Liveworks 2015. I was lucky enough to travel with Force Majeure to show Mura Buai at Festival 2018 and will now be touring with them later this year in Canada.
My first job out of NAISDA was working with the National Theatre in Parramatta in Stolen, a play by Jane Harrison, directed by NAISDA alum Vicki Van Hout.
I also went on to study at the University of Newcastle, where I am part of the CareerTrackers Indigenous Internship Program and have the opportunity to work in corporate Australia. Through CareerTrackers I’ve earned an internship with the engineering company GHD.
I’ve had to balance two different careers really, but it’s good because it’s giving me skills in different areas which will hopefully be able to meet up in the future.
Since the start of the year, I’ve been the Cultural Sessional Trainer at NAISDA. My role involves working closely with the Cultural Tutors, making sure we deliver the course and ensuring that the Developing Artists are performing the cultural songs and dances respectfully.
It’s a weird feeling being at the other side of the equation and not being a student anymore!
Finally, what advice might you give to a young person who is thinking of coming to NAISDA?
Give it a go! Even if you just come to the auditions and see if it’s for you, it’s better than wondering ‘what if’.
You never know if you never give it a go!
Applications to join NAISDA in 2020 close on 16 August 2019. For more information, click here.