Introducing 23-year-old Lacey Bilger, NAISDA’s most recent Advanced Diploma Graduate.
Lacey is a proud Kalkadoon woman from Mount Isa who was born on Wiradjuri Country and grew up on Darkinjung land.
We had a yarn with Lacey to find out about her time at NAISDA, how it’s shaped her as a dancer, and what’s next after graduation.
Let’s start at the beginning. When did you develop a passion for dance and what sparked it?
My passion has always been connecting with my culture and my interest in dance sprung from that.
During primary and high school, I continued traditional dance and was lucky to have some really great Aboriginal dance teachers as mentors. Then one of my dance teachers at Gorokan High School suggested that I apply to NAISDA.
You’ve been at NAISDA for 6 years. What was it like when you first started?
I joined NAISDA with a traditional dance background, I had no other formal dance background. During my first year in Certificate III, I found it tough to pick up choreography and some of the different genres of dance although I did favour Horton – a modern dance technique developing strength and flexibility – I felt like it was really in my body.
I ended up repeating Certificate III which I think was honestly the best thing for me – getting the same information again and having the chance to hone down on my technique was valuable. I also found it really motivating wanting to move onto Certificate IV with the mob that had just come in!
Tell us about one of your favourite memories during your time at NAISDA?
I think my favourite memories are from Cultural Residency in Nyinyikay, North East Arnhem Land. I was privileged to go there twice during my time at NAISDA. It was such a beautiful atmosphere, connecting with the community, doing cultural dance, weaving and being involved in women’s business with them. I feel like I was really blessed to be able to experience that connection – it’s not something most people have the chance to do so I was appreciative of experiencing that opportunity through NAISDA. Also, looking up at the Milky Way at night was amazing, it’s so incredibly clear from up there!
Were there any challenging times and what helped get you through?
My diploma course was a challenging time when I found I really needed to push myself. I also leaned on NAISDA’s support services to get me through. I did a bit of counselling which NAISDA arranged for me during this time, and it really helped me deal with the study load as well as a lot of Sorry Business I had going on at the time.
When I reached Advanced Diploma, I started out with two other students who were subsequently offered early industry positions with professional dance companies and I found it a bit challenging continuing on the course solo in the sense that I had no one to bounce off, I was on this part of the journey by myself.
During Diploma and Advanced Diploma, I received motivation and encouragement from the NAISDA trainers, especially while I was soloing during Advanced Diploma. They really pushed me and I’m so grateful that they did. Looking back now after graduating, I’m so appreciative of their support, I’ve learnt so much.
How has NAISDA and the Advanced Diploma shaped you as a dancer?
Advanced Diploma is all about getting you ready to go out into industry or the professional world. It helps sets you up for whatever avenue you want to follow like freelancing or being in a company or doing cultural work.
I’d say during my Advanced Diploma, connecting with certain trainers is what’s shaped me the most, especially my learning with Dr Nerida Blair which has really connected me even more to my Indigenous Knowings. Alfred Taahi, NAISDA’s Advanced Diploma Co-ordinator, put so much energy into me to help shape me before going out into the professional world, also the Cultural Tutors I’ve worked with during my time at NAISDA. I’m so grateful to them all.
What’s next after graduation? And where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m planning on freelancing for a while, I’ve got a lot of cultural gigs coming up that I’m really excited about. During my time at NAISDA I also found an interest in Pilates, so I want to do a Pilates course too.
In five years’, my dream is to be running a Pilates studio and doing cultural work. Spending time with Aboriginal women, doing cultural dance with children and even travelling to different countries, sharing our culture and connecting with different cultures and mobs.
Thanks so much for sharing your NAISDA experience with us Lacey, and all the best with your Pilates and cultural work!
If like Lacey, you’re interested in pursuing a career in culture, creativity and dance, or if you know someone that has a passion for dance, encourage them to apply now for NAISDA’s 2024 intake. Applications are open until 21 August 2023.